Couples retreats can bring new understanding about marriage, strengthen faith in God together, and bond a couple because of the unique and special experience. Following up the gains of retreats with the work and investment of couples counseling can bear even more fruit in a marriage.
Three Reasons Why Couples Retreats Should Be Followed by Counseling
This article will focus on three reasons why couples counseling can enhance and deepen the positive experienced in couples retreats.
1. Direction and Insight
While retreats can spark motivation for change, marriage counseling channels desire and gives direction and deeper insight needed for sustained change.
Couples who enjoy relationship-focused retreats often have the desire to continue to grow in their marriage, and desire is an important component of sustained growth. Strong motivation for change is also vital for the success of marital counseling.
Counseling is a good fit for couples who want to grow together, are open and curious to learn how to grow, and have the time and financial means to make an investment. To seek counseling following a positive retreat experience is an example of the proverbial ‘striking while the iron is hot.’Couples counseling uniquely affords insight and direction that is not possible in a shorter retreat experience because of the therapist/counselor’s perspective, expertise, and treatment, and the concentrated opportunity to learn and process with your spouse.
Counseling provides the setting for a couple to discern what happens when they are not connecting emotionally very well, how to create new mutually satisfying patterns, and what is needed to continue experiencing deep connections.
At times in a marriage, reactions to one another seem quick, intense, and cyclical. What’s happening in those moments? Why are our interactions so intense? Is it possible that our distant or recent past is impacting our present interactions?
These questions can be addressed in couples counseling with the assistance and guidance of a trained professional. In addition, Christian couples counseling can give people of faith an additional reassurance that their values and worldview will be honored and considered in diagnosis and treatment.
2. Focus and Repetition
Retreats can provide positive brief experiences of relational focus, while counseling can be part of a season of focus on specific goals and repetition to learn new ways of relating.
Counseling provides an emotionally safe, confidential, and uninterrupted time and place in which to focus attention, energies, and effort into learning new ways of relating to one another.
The couple itself is the ‘client’ of a couples counselor or therapist. Via the counselor, a focused and objective voice is offered for the well-being of the relationship. Focused attention, refined in counseling, offered to one’s spouse builds deeper emotional connections. The focus on specific goals can be a powerful means to achieving those goals.Couples often need to get traction to sustain growth. The concept of muscle memory suggests that when learning a new motor skill, the more those muscles are accustomed to working in particular new ways, the more repetition, the more ease in adapting to and incorporating the new movement, so that with practice, what is new becomes what is usual.
So it is also true with learning new relational skills. The more you can experience closer emotional connections in counseling sessions, the more you can experience them outside of sessions.
For example, active empathetic listening is an acquired skill which can be facilitated and coached and enables a couple to experience mutual understanding needed for closer emotional connections. There are not many other settings in life which offers the opportunity to master vital relational skills with your spouse with regularity and with professional instruction.
3. Structure and Support
Retreats can signal strengths, surface hurts or suggest issues which need the continuing structure and support of counseling to build, heal, and address.
Often what couples lack is structure and support to grow and sustain new and desired practices, skills, and patterns. Certain presenting problems need the structure and support provided by counseling.
For example, counseling can catalyze healing by giving the steps needed to reconcile with one another for couples seeking to recover from an affair. In the wake of a disclosure or discovery of such a betrayal, a marriage experiences trauma, chaos, and crisis.
The structure of counseling or therapy can provide a setting which can contain the difficult and intense emotions of the situation. The steps of reconciliation, taken with the guidance and support of an experienced professional in conjunction with a supportive community, can be healing for a couple.
Intentional assignments and a plan can provide the structure needed to reinforce and facilitate growth for all kinds of relational goals. The therapeutic alliance forged between counselor and couple can sustain and support a couple through a challenging season.
The opportunity to process feelings, thoughts, and perceptions out loud, together, can provide the support needed for perseverance and be a bridge to experiencing on-going support from a safe and vital spiritual community.
Christian couples counseling affirms Jesus Christ as the ultimate Healer and Counselor, supports and leverages a couple’s faith in Him, reinforces His ways for healing including prayer, spiritual community support, spiritual disciplines like studying Scripture, worship experiences, and retreats. These can be important considerations for a couple wanting to take advantage of the encouragement of a retreat experience.
If you are a couple whose experience at a couples retreat has awakened a desire for more growth, healing, connection, please contact me about the possibility of couples counseling.
“Mountain Stream”, Courtesy of Andrew Ly, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Couple in Autumn”, Courtesy of Anita Peeples, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Our Nation’s Parks”, Courtesy of Anneliese Phillips, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cuddling”, Courtesy of NeONBRAND, Unsplash.com, CC0 License