What is a Marriage Intensive Restoration Retreat?

The Intensive is a very powerful format in marriage counseling for helping couples move past the barriers that keep them from experiencing the marriage they had hoped for.  Sustained work over four days allows couples, with the help of skilled therapists, to go deep enough to get to the root issues thwarting their relationships. 

The key elements:

    1. At least thirty hours of marriage counseling with a team of two skilled counselors
    2. The Intensive delivery is tailored to each group of couples who attend.
    3. A safe, supportive, and encouraging environment with a maximum of five couples. 
    4. A sequestered environment.
    5. Gracious Hospitality: comfortable and attractive accommodations with all meals served on location. 
    6. A participant manual and follow up services with a marriage counselor.

Intensives provide a chance to change course in life.

Why do Marriage Intensives Work?

The four-day Intensive allows sustained work to not just touch on points of controversy, but to follow up and work through them. When compared to traditional weekly counseling sessions, many couples report a strong preference for the Intensive format that helps them get to the heart of the matter very quickly.

The Intensive format allows couples to keep working, navigating charged areas safely with help to find resolution. The mutual exchange among the couples helps as well, facilitated in an atmosphere that fosters honesty and healing.

Participants come to realize that marriage is challenging for everyone. Situations are startlingly similar. Challenges typically have less to do with difference between us and more to do with our humanness and the challenge of maintaining intimate relationships in the modern world.

Intensives work because of the five following key elements:
1. A sequestered environment
2. Willing couples (openness and accountability)
3. Skilled therapists
4. Gracious hospitality
5. God's help

The book The DNA of Relationships for Couples, by Dr. Greg Smalley and Dr. Robert S. Paul provides an in-depth look at what takes place in an Intensive, drawn from the well of their experience in facilitating healing in the marriages of participating couples.

Rooted in Faith

One of the questions for potential participants for Marriage Intensives of The Clearing is this:  Would you accept a miracle of healing in your marriage if it were given to you?  
 The therapists for The Clearing approach marriage not as a contract but a covenant, an eternal promise between a man, a woman, and God.   The therapists have studied theology as well as psychology and their approach is rooted in an understanding of both.
 Participants of all faiths are welcome at The Clearing.  The therapists all come from a Christian background.  Their job is to meet participants where they are spiritually, whatever their faith, and show them the roadmap to move from a troubled marriage to the vibrant, lasting marriage they always hoped for.  
 The Host Couple will be praying behind the scenes for participants in The Clearing’s  Marriage Intensives, as will other friends of The Clearing.  
 When couples have completed the Marriage Intensive, they will be referred out to counselors or pastors in their faith community for follow-up.  Catholic couples will have the opportunity for reconciliation or communion on site after the conclusion of the Intensive.

Is This Right for Us?

People who are in marriage crisis are the most typical couples. They may already be separated with the intention of divorcing. These are couples who are very discouraged, exhausted after trying counseling, and have found they cannot make any progress. The Intensive is a final attempt to save their marriage.

However, often couples come who are generally succeeding in their marriages, but who have long-standing issues they cannot seem to resolve. Additionally, couples that are at a major transition in their lives benefit greatly from Intensives as they reset their course as “empty nesters,” or upon retirement.

Couples leave with a clear sense of what got them to this place in their marriage, how to get unstuck and remain free from their past unhealthy patterns, and what skills and insights they will need to have the marriage they have always wanted.

The Intensive Program would NOT be appropriate:
1. If there is currently a substance addiction, the individual would need to complete a rehabilitation program before entering our program in order for the Intensive to be truly effective.

2.    If there is currently an extra-marital affair, the program simply will not be as effective.  The program effectiveness depends on two individuals who are focusing on the marriage.  The affair must be cut off and both partners must be focused and committed to the present relationship.

Expressions of dissatisfaction from participating couples may include:

  • “There is no hope for us. My husband says he doesn’t love me anymore.”
  • “My wife/husband has had an affair.”
  • “I feel like I am living with a stranger.”
  • “ We are trapped in the same old arguments.”
  • “Our sex-life is boring.”
  • “I feel so alone in my marriage.”
  • “We just can’t communicate anymore.”

Additional issues faced by discouraged couples include:

  • Avoidance/Withdrawal—One or both partners will chose to avoid or withdraw from conversations.
  • One partner speaks negatively about the beliefs, feeling, thoughts, looks, etc. of the other partner.
  • Negative interpretation of experiences.
  • Escalation to confrontation when in a discussion.
  • Not handling disagreements as a team.
  • Unrealistic beliefs about marriage.
  • Difference in beliefs about important issues.
  • A low level of commitment to one another.
  • Not practicing faith/spirituality together.


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