A marriage counseling retreat is any sort of intensive counseling session designed for couples. Most retreats are overnight, often for an entire weekend. Many also blend individual couple time and one-on-one counseling with larger group activities. The specifics of what a marriage counseling retreat will contain, as well as what sort of couple it is designed to target, is largely a factor of the sponsor.
Counseling retreats were originally designed for couples who are struggling in their marriage. Couples in so-called “crisis marriages” — that is, marriages that seem precipitously close to divorce — often seek intensive couples therapy to help salvage their relationships. Most of the time, this therapy involves in-office visits with a marriage counselor. Depending on the circumstances, many counselors also recommend retreats.
The main idea behind this kind of a marriage counseling retreat is to get the spouses outside of their ordinary routine. In many cases, this has the effect of forcing couples out of their comfort zones, which often leads to more open, honest conversations. Retreats are usually designed to take place over a weekend so as not to disrupt participants’ work schedules or weekday commitments.
In some cases, the couple seeking counseling goes on a marriage retreat only with their counselor. This allows intensive self-exploration and offers a chance to openly and safely share insights, fears, and wants. Most of the time, however, a marriage counseling retreat is a group event.
Marriage counselors, relationship specialists, and religious leaders often sponsor larger-scale retreats that can bring a group of similarly-situated couples together. These kinds of retreats often blend one-on-one counseling and therapy sessions with group sharing and accountability events. A variety of counseling courses and group seminar talks are usually also offered, depending on the size of the group.
Troubled couples are not the only ones who can benefit from going on a marriage counseling retreat, however. More and more relationship specialists have begun devoting their practices to strengthening already strong marriages, rather than waiting until relationships are in trouble to intervene. Counseling retreats are sometimes designed to help people remember the reasons that they are married and to take some time out from their lives to celebrate their spouse.
This kind of retreat is often billed as a “strengthening retreat," and it usually involves some combination of partner sharing and one-on-one meetings with a marriage counselor. Seminars about strengthening marriage and ideas for how to keep relationships strong are also usually part of the weekend. Socializing with other couples also looking for a stronger bond is often also a selling point.
A marriage counseling retreat can also be an opportunity for individuals contemplating marriage to take some time away to get to know each other more deeply, as well as to more clearly set out their marriage expectations. Many churches and faith groups require these kinds of retreats as a part of mandatory pre-marriage counseling programs. Couples therapy for engaged people can be a good way of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the match, and identifying potential problems before they arise.