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 to Lead Your Marriage Counseling Retreat


The Twelve Most Important Things to Look For

by Jay S. Lindsay, Ph.D.

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 to find a private marriage counseling weekend intensive led by a therapist with impeccable credentials.

Here are the twelve most important qualifications to look for in choosing a marriage counselor to lead your retreat, based on my 40+ years of experience providing marriage counseling intensives.

  1. A counselor who will work privately with just the two of you.
    holly-mandarich-293305-unsplashMany counselors provide group retreats, which can work fine for couples who are mildly distressed. However, if your relationship is severely distressed, then you’ll probably want to find one who will work privately with you on your weekend. That way you’ll get both confidentiality and a personalized approach that is tailored to exactly what you need.
  2. A counselor who uses a scientifically proven approach.
    Many leaders of marriage counseling weekend intensives use approaches they like but not approaches that have been demonstrated by research to work. A scientifically proven approach is EFT, or Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. Many experts consider EFT to be the most effective approach to helping couples that exists today. It is based on more than 30 years of research and with this approach nearly 75% of couples recover and another 15% improve significantly. So when you look for a marriage counselor to lead your retreat try to find one who is a Certified EFT Couple Therapist.
  3. A counselor who is a licensed marriage and family therapist, or LMFT.
    When choosing a marriage counselor to work with you on your weekend, look for a therapist who is an LMFT. This credential assures you that he or she has been well-trained at the graduate level in how to work effectively with couples. In contrast, the therapist who is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) usually has little or no graduate level training in marriage counseling. Also, you should know that some leaders of marriage counseling retreats are not trained at the graduate level and are not licensed therapists. They might present themselves as relationship coaches.
  4. A counselor who is also a licensed psychologist.
    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. A licensed psychologist is trained to assess and treat individuals. When looking for a marriage counselor to lead your retreat, you would do well to choose one who is both a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed psychologist.
  5. A counselor with advanced graduate level training at the doctoral level, as indicated by a Ph.D. or Psy.D after his or her name.
    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 three additional years of graduate level training and so is likely to be more effective in helping you. 
  6. A counselor who is a clinical fellow with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
    When choosing a marriage counselor for your retreat, look for one who is a clinical fellow with 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. 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.
  7. A counselor with many years of full-time experience working mostly with couples.
    A counselor who does not list years of experience is probably relatively new to the field. Keep in mind when choosing a marriage counselor for your retreat that the amount of experience a therapist has is important to the success of your weekend. That’s because it takes a lot of years to develop the kind of finesse that is required to do couple therapy really well. With so many therapists out there, there is no reason why you should settle for anyone with less than 20 years of full-time experience working mostly with couples.
  8. A counselor 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. It has become the “in” thing to do for young therapists fresh out of graduate school. Unfortunately, many of these are new therapists with little experience working with couples. Also, many established therapists have recently begun to offer marriage counseling weekend retreats, but a lot of these are new to working with couples in a intensive weekend format. When choosing a marriage counselor to lead your retreat, you should look for one who has successfully led a high number of them, at least 100.What to Look For in a Marriage Counselor
  9. A counselor who works independently rather than one who uses a team approach.
    Some counselors who lead retreats use a team approach that includes a lead therapist with one or more less qualified assistant therapists. I believe that this can water down the treatment and that you’re better off with one therapist who is highly qualified.
  10. A counselor who specializes in what you need.
    For example, if your marriage has been impacted by infidelity, then you’ll want to work with a counselor who is an expert on extramarital affair recovery. Or if you are a Christian   who desires a faith-based approach, then you’ll want to work with a marriage counselor who specializes in this.
  11. A counselor with a clearly defined plan.
    The counselor you choose to lead your marriage counseling weekend intensive should be one who can clearly articulate step-by-step exactly how he or she will help you. This should be made explicit both on the therapist’s website and in any phone conversation that you might have with that therapist. You should have a feeling of confidence that this counselor really knows where he or she is going in the therapy process.
  12. A counselor with a high satisfaction rating by his couples and strong endorsements by other professionals.
    If a therapist has both, this is an excellent sign.

    Now you know the twelve most important things to look for when choosing a marriage counselor to lead your retreat. Equipped with this information, you can find one who is highly qualifed. The biggest mistake you could make would be to choose a counselor who is underqualified. Such a therapist might not be able to help you and might even make matters worse.

    It’s the marriage counselor with the impeccable credentials who can 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.


    Dr. Jay Lindsay was one of the first therapists in the nation to offer marriage counseling weekend intensives nearly 40 years ago. Since then he’s helped thousands of couples from all across the country and beyond. So consider Dr. Lindsay when looking for a marriage counselor to lead your retreat. He meets all the criteria contained in this article. Dr. Lindsay does his retreats in Louisville, Colorado during the winter months and in Grand Lake, Colorado as well as Louisville during the summer months. He can be reached at (720) 307-5635.

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