This woman is getting ready for her marriage retreat.

How To Prepare Yourself For An Intensive Therapy Retreat

Fixing a relationship is hard, especially when your conflict resolution skills include yelling and slamming doors. A sixty-minute weekly therapy session can only do so much. Sometimes, it helps to step away from all the other negative factors in your life. 

An intensive therapy retreat can address issues with your communication, intimacy, boundaries, and more. The main difference between something like a marriage retreat and counseling is that you’re dedicating time away from your daily life to focus on your relationship. 

Here’s how to prepare yourself for a couples therapy retreat and what to expect. 

Evaluate Your Needs 

It’s important to know your current mental health needs before attending an intensive therapy retreat. When I work with couples, I often spend time before their intensive retreat exploring goals and expectations. This gives us an understanding of the treatment approach is a good fit for the couple or not.

A married couple may attend a retreat for multiple reasons such as to address sexual dissatisfaction or sort through their communication challenges. Maybe you feel like your current social and work-life keeps you and your partner separated. Or perhaps there’s something missing that you can’t quite put your finger on. 

Couples counseling helps, but it’s only for a limited amount of time once a week and can last for months or years. The reality is, after each counseling session, you have to return to the problems of your daily life often without a complete answer to your problems.

A couples retreat serves as an intensive session without any distractions from your daily life.

Research the Types of Intensive Therapy Retreats Available

Not all marriage retreats work the same way or offer the same kind of services. Some serve as a vacation away from home with the added bonus of on-site therapists. Others act more like extended counseling sessions with workshops and group activities. 

The important consideration in an intensive therapy retreat is confirming that the experience is setting your relationship up for success.

Vacations offer a false impression of relaxation and ease that isn’t easy to replicate when you are at home. It’s for this reason that virtual therapy retreats are so successful.

Virtual retreats, in particular, have risen in popularity during the recent ongoing pandemic. Since couples participate over the internet and through video calls, they can do it from the comfort of their own homes. 

For those who want to get away, there’s also the option of renting out a hotel for the duration of the virtual retreat. After all, one of the goals is to dedicate time outside of your normal, everyday life. Just be sure that your focus for the hotel stay is on your relationship so you and your partner feel genuinely cared for through out the experience.

Make Your Arrangements at Home

Whether you’re attending a virtual retreat at home or at a local hotel, you’ll need to get your affairs ready while you’re busy. 

First of all, see if you can have someone else watch your kids for the day or spend a night or two at a relative’s house. That includes finding a dog sitter for your pets. The last thing you need is to constantly be distracted by one of the reasons your relationship has taken a backseat. 

Secondly, charge up the devices you’re using for the retreat and have the chargers within reach. Have a backup plan just in case one of your devices starts to act up. 

Finally, let everyone know that you’re busy for the day and put your phones on silent. Don’t let anyone distract you from what’s most important right now. 

Find Somewhere Comfortable

Virtual retreats all vary in how long they take. My intensive therapy retreats are 6 hours per day and can be adjusted as needed to meet your needs. Just expect it to be at least a few hours each time. As such, you’ll want to prepare yourself for maximum comfort while you break down some emotional walls. 

Gather up all your favorite snacks and drinks so they’re within reach. This is especially important if you’re doing the retreat at a hotel and won’t have easy access to your kitchen. 

Decide on what device you’ll participate on. You may want to stick to a laptop or tablet if you want to relax on your sofa or in bed. 

And look up how to download and use Zoom if you’ve never done so before.  

Get Your Questions About the Day Answered in Advance

If you have any questions about the retreat or what to expect, get your answers before the scheduled retreat day.

During your consultation with me, we can answer any questions you have and I’ll share some common thoughts with you about what previous couples have asked or needed help with.

I suggest that everyone take notes during the session (either on paper or on your phone) and I only give homework based on what we talk about during your marriage retreat. This way, the homework is personal to you and has deeper connection to your goals and ultimate relationship satisfaction.

Prepare to Open Up

It’s a good idea to consider that intensive therapy retreats encourage you to open up and share about your life and feelings. Therapy works faster if you can open up, and the same is true in a marriage retreat. It’ll also help your partner to witness that you’re a willing participant in this important experience together. 

Like with couples therapy, you should establish goals for the retreat. Are you hoping to relight the spark in your relationship, do you have conflicting priorities you need to address or is your marriage in a place of needing to repair from an affair, indiscretion or dishonesty?

All of these are good goals for an intensive therapy retreat and can be explored in your session(s).

Keep Notes

Don’t assume you’ll retain and remember everything you learn in your marriage retreat. It’s normal for couples to disagree on certain things, but the retreat should help you to navigate a fight more effectively

Have a notebook and a pen or pencil available before you start your virtual retreat. Take turns writing out important lessons, and try highlighting the information you want to circle back to later. 

Are You Ready? Let’s Discuss An Intensive Therapy Retreat To Help Your Relationship

As a marriage counselor, I am trained as a Gottman Couples Counseling and PACT Therapist. I have offered intensive therapy retreats to couples for many years and have extensive experience helping couples with challenges that often seem to point to divorce but after intensive therapy turn into healthy, loving relationships.

If you’re seeking support in this way, please reach reach out. I offer all couples time with me to explore if a marriage retreat is the right direction for your relationship.


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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