Are Intensive Couples Retreats More Effective Than Weekly One Hour Sessions?

Generally speaking, I would recommend the multi-day retreat for couples who don’t necessarily have a specific problem, but are interested in growing closer and learning more about each other. Many of these retreats teach useful skills such as communication, partner appreciation, finance management, dividing the household chores, parenting, and many others. This type of retreat can also be an excellent resource for premarital couples.

Couples in crisis, on the other hand, would generally be better served with more in-depth counseling consisting of one or two sessions per week. Retreats usually include multiple couples and have a one-size-fits-all approach. When a couple has a specific problem(s), they need counseling that is individualized to their specific needs.

In couples retreats, one session is immediately followed by another and another and another, often for eight to ten hours a day. This can be detrimental to the couple in crisis. When dealing with the potentially volatile issues that accompany relationship problems, the couple in crisis can easily succumb to emotion fatigue and begin arguing or, even worse, become apathetic. The couple in crisis will need that break between sessions to decompress, talk, and digest what they’ve learned about themselves and each other. 

Couples counseling often includes homework assignments as well as skills and techniques for the couple to practice between sessions. These things are very difficult to do in the fast-paced environment of a couples retreat.

Lastly, couples in crisis need long-term reinforcement they will not get in a “three-day wonder” retreat. Even after the primary counseling is done, the couple might want to continue seeing the counseling once a month for several months to check in and “tweek” any issues that may need it.

In summary, if you want to spend a long weekend with other couples, going to marriage workshops and learning to maximize your relationship’s potential, a couples retreat might be the thing for you. If you have specific issues or problems that you need help addressing, I would recommend couples counseling.