Use my Three Questions and Four Criteria to Choose The Best Couples Retreats in California for Couples Therapy
It's a confusing panorama of choices when you search "couples retreat California." I've outlined Three Questions and Four Criteria you can use to cut through the noise and find the right fit.
Don't let search engines, pretty pictures or catchy copy limit your choices. Choose based on objective criteria. Be a wise consumer. We've compiled a list of the "hard to find" best weekend intensives in the state of California below.
We've included both group California marriage retreats and intensive couples therapy retreats in California that are both harder to find and require advanced clinical training in skilled couples therapy. We've broken them down by category, to help you search easily.
Very few that meet my FOUR STRICT CRITERIA.
MY FOUR CRITERIA FOR FINDING THE BEST COUPLES RETREAT IN CALIFORNIA:
- LICENSING: They have to be licensed in California and conduct their Couples Retreats IN California. Any Board of Behavior Sciences professional license will do. If an organization, they insist on qualifications.
- TRAINING: They have to say what level of training they have in any science- or evidence-based work. More is better. Certification is even better. Exceptions are made for professionals who've moved our field of couples therapy forward. (If you wrote the book, you don't have to take the test...)
- PRACTICE: They have to regularly conduct Couples Retreats. Just saying: "I'll do it if someone asks..." isn't sufficient.
- WEBSITE: You have a working website where all of this information can be found. It's the 21st century, after all, folks.
You may not find these clinical California Couples Retreats on review sites or even on the first 10 pages of Google. And despite being in the "Google Graveyard" they are run by qualified clinicians with advanced training from Science-based Institutes devoted to helping couples.
Disclosure: My Clinical Team at Couples Therapy Inc. conducts a Couples Retreat California and we show up in top search engine results and reputable review sites...These professionals are included.
Why do I bother telling you about my competition?
First, there are not many of them. And believe me, I look. My FOUR CRITERIA are tough, but reasonable.
The good ones, my competitors, do great work and should be acknowledged. Most therapists who are well-trained suck at marketing. And they do it very, very badly.
Which is not to say they are terrible therapists, just that they are terrible marketers of their fine clinical work. Put in "Couples Retreat California" in a search engine. Chances are, you won't find them easily.
I think that's a shame.
I call these therapists my "Worthy Competitors," and if they're doing everything right, I'm helping them to share the limelight: Right here, on this page.
They don't pay me to do it. In fact, I have to get around to telling them they're here, because most of them won't know otherwise. They're too busy helping couples!
It's not an ad disguised as an article.
I really have something to say.
Couples Retreat California:
Private Marriage Retreats & Couples Therapy Retreats
The key element to look for in a private intensive couples therapy retreat held anywhere in California are the credentials of those leading it, pure and simple.
Website that talk about "transformational change" and "deep intimate healing" may have retreat facilitators with no objective credentials to conduct work that most of us would label "psychotherapy," "counseling," or "psychological help."
ANYONE WITHOUT ANY OBJECTIVE CREDENTIALS CAN OFFER TO HELP YOUR MARRIAGE.
"The key element for a private individual couples retreat offered in California are the therapist's credentials, pure and simple. You're entrusting your family's future to this person. Choose wisely."
Find out if the California Couples Retreat you are interested in meets all four criteria listed below.
1. "Do you have a license to practice behavioral medicine in California?
(Meaning: a psychologist, social worker, marriage and family therapist or mental health counselor...)
Ask them for their profession and license number. Then look it up here:
It's grueling to get a license to practice psychotherapy in California. I know, I recently got one. And even being a psychologist licensed for decades in another state, I found it a long, tough slog.
Two high-ranking review sites list what they claim are "The BEST Marriage Retreats", but most of the leaders on their lists had no licenses!
Don't rely on the website. If they list their license number, look it up. If they don't list it, ask, then look it up.
Advanced Tip: Not all Doctors of Psychology are allowed to practice behavioral health in the state of California. Many are research psychologists, professors, authors, educators, etc.
Several other couples retreat facilitators specified that they had licenses in other states but didn't mention a California license. One only had an expired MFT Intern's license! I kid you not!
You should be fully informed whether a retreat facilitator you are looking at can help your marriage, based upon objective criteria such as a valid California license to practice behavioral health. "Marriage Retreats" are not a protected title, like "psychologist" or "counseling." That's a huge loop-hole in the law because anyone can and do claim that they hold private couples retreats which have healing properties.
But my argument is simple: If you claim to have the power to "heal" or "transform" my marriage, let me know if you are legally able to practice counseling or psychotherapy in the State of California. Make that clear. Then let me, as the consumer, decide if you have a valid basis for your claim.
