You’ve likely heard about couples counseling and the benefits it can offer for your relationship – whether you are in crisis or not.  But what about a couples workshop or intensive? Are those effective?  Will it offer the same benefits that couples counseling would? Is it worth my time and money? Is it better than traditional couples counseling?

Couples Counseling

Traditional couples counseling is certainly a great option for many couples.  Sometimes couples need the one-on-one that traditional couples counseling can offer. Weekly sessions with a therapist allow you to take a deep dive into the parts of your relationship that need help navigating the most. Skills and tools are specifically designed for you and your relationship, and a more unstructured approach that can be helpful when there are layers of issues to work through. Sessions can tend to be more open-ended, which can be appealing to some couples who don’t want to feel like they are locked into specific approaches to their concerns. For others, the open-endedness can feel like it’s not enough structure, and due to the nature of the issues their working through crave more a more structured approach.

Traditional couples or relationship counseling typically work best if couples can commit to weekly sessions, at least in the beginning of therapy, and range from $100-$250 per session.  Most often these sessions are private-pay, because insurance companies do not reimburse for couples or marriage counseling. It is an investment, but one that is well worth the time and money.

Couples Workshops

Couples or marriage workshops are also a great way to invest in your relationship.  Couples workshops are typically designed to be a booster, a great way to maintain your relationship and a more consolidated way to approach improving your relationship. Activities designed to offer skills and techniques that couples can use in their relationship moving forward, improve areas of conflict, and help the couple feel more connected overall.

Typically workshops are 1-3 days, where you are on site (or virtual) for the entire workshop. Workshops range in price, depending on location, number of days workshop is scheduled for, and whether lodging and food is included. The range will likely fall between $300-$1000 for the entire workshop. You’ll likely experience elements of education, humorous antidotes or videos to demonstrate the materials, and short pauses for you and your partner to discuss and interact alone with the material you’re absorbing. Though you’ll be in a group environment, typically these groups are kept smaller so you still feel there is an intimate feel to the workshop.  While there may be times you feel like speaking up in the group context, most workshops don’t require you to share in front of the whole group.

There are many different styles of therapy and therapists, and it’s important to find the workshop or therapist that fits you best.  Looking into what training and experience the therapist who’s leading the workshop can help you make sure you’re getting quality, evidence-based approaches to couples that can give you the best experience possible.

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Couples Intensives

Couples intensives are yet another way to be intentional about your relationship. Intensives are typically  a block of time set aside for just you and your partner to meet with a therapist and engage in what issues you are experiencing. There are no other couples present during intensives, and you will explore various aspects of your relationship and interactions with your partner throughout the intensive. These are sometimes over the span of 2-3 days or weekends and are full days with your therapist, unpacking your relationship history and dynamics.

Intensives vary in price, depending on expertise of therapist, type of intensive offered, whether lodging and food is included, and cost of materials (if any) are needed. You can expect to pay anywhere from $2000-$7000 for an intensive, possibly more depending on the therapist. While seemingly pricey, they are certainly a great way to address the issues in your relationship in a shorter amount of time than individual therapy, and when you factor out the cost of individual sessions over weeks or months, in the long run, potentially a cheaper investment.

There are a lot of different ways that you can find help or boost your relationship. Any of these options could be a good fit for you, and all of them offer muliple benefits to couples. Consider the following when making a decision about what is best for you and your relationship.

Couples counseling might be a good fit if:

  • Would like the anonymity and comfort that working with a counselor one-on-one can provide
  • Your relationship is doing well but you’re struggling to navigate a life change or transition
  • You and your partner are not on the same page about the direction of the relationship and need help discerning next steps
  • Your relationship is in crisis

Couples workshops might be a good fit if:

You have busy schedules or arranging childcare is difficult

You feel like you’re unable to make a consistent commitment to weekly sessions

Your relationship is in crisis but you are both committed to making the relationship work

Are already connected with a couples therapist and just need a little additional boost outside of the sessions

Are doing well overall but would like to go even deeper in your relationship

Are recently engaged or newly married and would like

Couples intensives might be a good fit if:

  • Would like the anonymity and comfort that working with a counselor one-on-one can provide
  • You are at a breaking point and need help immediately
  • You need an in-depth look at your relational patterns and history
  • You and your partner are not on the same page about the direction of the relationship and need help discerning next steps
  • Your relationship is in crisis

Couples counseling or couples workshops are not a good fit for you if:

  • You and your partner do not have the same goals for the relationship (if one wants to work on the marriage and the other does not)
  • There is an ongoing affair
  • Your relationship is volatile or you and your partner are unable to be in the same room at the same time for an extended period of time without fighting
  • One or both partners have an active addiction
  • There is active intimate partner violence or abuse occurring in the relationship

So, which option is best for you? It really depends on your relationship and what your needing! All three options can be beneficial for most couples, so there’s not really a ‘wrong’ option to choose.  When couples are in crisis, many turn to intensives or workshops for maximum impact in a shorter time frame.  It is worth noting that individual sessions can also provide maximum impact and allow a bit more time for change and connection to really sink in, they just are spread out over a longer time frame. While certainly cost is a factor for many couples, investing in counseling, intensives or workshops can offer your relationship a boost, transformative healing and skills to improve your relationship for years to come.

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