Couples Therapy

What can I expect in an intensive weekend?

Lesson 3 Chapter 1 Module 1

What is a couples retreat?

This clinical relationship retreat is for all couples (not just those who are legally married.) If you are in a relationship that you're invested in making better, this intensive retreat provides the time to work in specific areas that are problematic for you, and develop and refine skills for new ways of relating.

Whether you're recovering from an affair, have fights that last for days at a time, or are just cold and distant (and have been for years), you can benefit from this Marriage Retreat.

We even accept couples where one partner has filed for divorce but want to give it a sincere "last shot" at reviving their bond. Other couples come to enhance an already solid bond.

This intensive online Marriage Retreat is equivalent to many months of sessions in 45-minute marriage counseling.

A typical schedule...

Friday night

Whether you decide to stay home, or book a room away from home, make the most of this special time.

Most retreats begin on Friday. Arrive early and settle in if you've decided to travel. After you sign up for a weekend, we will provide you with a list of excellent accommodations for your weekend getaway, should you decide to travel. This marriage retreat helps you to focus on your relationship, your partner, and yourself. When you create a strong intimate bond everything just works better.

The first portion of our work consists of learning more about your goals, and information-gathering about your marriage or relationship, with a structured interview called "The Oral History Interview." This session gives both of you a chance to "warm up" for the weekend to come.

The Oral History Interview focuses on the time you were most attached to each other -- most in love -- and leaves most couples feeling more hopeful and positive about their relationship, and it is a good way to begin together during this most intimate Couples Retreat.


Saturday Morning

9:30-10:00 am, Videotaping Communication Patterns (Gottman Focused only)
Good Morning! You've already completed the Oral History Interview, and we begin our day with a check-in and a 10-minute videotaping to study your communication style and micro-expressions.

10:00 AM-12:00 pm, Individual Meetings
Next, one of you (Partner A) will have an individual session with your therapist. This is a chance to get to know you as an individual, your background and family of origin, and any other issues you'd like to discuss. For Partner B: break, settle into a comfortable spot out of earshot. Go grab a cup of tea or coffee, make a call, check your email, or just hang out for a while. Then, Partner B returns and complete an hour with your couples therapist. Partner A has a break.

12:00-1:30 pm Lunch Break
Your couples therapist will take a break for lunch and process the information provided to include in the Feedback Session. You'll both have time to talk, eat, and be together. We encourage you to get active. Take a walk!


Feedback Session

1:30-2:45 pm

Your couples therapist will provide you with their insights gathered during the assessment process. Couples are often surprised by how much information we've integrated about their family situation and how this guides the way we plan to proceed.

  • We'll talk about what we see as your relationship strengths
  • Areas that need improvement to move forward
  • Issues we need to focus on in this Couples Retreat


  • The assessments you've completed ("The BIG BIG Book")
  • Our couples interview
  • Our individual interviews
  • The videotape we've done of your communication patterns
  • We invite your own insights and feedback as well

At this point, you have just completed one of the most thorough marital diagnostic assessments available today.

Saturday afternoon

2:45-3:00 pm BREAK

3:00-4:15 pm, We begin our work
Here is where the treatment begins. We will begin to focus specifically on the issues that brought you here in a way that enables you to stay calm, alert, and focused.

4:15-4:30 pm, First Day Wrap-up and Questions
Your questions are important to us. We take the time to make sure you understand the process. For online help, we provide you with an extensive Knowledge Base that can act as a refresher for all that you are learning.

Couples Therapy has moved from "theory" to "scientific findings." Your ability to understand and apply this knowledge is crucial to our success...and yours.

Sunday (and any additional days)

9:30 am - 4:30 pm
On day one, you were introduced to a number of key concepts in becoming the "Masters of Marriage" rather than the "Disasters of Marriage."

Don't worry if you didn't catch all the ideas. We'll introduce them again to you today. The important focus now is for each of you to talk from the heart in a way that maximizes your chance to be heard, and resolve resentments and regrettable incidents.

Our clinicians are trained in a variety of approaches, both evidence-based and clinically-based and will use the interventions that are best suited to your situation.


Here are a sampling of the types of issues you might work on during the therapeutic day

  • Techniques to promote productive dialogue and strengthen intimate relationships;
  • Ways to disrupt "The Four Horsemen:" Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt & Stonewalling, to promote feelings of hopefulness and interest;
  • Enhancing rituals of connection and creating a shared value and meaning system;
  • Practicing interventions that interrupt problematic patterns and habitual ways of relating;
  • Learning to regulate and channel anger constructively;
  • Processing "regrettable incidents" productively;
  • Developing more compassionate ways to understand your partner's point of view and listen with a more open heart; and
  • Working with issues that contribute to an overall negative relationship climate.

Do marriage retreats work?

Most couples who are facing long-standing problems can't believe that anything can be accomplished in as little as a single weekend. However, we've conducted thousands of retreats and we know they do. 

Despite the experience and expertise that we offer, our intensives are not for every couple.

What issues Intensive Marriage Retreats aren't designed for

While weekly sessions are appropriate for most clients, the intensive clinical process works best for couple who are not in:

  • Undisclosed, ongoing, or recent affairs;
  • Those suffering from a current active addiction;
  • When ongoing violence or threats of violence happen by either partner;
  • For those suffering from an untreated mental illness - particularly suicidal or homicidal thoughts, or a history of serious harm done by you to yourself or another person; and/or
  • When one partner doesn't really want to participate but feels "pushed" into it.

Less Stressful, More Connected

Most couples can’t believe that the time has gone by so quickly!

Unlike most couples work or traditional marriage counseling, the Gottman approach does not promote a stressful environment for couples, and Johnson's evidence-based work in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy helps both of you remember why you want to be close and intimate again.