2. "Do you have specialize training in Couples Therapy? Will this Couples Retreat be evidence-based work?"
As challenging as it may be to attain a license to practice in California, it's not sufficient.
To develop real expertise in conducting couples therapy, you need more specialized training.
In a state abundant with trained psychotherapists, there were remarkably slim pickings of those who conduct California couples retreats after searching the top ten pages of Google.
Because it's impossible to know what "trained in X model" means, I skipped over anyone who didn't specify a particular level of training such as: "Completed Externship in EFT" or "Completed Levels I & II in Gottman."
With slightly 30 certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists in California listed on the Gottman site and a bit over 100 therapists listed who have certification in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, I was convinced I'd find many private couples retreats offered in California.
Other than the ones offered through Couples Therapy Inc., I found very few.
Advanced Tip: Gottman Method Couples Therapist often refer to their intensives as "Marathon Therapy." But not everyone offering "Marathon Therapy" is certified as a Gottman Couples Therapist.
3. "Do you have experience doing Couples Retreats in California or is it a "Me Too" add-on that you do if asked?"
Practice makes perfect. Without clinical skills and trainings, you can do these California Couples Retreats for a century and still do them poorly. There's a learning curve to get skilled at it, even if you are good at practicing weekly couples therapy. It's one of the reasons my new clinicians offer lower rates for the first six months after they join Couples Therapy Inc.
4. "Do you have a website where I can read about your Couples Retreats California?
Sorry, but in this day and age if you don't have a website, you can't easily be found. If you don't need a website, chances are you are so busy with referral business that you have no openings. Either way, you must have a website to meet my criterion.
Here are Science-Trained Couples Retreats in California:
Couples Therapy Certifications
Senior Certified Gottman Trainer
Senior Gottman Method Couples Therapist
Advanced Training in the Gottman Method; The Developmental Model Level I Training; Prepare-Enrich Inventory Counselor Certification
Advanced Training in the Gottman Method; Ackerman Institute 4 year Externship;.
Gottman Certified Couples Therapist; Sex Therapist; Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy, Externship & Core Skills; Developmental Model Levels I & II and Trainer; Discernment Counseling
East Bay Relationship Center
Alameda (Alameda County)
Sinead Smyth, (MFC 36400)
Garni Thomas LMFT (MFC 98418)
Sinead: Gottman Certified and Trainer
Garni: Advanced Training in the Gottman Method;
Marriage Therapy Institute/ Harmony Place - Monterey (Monterey County)
Dr. Mark Schwartz, Sc.D., LMFT
Lori Galperin, MSW
Sex Therapy: Trained by Masters & Johnson directly. Later ran their Institute.
I trained with Lori in sexual trauma decades ago.
The Happy Couple Expert
Laguna Hills (Orange County)Robyn D'Angelo, CA Licensed MFT (#53820)
Advanced Training in the Gottman Method; Levels 1 & 2 Terry Real (another great couples therapy trainer)
Quincy, CA (Plumas County)
Aly Makena, LMFT (#53820)
Advanced Training in the Gottman Method;
The Center for Couples Therapy
Roseville, CA (Placer County)
Trish Stanley, PsyD, MFT
Gottman Method Certified Couples Therapist
None of this is to suggest that you must have a license in order to hold a Couples Retreat in California. There is no law against anyone saying they conduct "Couples Retreat California."
Anyone with aspiration and business acumen who has attended a "personal development seminar" or is moved by a flash of insight can develop and offer a proprietary, interactive program and call it a couples retreat. They can become self-proclaimed program facilitators creating and scheduling activities and exercises to help you to "rewrite your story."
It's interesting to have your "Angel Guide" promise to "hold you at a higher vibration" until you're able to get there yourself. Or remain in a mystical "field of resonance for five days" and be "permanently life-altered."
All of this is available to you at a Couples Retreat in California!
But if I'm in the chair, and someone is going to pull my teeth, I'd like to know that somebody, somewhere trained him/her as a dentist.
Do you have an obligation to tell your potential clients that you aren't licensed to practice as a behavioral health professional when they come to you for help with a troubled marriage?
What do you think?
Couples Retreat California:
Three Questions To Ask Yourself First:
FIRST QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR COUPLES RETREAT:
1. "Do I want my Couples Retreat California to be a private retreat? Or should it be a group experience?
That decision will create focus. I'll review both types of options here. Group retreats are less expensive, usually costing between $500-$800 per couple, but offer general information with group exercises. Most do not require personal disclosure, however. Private retreats are expensive, but are targeted help to change your marriage.
SECOND QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR COUPLES RETREAT:
2. "Do I want a religious or spiritual retreat or one that has spirituality as a central component?”
