Finding the right marriage retreat for your troubled relationship might seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be
Here's a quick guide with useful questions to ask to find one that fits both of your needs.
1. Take your own "relationship inventory:
- Are you a basically a happy couple looking for marital enrichment?
- Do you fight a lot and need to learn better ways to manage your differences?
- Has coldness and distance crept in? Do you seldom have serious conversations from the heart?
- Are you still affectionate with each other?
- Is your sex life strong or has your sexual intimacy evaporated? Do problems creep in when you try to become intimate?
- Has marriage counseling failed in the past? Did you choose a skilled couples therapist who used evidence-based treatment, or turned to the list on your "health insurance panel"?
The types of answers you give to these questions will determine whether an "enrichment"-based group setting are the best marriage retreats for you, or whether you need more private, individual attention.
The best marriage counseling retreats for couples needing clinical help contain the following credentials and training:
- clinical state licensure. Look it up online in the state where you are attending.
- Certifications in science-based couples therapy. This approach is proven to be effective.
- Certification in sex therapy, discernment counseling, or whatever need you currently have.
Not all those who advertise "retreats" are licensed clinical professionals. Some do have a license and some have no formal clinical training at all. Be sure to ask what type of clinical license they have and from what state or province.
2. What's the soonest we can arrive?
The best couple retreats to meet your needs may also be the most popular. It is no surprise to find senior certified marriage counselors in high demand, and booked several months in advance.
Be realistic. Determine which marriage counseling retreat is the best one for you, and wait for it. Call a "moratorium" on fighting or decisions about whether to stay together or get divorced, if you need to.
Focus on getting the right help and stop trying to hammer it out between you without help. A few more months of tension will pale in comparison to getting most qualified help you need.
3. Can I talk directly to the person running the couples retreat?
You'll be putting your marriage in the hands of the person running the marriage retreat. Read their profile carefully. Ask to speak to the professional. Have a list of questions ready and get answers to your most pressing ones.
If you don't find these answers readily available on their website, ask directly:
- What professional license to you have? Are you a Clinical Psychologist? Marriage and Family Therapist? Licensed Clinical Social Worker? Licensed Mental Health Professional?
- Are you licensed to practice your profession at an independent level? (This means they are no longer required to receive supervision under another professional's license.)
- What specialized training do you have as a marriage counselor beyond your graduate degree? What level of training did you achieve in your chosen method? Is this training one of the several "evidence-based" models of couples therapy?
- Where did you get that specialized training preparing you to help couples? A book? Certified training institute? The Gottman Institute and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy are both highly respected institutes dedicated to training graduate professionals in couples therapy. Both provide certifications in science-based couples therapy. These are coveted credentials.
4. How many days will the marriage retreat be?
- Is this an organized group retreat? How is it organized? What are the goals?
- How many days will we be spending at the retreat?
- How many of these hours will be spent in psychotherapy or in seminars?
- How many hours will be spent on games, activities or other fun pursuits?
5. What type of preparations are you expecting from us before we arrive?
- Do you have us complete a pre-intensive assessment, to rule out issues that can't be helped by marriage counseling? (This is important to be sure there is no ongoing physical violence that makes a marriage retreat unwise.)
- Will this assessment of our relationship be done online or on paper? How extensive is it?
- Will you be speaking to our past or present counselor(s)?
- Will you be providing follow-up to our marriage counselor or helping us find one to see weekly? Will you consult with them about the work that we will be doing after the retreat?
6. Do you provide accommodations or do we locate our own?
- If included, what percentage of our fee goes to food or lodging?
- Can we secure our own accommodations if we choose to?
- Do you have a list of places we can stay, if lodging isn't provided?
7. Are you "marriage friendly"?
This is a term coined because so many therapists, hold a “neutral” stance towards whether a marriage survives or not.
In one study, over 60% were "neutral" about whether couples stayed married or divorced. A few licensed professional MFT's (2.4%) actually said they frequently suggest divorce! (1)
A large percentage of couples regret divorce when it's finalized. Scientific research finds that even couples well-suited to be married, go through periods when their marriages seem "hopeless."
For this reason, the marriage counselor should be the last person in the room "suggesting" divorce.
There is a registry of "marriage friendly therapists" that directly support the viability of troubled marriages. Find out if the person running your marriage retreat is one of them.
8. Do you hold follow-ups after the marriage retreat is over?
Your professional holding the marriage retreat will get to know you both very, very well. However, any marriage retreat held over 2, 3, or 4 days requires taking in and processing a lot of information.
Not everything gets digested at the marriage retreat itself. Couples can sometimes struggle when they attempt to apply that information when they arrive home.
Many professionals who hold marriage retreats offer online or in-person follow-ups, to solidify your learning and get you over the rough spots when you return home.
Find out if the one you've investigating does so as well. Licensing may be an issue here and outside of your counselor's hands. Check to see if that's the case, and if so, how will they be able to still help.
Invest wisely; find the best marriage retreat you can afford
Group marriage workshops
The costs for group sessions can cost between $650-$7500.
Two popular ones to research are The Art and Science of Love and Hold Me Tight workshops. They both are typically $650-$750 in price. These group retreats have a clearly laid out program focusing on what we know about how couples succeed in love.
Private marriage counseling retreats
The costs of some of the best private marriage counseling retreats with a licensed professional can run between $3,000 to $12,000+ per couple across the USA.
Beware! Some individuals who lead these private retreats have no license at all. Facilitators of these couple retreats still charge as much as $8000 or more for a weekend because they are listed in "review sites" as "Highly Rated." Be a wise consumer.
Our own couple retreats offer a choice of 10 Certified Gottman Therapist, four of which are Senior Gottman Therapists training other licensed professionals. Others have advanced training in both Gottman and EFT models of science-based couples therapy.
Keep in mind that divorce is far more costly, not only financially, but emotionally as well. Take the time to find the best marriage retreat you can locate within your budget, and commit yourself to participating in it fully.
Originally published December 17, 2015
(1) Wall, J., Needham, T, Browning, D.S. & James, 1999 The ethics of relationality: The moral views of therapists engaged in marriage and family therapy. Family Relations, 48, 139-49.