Couples should expect privacy and a certain level of anonymity. Workshops should not require or encourage couples to make public disclosures about sensitive matters involving their relationships. There’s nothing worse for a relationship than throwing your partner “under the bus” publicly. Privacy will allow you to get to the heart of matters with your partner. During the periods of group instruction, couples can be welcomed to share their insights about the material or their experience with it, or remain silent.
Instructors should teach relationship skills grounded in clinical (scientific method) studies of actual couples. While workshops that focus on anecdotal and unproven experiences of the presenter may be entertaining, such retreats will unlikely offer long-term value. Evidence-based relationship methods offer the best chance for couples to learn meaningful skills and implement them, knowing that more than chance, timing or charisma is behind positive changes.
Recognition of a Higher Power:
While relying on solid data, instructors should also recognize that for many people, a higher power exists which can facilitate healing and change. As a marriage therapist and couples workshop presenter, I do not expect or insist that my clients accept this assumption. However, I let clients know that those who strive for a change of heart and soul will find meaningful information which will blend with their own faith traditions. Behavioral changes acquired at a workshop may lack the depth needed for sustainable change without a deeper purpose of meaning assigned to those changes.
Opportunity to Practice Skills:
A sound workshop will give couples plenty of time to practice the skills they learn, and reach out to the instructor for assistance at any point. The instructor-to-couples ratio should be kept to about 10-to-1 or less.
Passion and Experience:
The instructor should have several years or more of clinical experience. If you attend a workshop with a less experienced instructor, make sure a seasoned therapist will also be on-hand as a co-presenter. An experienced and licensed marriage counselor, whose practice focuses on couples, is your best bet for capable assistance in navigating the complexities of relationships. There are many options available for couples to choose from. Unfortunately, many are heavy on charisma and light on experience. It would pay to do some digging into the background of your presenter, before investing precious time and money.
A high-quality workshop will provide you with materials and workbooks to take home, giving you the tools to continue to strengthen your relationship.
Attending a couples weekend workshop is a worthwhile investment in your relationship at any stage. Besides gaining new information and skills, remember that such a retreat is an opportunity for re-connection, healing and romance with your partner in a space and time carved out just to focus on each other.
Was this Blog helpful? If so, I highly recommend my couples weekend workshop: The Art and Science of Love, created by the Gottman Institute. Information and exercises are presented in an organized, cohesive manner. It’s a wonderful investment in your love life, and will truly strengthen your relationship!