Who We Are

Each marriage intensive is led by professional licensed therapists equipped with years of training and experience. Always with a warm smile, genuine concern, and non-judgmental approach, each therapist works to deliver an in-depth counseling retreat to gently bring each couple to a place of renewed hope, direction, and intimacy. Meet the therapists, founders, and staff committed to preparing each intensive and helping you along your journey.

billandmargitFounders – Bill and Margit Riley

Margit Winstrom Riley, MD
Dr. Winstrom graduated from the only all-female medical school in the country, Women’s Medical College of Penn, and completed a family practice internship and residency in Minnesota before landing among the cows and cornfields off Dairy Ashford Road in Houston back in 1970. This was the closest she would ever come to being the country doc of her dreams despite naming her practice the “Good Old Fashioned Family Doc Clinic”. More recently she is venturing into the less traditional world of Functional/Integrative Medicine and finding it as exciting as it is challenging for an old fashioned doc to learn new tricks. When not serving patients or nurturing The Clearing she is working hard with her husband of more than 35 years to develop and then pass on good sustainability and stewardship principles to their eight children/families for care of their R&W Ranch in Brenham, Texas.

William J. Riley, MD
Dr. William Riley was in the private practice of Neurology in Houston since 1968. In more recent years he had opened an auxiliary office in Brenham, Texas (to be closer to the cows). He completed his premed at Berkeley, followed by an MS and MD at the University of Chicago plus a PhD in neuroanatomy and neurology at the University of Minnesota. Once in Houston he joined the faculty of Baylor College of Medicine and served as founding Chief of Neurology at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital as well as serving on the UT Medical School faculty. Dr. Riley was actively involved in organized medicine and served the Harris County Medical Society, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Neurological Society in many elected and appointed positions earning many awards from each. When he was not serving patients or rustling cattle, children or his wife he worked with the Serra Club of Houston and International to help foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

A Word from Bill and Margit…

“We saw it as a God-given imperative to spend our time, talent and treasure to do whatever we could to try to counteract the current cultural devaluing of marriage. But we became absolutely convinced this was the right program when a recently divorced young mother broke into tears when told of our plans to bring group intensive marriage counseling to Texas. She sobbed, “We had tried everything, but nothing seemed to change. We didn’t really want to divorce but we didn’t know what else to do and simply couldn’t go on fighting in front of the children. Had we only known that “intensives” existed, I know we wouldn’t be divorced today!” It was then that we knew we must make this incredibly effective tool available to those who truly need and want a miracle for their marriage. As physicians we know that no disease causes as much human suffering for so many people for so many generations as a broken home. Our only regret is that more people don’t know about and make use of this miraculous resource. Any and every marriage can benefit from and be upgraded by a periodic deep audit.”


tcunninghamTricia Cunningham is the lead therapist for The Clearing, and has demonstrated her wisdom and compassion in counseling couples who have come to the Marriage Intensive Retreats and Marriage Enrichment weekends. She began her career as a counselor at Gary Smalley’s counseling center, Today’s Family. She later became a certified lead therapist, director, and executive team member at the National Institute of Marriage. She is also a Certified Professional Life Coach. Tricia grew up in Argentina, the daughter of missionaries, and has spent her adult life in ministry with her husband in the Midwest. She has been married for twenty-one years and has three children.

A Word from Tricia…

“I wish every couple in America could experience a marriage intensive. Though most couples who attend are in crisis when they arrive, by far the majority leave hopeful and re-connected. They learn so much about themselves and their relationship, and are given tools to help them stay close and healthy throughout the rest of their marriage.”

gcourleyGuy Gourley is a therapist, conference and seminar speaker, husband for over twenty years, father of three, and founder of the Legacy Center for Christian Counseling in Houston. He holds two masters degrees, one from Dallas Theological Seminary in Biblical Studies and another in Counseling from Colorado Christian University. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas and an active member in the American Association of Christian Counselors. With over twenty-three years in counseling experience, Guy has a passion for people and relationship restoration and enrichment as he meets couples where they are to bring insight, compassion, and spiritual direction to where they need it most.

A Word from Guy…

“In counseling there are so many times I wish I had more time. I see couples on the brink of something really good happening and then I have to end the session. A marriage intensive allows me to take the time to really hear the deepest parts of the couple’s story. Every marriage has challenges and it often takes time for a person to feel safe enough to share their deepest wants, needs and desires. Sometimes the hurt is so deep they need the extra reassurance they are going to be heard and taken care of. A marriage intensive allows the couple to retreat, literally, and be taken care of physically, emotionally and spiritually. Join me on this journey and see the miracle that can happen.”

cirwinCindy Irwin is the founder and executive director of LIFE BY DESIGN, a counseling center that specializes in Sexual Wholeness and Marriage and Family Counseling. Along with outpatient counseling, LIFE BY DESIGN serves as a resource on sexuality issues for the medical community and a training center for Masters Degree students seeking practicum work in marriage and sex therapy during their professional development. Cindy is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries, is an author and speaker, and is a co-host with CHICK-CHAT, a nationally traveled Christian talk show for women. Cindy and her husband Steve have been married since 1985 and have two sons.

A Word from Cindy

“God intended our sexuality to be a delightful overflow in our lives. Sadly, many couples who experience marital distress also experience the death of intimacy. Whether sexual problems have caused the breakdown, or are a result of marriage problems, an intensive can be the solution. The intensive gives us the needed time to look deeper into the heart of sexual wholeness. Together we can find the practical keys to intimate sexual fulfillment and the restoration of your marriage.”

Director of Programs

dcarstensDeborah Kristen is the Program Director of The Clearing. She is the person to whom potential participants turn as they explore coming to a Marriage Intensive. She is responsible for the intake of participants, scheduling, and orchestrating the events for each retreat. She brings to the task a heart for counseling as well as a Master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from the Luther Rice University and Seminary. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. Deborah has taught Scripture for more than twenty years with passion and devotion. In recent years she has given particular emphasis to Divorce Recovery in her work with others, which has included both individual discipleship and mentoring.

A Word from Deborah:

“I have personally experienced the griefs and consequences of divorce and have walked along side many others as they learn to live again after a failed marriage. What a joy to participate now with The Clearing to restore to married couples the hope and expectation of the marriage they have always wanted, and that God has always intended for them.”