Jay S. Lindsay, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist
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Choosing a Marriage Counselor

How to Find a Highly Effective Marriage Counseling Retreat

…by a psychologist who’s been doing them for nearly 40 years.

The Ten Most Important Things to Look For in a Marriage Counselor and Retreat

by Jay S. Lindsay, Ph.D.
Marital Therapist

Your marriage is in serious trouble, perhaps sliding toward the brink of divorce. You need a quick turn-around and so you’re searching the web for marriage counseling retreats.

As you look at the many options, how do you find a retreat that is likely to be highly effective?

Here are the ten most important things to look for when choosing a marriage counselor and retreat, based on my almost 40 years of experience. As you review websites, you can use this information to evaluate a retreat and compare it to others. You’ll notice that many of the items on this list are about the qualifications of the counselor.
  1. A private retreat.
    holly-mandarich-293305-unsplashGroup retreats can work fine for couples who are mildly distressed. However, if your relationship is moderately to severely distressed, choosing a marriage counselor who offers a private retreat for just the two of you will probably be the better option. That way you’ll get both confidentiality and a personalized approach that is tailored to exactly what you need.
  2. A scientifically proven approach.
    Many leaders of marriage counseling intensives use approaches they like but not approaches that have been proven by research to work. A well-proven approach is EFT, or Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. With EFT nearly 75% of couples recover and another 15% improve significantly. One of the things to look for in a marriage counselor and retreat is that it is led by a Certified EFT Couple Therapist.
  3. A licensed marriage and family therapist, or LMFT.
    When you are choosing a marriage therapist, if a counselor is an LMFT, you can rest assured that he or she has been well-trained at the graduate level in how to work effectively with couples. Therapists licensed in other related fields such as a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) usually have little or no graduate level training in marriage counseling.
  4. A second license in a mental health discipline that focuses on the assessment and treatment of individuals.
    The fact is that all effective couple therapy requires careful attention to individual issues as well as to relationship issues. This is particularly true if one of you has an undiagnosed depression, personality disorder, or addiction. When looking for a marriage counselor, a good bet is to see a therapist who is both a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed psychologist with a doctorate.
  5. Clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
    If a therapist is a clinical member of the AAMFT you can be confident that he or she meets important professional standards established by leaders in the field of marriage and family therapy, an important requirement to look for when choosing a marriage counselor. You can also be confident that he or she subscribes to a stringent code of ethics and has agreed to be accountable to his or her professional peers for adherence to that code.
  6. Advanced training as indicated by a doctoral degree.
    Most marriage counselors have just a master’s degree, which means that they have studied at the graduate level for only about two years. A therapist with a doctoral degree has completed two to three additional years of graduate level training and so is likely to be more effective in helping you. When searching for a marriage counselor, look for a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. after the therapist’s name.
  7. Many years of full-time experience working with couples.
    jacob-postuma-463741-unsplashIf a counselor does not indicate how many years he or she has been practicing this may mean that he or she is new to the field. The amount of experience is important to the success of your retreat because it takes many years to develop the kind of finesse that is required to do couple therapy really well.
  8. A therapist who has successfully facilitated a high number of weekend intensives.
    During the past several years, a lot of counselors have begun to offer marriage counseling retreats. Many are new therapists with little experience working with couples. Many others are established therapists but they have only recently begun to offer weekend intensives.  When choosing a marriage counselor, you should look for a therapist who who has done a high number of marriage counseling retreats for couples.
  9. One highly qualified counselor rather than a team approach.
    Some retreats use a team approach that involves a lead therapist and two less qualified assistant therapists. I believe that this can water down the treatment and that you’re better off with one highly qualified therapist.
  10. If there’s been an extramarital affair, a retreat that specializes in affair recovery.
    Unfaithfulness is one of the most common problems for which couples seek help. The vast majority of marriage counseling retreats are general in what they address. They do not offer specialized help to couples who need to heal from the trauma of infidelity. So if an affair has impacted your marriage look for a qualified marriage counselor and a private affair recovery retreat.

The above ten most important things to look for when choosing a marriage counselor and retreat will equip you to make an informed decision about which marriage counseling retreat to choose. That way you can avoid selecting one that might not help and that could even make matters worse. Instead, you can now choose a retreat that is likely to be highly effective, one that can quickly pull your marriage back from the brink and get it turned around and moving in a positive direction.

I wish you the best in your search.


Nearly 40 years ago Dr. Jay Lindsay became one of the first therapists in the nation to offer marriage counseling weekend intensives. Since then he’s helped thousands of couples. Consider Dr. Lindsay when looking for a marriage counselor with experience in the marriage intensive field. Dr. Lindsay is a licensed psychologist and a licensed marriage and family therapist. He does his retreats in Louisville, Colorado and can be reached at (720) 307-5635.

Copyright © Jay S. Lindsay, Ph. D., 2018