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What Are Intensive Couples Retreats?

Marriage Retreats and Intensive Couples Therapy

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD


  • Couples retreats are the most effective approach to relationship distress.
  • 6 reasons why intensive couples therapy succeed when other approaches fail.
  • Types of problems addressed in marriage retreats and intensives.
  • 6 goals of intensive couples retreats.

Couples retreats and intensive marriage counseling programs are becoming increasingly popular. These programs include weekend marriage retreats, couples workshops, and intensive programs specifically designed for one couple, or for small groups of couples. At our Center, we’ve learned a great deal about the major benefits of couples retreats and intensives.

Why are couples retreats and intensives more effective?

In traditional marriage or couples counseling, sessions are usually scheduled only once a week, or every other week. Sessions generally run for about an hour or two in length. Couples retreats and intensives are more effective because much more can be accomplished over 2-3 days. It usually takes about 4-6 months of traditional weekly sessions to accomplish the same goals. The unique program components in couples retreats result in a deeper understanding of relationship distress and toxic patterns – and a deeper understanding and appreciation of your partner and yourself.

Many couples have told us that they learned much more, and feel much more hopeful after one couples retreat than after months or years of traditional therapy.

6 Reasons Why Couples Retreats Are Successful

  1. Achievement of therapy goals – Couples complete an entire program of intensive couples therapy in 2-3 days. Research shows that most couples in traditional therapy do not complete a full course of couples or marriage counseling. Their goals for therapy remain unmet. In fact, most couples drop out of traditional therapy within 6 sessions. Most experienced couples therapists would agree that couples are just getting into the middle stages of therapy after 6 sessions. The most important goals of couples counseling can be met during a 2-3 day couples retreat (12-16 hours of intensive therapy). It should be noted that we always recommend that after completing a couples retreat, some follow-up sessions will be helpful to integrate and reinforce the learning process.
  2. Comprehensive program – During couples retreats, a comprehensive program is completed – one that provides a deep understanding of themselves and the distressing relationship patterns. Couples experience and learn to use tools to create a successful and loving partnership, and they feel more closely connected and intimate after just one weekend intensive.
  3. Emotionally corrective experiences (re-connection) – We’ve learned from scientific studies that human beings are capable of significant change only when there is significant emotional investment and connection. During couples retreats and intensives, couples are guided through a series of emotionally corrective conversations – leading to meaningful re-connections.
  4. Depth of understanding – The intensive aspect of couples retreats provides a depth of understanding rarely achieved in traditional couples therapy. Specific exercises during couples retreats deepen understanding and compassion for one’s self, one’s partner, and for the relationship itself.
  5. Commitment to the process – The very act of signing up for a couples retreat is a type of commitment to a comprehensive program and process. In our experience, couples who enroll in this type of intensive couples therapy demonstrate more commitment to following through than in weekly couples therapy.
  6. Answers, tools, and a new start – Couples usually have excellent questions about their relationship and how to do things differently. Couples retreats are designed to provide specific answers to their questions, and provides tools for dealing with communication problems, handling conflict, and creating intimacy. Most couples who complete intensive couples therapy say that this is a fresh new start that brings them hope and a positive direction.

Types of Problems Addressed in Couples Retreats and Intensives

The most common problems addressed in couples retreats and intensives include:

  • Conflict and fighting, anger and blame, and power struggles
  • Negative patterns of complaints, criticism, defensiveness, and “stonewalling”
  • Communication problems
  • Lack of intimacy, disconnection, shutting down and distance
  • Infidelity and affairs (including porn addiction)
  • Parenting problems with children and step-children
  • Trust issues and insecurity

7 Goals of Couples Retreats and Intensives

The overriding goal of couples retreats and intensives is a relationship based in trust, safety, loving connection and partnership, where both partners feel their basic relationship needs are being met. The specific goals include:

  • Intimacy – Improved closeness, connection and affection, physically and emotionally.
  • Trust and safety – The foundation of trust and safety in any relationship is built upon the deep emotional connection that tells each partner that they can count on each other. They can depend on each other to be there, to be responsive to their needs, and to feel valued, appreciated and fully accepted. Couples retreats are designed to repair and enhance basic trust and safety in relationships.
  • Communication – Ability to communicate feelings, concerns, and needs productively and with empathy and compassion.
  • Partnership & conflict resolution – Learning to work together as a team, with negotiation, compromise, genuine interest in the welfare of each other, the relationship, and the family.
  • Compassion and empathy – Non-judgmental acceptance, emotional support and positive regard.
  • Family harmony – Improved cooperation and partnership in co-parenting children and step-children. Creating a more loving and harmonious family environment.

For more information about couples retreats and intensive couples therapy please contact us today. The following links provide additional information about our workshops, intensives and couples retreats: