Why is marriage counseling on weekends becoming so popular?

An increasing number of couples therapy thought leaders are singing the praises of “intensive” marriage counseling on weekends.

Not only that, some describe the standard weekly hour-long couples therapy session as “inherently flawed.”

I think it’s inevitable that marriage counseling on weekends will soon become the “standard of care” for building relationship skills, simply because it is highly effective and efficient.

Dr. John Gottman conducted some of the original research that demonstrated that longer “marathon” sessions were much more effective than conventional weekly couples therapy.

I hate to quibble with Dr. Gottman, but I prefer to use the term “intensive” instead of “marathon.” The hesitation I have with the phrase “marathon couples therapy” is that it suggests a race. Typically we want couples to slow down their conflicts, not speed them up. Another concern for me is that the word “marathon” implies grueling physical stress and exhaustion, which is the opposite of what usually happens during intensive marriage counseling.

Marriage counseling on weekends is more effective because uses much longer blocks of time. Couples can delve deep into their issues without fear of feeling rushed. Typical weekly sessions are far too brief.

As a veteran marriage therapist of nearly four decades, I am one of a growing group of professionals who have found that the format of the traditional “60-minute” therapy session to be impractical, even inherently flawed. In the early stages of traditional therapy, people are asked to describe their reasons for seeking professional help. Frequently, many sessions are required for the therapist to obtain sufficient information about the underlying problems before any reparative work can begin. In the meantime, the problems persist, adding to a deepening sense of hopelessness.  Michele Weiner Davis

Why an hour a week isn’t sufficient to build relationship skill

An hour a week is misleading because once you settle in and get the chit-chat out of the way… you actually have less than an hour for couples therapy.

What couples often tell us the real problem is that weekly hour-long couples therapy does offer just enough time to stir up powerful emotions, and then realize that the session time is over. Many couples tell us that they left weekly couples therapy feeling more aggravated and disheartened when they were when they first arrived.

Research tells us that many couples notice this aggravation and quickly drop out of weekly couples therapy by the 3rd to 5th session. This problem is further aggravated by the fact that most weekly couples therapy is done by “all-purpose” therapists.

A shocking 80% of therapists are convinced they already know how to do couples therapy. (Like the couples therapy near me…) Yet only 12% of these therapists have ever completed a single course in couples therapy! And yet, this is challenging and specialized work. Easy to get wrong.

In other words, unfortunately, most couples therapy in the United States is conducted by clinicians who have little or no formal couples therapy training working in a weekly hour-long format that research describes as woefully inadequate.

Marriage counseling on weekends offers a corrective emotional experience

Neuroscience is changing the field of couples therapy in exciting and innovative ways.

For example, we now know that couples are more likely to absorb new information and translate them into change if they learn those behaviors in the context of a corrective emotional experience.

Marriage counseling on weekends provides couples with a series of powerful corrective emotional experiences. Research tells us that this is the best way for distressed couples to learn, change, and grow closer.

Our couples therapy intensives are crafted around this fundamental idea.

I’m not saying that weekly couples therapy is useless.

I’m saying it is often aggravatingly slow. You can get the equivalent of 6 months of conventional weekly couples therapy in a single couples therapy intensive weekend.

Build relationship skills with proven science-based methods

Timing is everything in marriage counseling. Modern life is incredibly time-stressed. Many couples simply don’t have the time to drive to a couples therapist on a weekly basis. Marriage counseling on weekends allows couples to get a huge amount of work done over a single weekend.

That’s why the average couple entering therapy has been in emotional distress for over 6 years.

The time commitment for weekly couples therapy has been a huge obstacle. But between inexperienced therapists and brief sessions, many couples leave frustrated and disappointed.

But it’s not only important to have sufficient session-time with your couples therapist… it’s also important to choose a therapist who is carefully trained in either Gottman Method and/or Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy because Science-based couples therapy is proven by research to be 70-92% effective.

It makes sense… Doesn’t it?

When you have the best kind of couples therapy combined with an ample block of time, you can make progress much more quickly.

At CTI our therapists have over 500 years of combined experience in couples therapy.

We are also the only practice that we know of that is entirely dedicated to providing high-level science-based couples in 11 languages.

Although our team is distributed across the USA and internationally,  We all take the time to meet online 10 times a year to discuss and apply new research in couples therapy.

Couples Therapy Inc. is the largest practice of its kind. We only do one thing…science-based couples therapy.

Nowhere else will you find a team of couples therapists of this caliber. There are only about 350 certified Gottman therapists walking the earth today…10 of them are in our practice.

Because the Gottman Method is derived from research and practice with more than 3,000 couples of all types and can be applied at any stage of life, the couples therapy may be used to educate committed partners in the early stages of a relationship as well as to restore healthy functioning to distressed couples, whether stuck in chronic conflict, coping with infidelity, or engaging in other destructive patterns.

All therapy is based on a couple’s patterns of interacting, and partners learn and implement relationship-building and problem-solving skills together. Gottman-based therapy is sometimes employed in intensive form over the course of two to four days for couples in crisis. Psychology Today

And there are only about 20 or so Master Trainers at the Gottman Institute. Their job is training and supervising future Gottman therapists. We are proud to tell you that 5 of these highly sought-after Master Trainers are in our practice as well.

How can marriage counseling on weekends transform your marriage?

Once you’ve booked your marriage counseling weekend, we’ll give you access to our BIG BIG Book, so you won’t waste time during your intensive.

With the help of The BIG BIG Book, you’ll be asked finely-tuned questions about your marital issues.

This online assessment is carefully scored. Your words are carefully read and analyzed, side-by-side with your partner’s.

We do this before you even meet with your couple’s therapist.

That’s how we save time doing marriage counseling on weekends. It has taken us more than 20 years… and mastering several different couples therapy approaches, to fully grasp how to help troubled couples.

We have developed what we believe is, by far, one of the best science-based marriage Counseling on a weekend experience currently available.

Click here to see what our clients say about their experience with their Couples Therapy IncMarriage Retreat.

The most effective couples therapy doesn’t happen in weekly sessions, or just by teaching “better communication” skills.

It’s done in the format of a science-based Marriage Retreat, an intensive, form of couples counseling, which brings clarity to your relationship challenges so you both can effectively build relationship skills.

Here’s another reason. Let’s put the notion of relationship skills aside for a moment.

Marriage counseling on weekends can help couples to restore their emotional connection. Even brief everyday gestures of love have a significant impact on our overall well-being. That’s the finding from an extensive new research study conducted at Penn State University.

Researchers found that brief, ordinary moments of kindness can evoke profound feelings of self-worth, happiness, and well-being. Why not call us today and see if our marriage counseling on weekends is right for you?


Bishof, RJ., Sprenkle, DH. Dropping out of marriage and family therapy: A critical review of research. Family Process 1993; 32: 353–368.

Friedlander ML, Escudero V, Heatherington L. Therapeutic Alliances in Couple and Family Therapy. Washington: American Psychological Association; 2006.

Gottman, J. and Kimberly, R., (2005). The mismeasure of therapy: Treatment outcomes in marital therapy research, In W.M. Pinsof and J.L. Lebow, Family Psychology: The Art of the Science, Chapter 3, 65-89. NY: Oxford University Press;

Gottman, J.M. and Driver, J.L., (2005). Dysfunctional marital conflict and everyday marital interaction, Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 43(3-4), 63-78;

Gottman, J., Ryan, K., Swanson, C., and Swanson, K., (2005). Proximal change experiments with couples: A methodology for empirically building a science of effective interventions for changing couples’ interaction, Journal of Family Communication, 5(3), 163-190;

Helmke KB, Bischof GH, Fordsori CE. Dropping out of couple therapy: a qualitative case study. Journal of Couple & Relationship therapy 2002; 1(2): 51–73.

Knobloch-Fedders LM, Pinsof WM, Mann B J. The formation of the therapeutic alliance in couple therapy. Family Process 2004; 43(4): 425–442. 22.

Originally published November 26, 2019

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist and the blog editor. He currently works with couples online and in person. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and Developmental Models in his approaches. Daniel specializes in working with neurodiverse couples, couples that are recovering from an affair, and couples struggling with conflict avoidant and passive aggressive behavior patterns.

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