How do you decide the best marriage retreat for you and your marriage?
A confusing array of options for marriage therapy retreats
There is a befuddling range of options for marriage counseling retreats today.
Many are religious and will only work with a married heterosexual couple.
There are marriage conferences for large audiences, small group retreats, programs such as Day Marriage Retreats, Life Marriage Retreats, Soul Adventures (with Angel Guides!), retreat centers, and many religious retreats such as those offered by Focus on the Family.
You could even go to Orcas Island and personally work with John Gottman if you can afford it.
The choices are as endless as they are confusing.
Many couples therapy venues claim to be the “best” without offering any convincing evidence why.
We’re not for everyone. Some couples are screened out because the research tells us we can’t help them. And it’s hardly ethical or fair for anyone, including us, to claim that they offer the Best Marriage Retreat.
What does the “best” mean in a marriage retreat?
Even services claiming to offer the best marriage retreat will differ dramatically in things like schedule, days, hours, and goals. They may claim to have the best marriage retreat but only offer a group experience, while others claiming the best have no evidence that their particular approach has been demonstrated to be effective in helping couples. Our marriage counseling approach is different. We are strictly science-based. Working with couples is the only thing we do.
You’ll be spending a lot of time and money to improve your marriage, and you are right to be concerned about the long-term benefits of any couples therapy program that you undertake.
If you are going to spend time in a weekend retreat, you want to leave with practical, usable skills and have confidence in whatever post-retreat aftercare is offered.
The benefit of a science-based Marriage Retreat is its proven clinical effectiveness.
Our Marriage Retreats offer a unique “science-based” opportunity to get away and really enhance your bond. This private intensive Marriage Retreat provides an extended period of counseling over just three days.
An intensive approach allows our marriage counselors to get to the root of the problem and help you to save your marriage. Many couples that attend our Couples Therapy Intensive Retreats are in a significant amount of marital distress. Some have even filed for divorce.
But you don’t have to choose.
Your ‘State of the Union’ assessment will direct your clinician to which will best suit your situation.
Why are marriage retreats more effective than weekly couples therapy?
Research shows that Marriage Retreats (also known as “Intensives” or “Marathon Therapy”) can be far more effective than weekly couples therapy because you get the equivalent of 6 months of skilled clinical intensive marriage counseling over a single weekend.
Another reason we feel that our Intensives are particularly effective is that you both must complete a thorough assessment Instrument (The BIG BIG Book) before you arrive.
The BIG BIG Book is perhaps the most comprehensive marital assessment tool ever designed. Most couples therapists believe that you won’t bother preparing for a couples therapy intensive. They waste valuable time during the weekend collecting valuable information that they should have compiled and carefully studied beforehand.
As if that wasn’t bad enough… before they even get to know you, their probing questions often trigger old resentments and hard feelings. Before you know it, you’re in a problem-saturated conversation… feeling hopeless before you even get started.
The importance of clinical assessment in a marriage retreat
In our Marriage Retreat, we begin with an extensive BIG BIG Book assessment that you complete at home, online, before the start of the retreat.
The BIG BIG Book asks over 800 questions that enable us to have an in-depth understanding of what you think about the current state of your marriage and why. Then, we take your answers, score, review, and analyze them. Our couples therapists may spend several hours preparing, studying your answers to the BIG BIG Book before your arrival.
But unlike other retreats, we ask you to prepare for our Marriage Retreat by working hard to complete your online Big Big Book assessment. We are also the only Couples Therapy Intensive that we know of that gives you explicit instructions on exactly how to complete your BIG BIG Book questionnaire.
In other words, while you’re preparing to see us…we’re also preparing to see you.
Why the BIG BIG Book Is So Important
It will take you a few hours to complete your BIG BIG Book.
Don’t try to finish it all at once. Work on it in small blocks of time.
If you get tired or cranky (and you will), just click the “save my work” button and return to it in a day or so.
Chip away at it. Work on it when you’re fresh rested and ready and click off when you get tired.
Another thing. You have your BIG BIG Book, and your partner has theirs.
We ask that you do not discuss your answers or even the nature of the questions with one another.
The Big Big Book is a private communication to your couples therapist. You will never see your spouse’s Big Big Book, and they will never see yours. Preparation and motivation are the keys to success in Marriage Retreats. Many couples tell us when they first arrive, that things calmed down between them because they were both working on their BIG BIG Books.
But what actually goes on during a marriage retreat?
The first evening is typically a two-hour meeting with you both. Over these first two hours, we get a better understanding of why you’ve come, and what you both want instead.
We ask a structured series of questions called: “The Story of Us.” We’ll ask questions such as: “How did you meet?” “What attracted you to each other?” Remember, after recalling these happier times; you’ll leave that first night of your retreat therapy with fonder memories, and return to the privacy of your hotel, or bed and breakfast.
The next day
The next morning, we start around 9:30. Here we begin by briefly videorecording you for about 10 minutes. We may also have a little device called a pulse oximeter on one of your fingertips.
You’ll be discussing an area of difference between you that shows up in everyday life so that your therapist can understand the issues to work on in treatment.
We want to see how you both engage with one another when you don’t agree completely on specific issues, and what skills you’ll need for a healthier marriage. We will pay particular attention to:
- How does the discussion start?
- Are any of the ‘Four Horsemen’ evident?
- What do you need to do to strengthen these ways of talking about your differences?
Afterward, we’ll give each of you personal attention, speaking with each of you for one hour alone to get your personal take on things.
After these individual meetings and lunch, we’ll have a feedback session. We’ll discuss what you both want, and the best ways to get there. After we answer your questions, we will launch right into couples therapy. This Marriage Retreat therapy begins formally at this point, shifting from assessment to actual couples therapy.
The last day
The last day is a busy one. You’ll be spending valuable time with your spouse skill-building in the specific areas that have kept you stuck up to this point. While the goals are specific to your particular needs, they may include:
- Strengthening your marital friendship.
- Deepening your understanding of one another.
- Healing old wounds and unresolved attachment injuries, such as infidelity.
- Enhancing your physical and emotional intimacy.
- Transforming the inevitable marital conflicts, and skill-building to help you to both manage conflict and restore a healthy marriage — ardently re-committing to the beliefs, values, and life purposes that you both share.
Hope restored in a weekend to remember
It has taken us more than 20 years, and five different couples therapy approaches, to fully grasp how to help troubled couples precisely, and develop what we believe is, by far, one of the best science-based Intensive Retreats currently available.
Many of our clients believe that the most effective couples therapy doesn’t happen in weekly sessions, or 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 and teaches you specifically how to work on them.
We don’t claim to offer the best marriage retreat. It’s a toothless claim. But we do have over two dozen highly skilled couples therapy specialists across the USA. Learn more. Why not call us today and see if our Marriage Retreat is right for you? It will be a weekend to remember.
Originally published May 14, 2019