If you are looking for a religiously-based or spiritually-based retreat, there are many talented religious trainers who advertise just this type of group experience. It’s perfect for many couples. There are reputable ones to choose from.
You will find a Group Couples Retreat California run by "Distressed-to-Best" couples facilitators - couples that have, themselves, been through the program and turned things around. They can be both educational, religiously inspirational, and entertaining.
There are religious programs like The Retrouvaille Program, originally a Catholic program, now invites any couples to attend. You must, however, be married. Other couples retreats in California are run by Pastors. Scott River Lodge is one such Pastor-led Retreat holding a Couples Retreat in California.
Advanced Tip: Some religious retreats require you to be legally married or heterosexual. Be sure to ask directly if this is a requirement.
On the other hand, some couples prefer to not have any mention of spiritual growth during their weekend.
One Salon article called: “My Escape from Marriage Retreat Hell” was written by a couple who went to a retreat that advertised itself as “ecumenical,” but found it quite biased.
Be sure to ask questions about whether prayers, or spiritual or religious service will be a part of your California couples retreat, to be sure it’s a good fit for your family.
THIRD QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR COUPLES RETREAT:
3. "Do I want this Californian Couples Retreat primarily to have fun, for learning, or to get therapeutic help?"
If you are looking for a group couples retreat in California, your second question is the "fun factor," versus whether you're expecting serious work. If you're looking for a package of yoga, massage and meditation, or one with group games and a little advice tossed in, that will be quite a different set of experiences for you than if you both need to do some serious therapeutic repair of your relationship.
Want a Fun Couples Retreat in California?
If you're looking for a package of massage and margaritas, with a little advice or couples games tossed in, that will be quite a different set of experiences...
"HIGH FUN FACTOR" IN Couples Retreat California
A high "fun factor" couples retreat won't usually be run by people clinically trained, and that should be less of a consideration for you. Your hosts can be yogis, TV celebrities, motivational coaches, spiritual guides, fitness experts, "Angel Guides" or those in business development or nursing. You want it to be fun, but you also want to know that there is some organization, structure, and planning to maximize your enjoyment. Or if not, this retreat is qualified, by your particular standards, to endow you with spiritual teachings, inner wisdom, authentic happiness or a healthier body.
"Retreats" also means pure "getaway."
Look for luxury accommodations, captivating landscapes and top-shelf yoga teachers, fitness trainers, meditators, masseurs, and food to enrich the body and soul.
LOW FUN FACTOR GROUP Couples RETREAT CALIFORNIA
"Low" doesn't mean "no" fun. It just means that's not the sole focus. Both of the workshops listed below explain the science of couples therapy. My Team Members offer both.
For example The Art & SCIENCE of Love Weekend Couples Workshops held in Mill Valley, and Marin County, California is held by two licensed professionals and Master Certified Gottman Therapists, Lisa Lund, CRC, MFT & Bob Navarra, Psy.D, MFT. For under $700, you'll get a wonderful group introduction to the science of intimate relationships (40 years in the making!), great handout materials, and a weekend that will put you in a solid position to stop there or practice the techniques in a more structured clinical setting later.
A second fabulous option is a Hold Me Tight Workshop, this one held in San Francisco, Tiburon, or Big Sur, by licensed therapists Dr. Sam Jinich and Dr. Michelle Gannon. Sam is a Certified Trainer, Supervisor and Therapist in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Michelle is a Certified Supervisor and Therapist. For $750, you'll get another opportunity to really examine your attachment to one another. This work is truly evidence-based studying couples for decades.
Advanced Tip: If the agency or practitioner is offering a psycho-educational retreat, ask them to send you an outline of the goals and objectives of their training, as well as a breakdown of activities. This should be readily available to you.
"How do I prepare for my Science-oriented Group Retreat to get the most out of it?"
Here are a few books you can read:
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman (1999) is a great introduction to the Gottman Method and a preview of coming attractions in your workshop.
- Hold Me Tight or Love Sense by Sue Johnson (2008, 2013) are also smart choices if you're considering an EFT (Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy) weekend.
These locations or dates don't work?
See a Complete List of EFT workshops HERE and a complete list of CA workshops for Art and Science of Love HERE.
For Christian-based programs, ask about books or bible passages they'd suggest to study.
I have no doubt that it's possible for lay people to do a competent job at a whole host of healing arts. But that is your choice to make. Even as a skilled clinician looking specifically for credentials, it was truly hard to tell reading my competitor's websites who had them and who didn't...
* Wait! Not fair! I'm not on that list! Write us with the website page that states all of these criteria. We'll add you!