What To Expect At Couples Therapy Retreats

By Nicola Kirkpatrick

Updated January 31, 2019

Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

On the way to their pre-marriage counseling appointment, a newly engaged couple wondered if they had anything to learn at a couples therapy retreat in this early stage of their relationship. Walking hand-in-hand, they took their seats before the counselor, eagerly waiting to learn how to build a strong and lasting marriage.


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During the session, the counselor focused on the importance of building a good marriage from the start. The couple was stunned to learn that about half of all marriages fail within the first 7-8 years of marriage. They were only slightly impressed by the fact that recent trends in divorce are dropping slightly.

They decided that a couples therapy retreat might help keep them from being a statistic and that continued couples counseling would be a very good idea.

When Is the Best Time to Attend Couples Therapy Retreats?

Couples attend couples therapy retreats for various reasons. Some couples attend a retreat when they are engaged as this young couple did, and other couples decide to attend a couples therapy retreat when they start to lose the spark in their marriage. Often, one partner or the other decides to sign them up for couples therapy when they are on the brink of divorce, hoping to save their marriage. It's also common for couples who already have a good marriage to attend a couples therapy retreat with the goal of making a good thing better.

The best time to attend a couples therapy retreat is when one or both partners feel that the retreat will improve their relationship.


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Reasons Couples Avoid Couples Therapy Retreats

If you're like many people, you've thought about attending a couples therapy retreat here or there but never actually signed up for one. Why do you keep procrastinating? Some reasons may be because you aren't ready to delve into the very reasons that are prompting you to go. Are you avoiding issues related to infidelity, mid-life crisis, empty nest, retirement, sexuality or intimacy?

Many couples find practical reasons for not attending couples therapy retreats. They don't have anyone to watch their kids for a few days. Perhaps they can't spare time away from work. Finances are an issue for many couples who simply can't afford the high cost of a weekend away.

The word retreat means "to withdraw." Have you considered that withdrawing from the busyness of life to work on your marriage doesn't need to equate to an expensive getaway in a lavish setting? The issues that bring you to couples therapy exist in your home and in your everyday life. Did you know that you can attend a virtual couples therapy retreat with online couples counseling at BetterHelp.com? Escape from life for a bit and still work on your marriage issues without leaving your home or costing a fortune. The benefit of online couples counseling is that it brings you closer to the problems that you're having so that you can work on them. You'll feel more comfortable doing that in the comfort of your own home or bedroom.

What is the difference before couples counseling and a couples retreat?

There is a difference between a couples retreat and couples therapy. While they sound similar, they are different, and the main difference is that one can take months or years, and one can happen over a weekend or a week at most. Imagine an intense counseling session filled with lessons on communication, reviving a broken sex life, and learning how to fall in love with your partner condensed into a weekend at a beautiful location; this is a marriage retreat.

Unlike a marriage retreat, couples counseling takes place in a therapy office for one hour a week with you and your partner sitting on a couch talking with a therapist. This can be very effective and save your relationship, however, you must be prepared to devote an hour a week for at least a three-month time frame. Most couples will start to see changes after a few sessions if both parties are willing to make changes and accept responsibilities for the issues in the relationship, but after three-months is when the real work is getting started and most of the extra baggage is stripped away.

Both types of couples counseling can be effective, it just depends on the form that will work best for you. If you have the time to invest in a weekly session for a minimum of three months and sitting in an office with a therapist appeals to you, then couples counseling might be what would work best for your situation. If you and your significant other prefer to attend a weekend get-a-way with intense couple's workshops, then a couples counseling retreat might be a good choice for you. They are both great choices and can provide the solutions you are looking for, it is more about personal preference than the information and techniques you will receive.

What Happens During Couples Retreat?

Again, couples counseling and a couples retreat are similar and will teach comparable techniques to relate better as a couple. One of the largest differences is that you and your partner will not be alone, you will be with other couples that are there to strengthen their relationships and grow together. While this may seem a bit strange at first, it can provide another level of therapy for couples by being able to learn from each other and discuss similarities in relationships that would not otherwise be heard of in traditional couples counseling. Couples often have the same issues as other couples and this offers an opportunity to learn what has worked and what hasn't.

Counselors plan exercises and activities that help strengthen your marriage bond. Be prepared to discuss some of the issues you are having. Your counselor will help you identify your individual strengths and your strengths as a couple as a base for building emotional awareness between you. The exercises will help you identify misconceptions and change self-defeating behaviors to improve communication, forgive each other, and rebuild a loving relationship.

This can be done in different formats like games, talking, or writing exercises; be prepared to have fun but to also share your thoughts and feelings with your partner and counselor.

The retreat will be intensive work and homework assignments that are completed on your own time, but you will have free time to spend doing things that you enjoy like getting a massage, yoga, or other amenity offered through the retreat. This can be a good time for you and your partner to bond together while relaxing without the pressures from home taking precedence. Another benefit to a couples retreat is tacking on vacation time before or after your retreat to unwind and enjoy couple time before returning home.


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Online Couples Counseling

If you cannot make couples retreat and coordinating schedules with your partner to see a therapist during business hours won't work, you still have the option of couples counseling through an online format. BetterHelp has counselors that are specifically trained to work with couples through an online platform all from the ease of your own location. You do not have to drive miles, find a babysitter, battle weather, or only choose from regular business hours. You will be able to find a counselor that can work with your schedule and the format that works best for you and your partner.

Rather than give up on your relationship, online couples therapy gives you a plan and the tools and understanding to truly be a team.


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