Are Virtual Retreats as Effective?

Actually, they often have been even more effective! That surprised us, too…

For the past two years, we’ve been conducting virtual retreats online via Zoom. These have been successful far beyond our clients’ expectations. Read this in their own words: What couples are saying about their virtual retreats →

At the bottom of this page, we also show excerpts from couples who were initially skeptical and hesitant to work with us online rather than in person.

When you read this client feedback you will see that we’ve suffered no limitations in our effectiveness using Zoom.

In fact, many couples found major advantages in having done their retreats virtually. And these couples were not merely dealing with light-weight problems, either. On the contrary, we helped them heal heavy issues like affairs, infidelity, and lying.

We helped couples who had been disconnected emotionally, avoiding each other, building up walls of resentment, or living like room-mates for years. We helped couples stuck in long term conflicts and fighting, or who were perenially bickering over everything. We helped couples who already had filed for divorce.

We helped these couples successfully, every bit equal in effectiveness to the in-person work we have delivered for decades in our intensive retreats. That said, we are only doing private retreats. We do not think virtual group retreats would be effective.

If you would like to discuss your specific situation and explore whether we can help you, please call John at (707) 536-5781 or contact us here →

Why Is Our Virtual Work Often Better?

Like most people, we had assumed that in-person work was superior. That turned out to be an erroneous assumption. As we thought it more, we came to see a few reasons why our virtual work was so powerful.

First, our approach is tool-based. We teach tools that enable couples to communicate effectively and productively. To achieve this outcome, we have developed a robust and engaging psycho-educational component as part of our program. This component has been actually strengthened when presented virtually.

As a result, we see couples come to understand and use these tools more rapidly in our virtual retreats. And thereby we see partners more quickly repair relationship wounds, collaborate better, and renew their positive feelings and sense of connection.

A second component in our approach is also strengthened when we work virtually. This component is based on the fact that effective communication is a face-to-face process.

Thus, improving communication can only truly happen if partners are facing each other. So, the more we can coach from the sidelines, the more partners directly face each other, improving communication, resolving issues and reconnecting.

Using Zoom also strengthens this strategic feature of our approach. When we’re on a screen rather than in the room, partners more quickly get comfortable staying face-to-face. Doing so, they more rapidly improve communication, understanding and connection.

People assume it is better to be in the same room with a therapist. Our orientation is to empower the couple rather than create dependency on the therapist. Virtual work actually is a stronger context for that to happen. This parallels our tool-based approach: teach people how to fish rather than feeding them a fish.

Third, couples report an advantage to staying home and working virtually is that their issues get handled in their home environment, directly where the issues live. So the progress they make integrates more rapidly into their daily lives.

Many couples also commented on how the safety and comfort of being on their home ground helped them learn faster. Others mentioned that using the tools at home felt very real and relevant, more so than if they were saying in an unfamiliar place. Still others appreciate the increased flexibility of scheduling virtual sessions.

Certainly there can be a benefit for some couples to get away from the home front and feel more relaxed in a vacation-like location. One can do that for a virtual retreat, too. Several couples we have worked with virtually did their intensives from a second “lake” home or other desirable travel destination.

details about virtual retreats

Feedback on the Effectiveness of Virtual Work

Here are excerpts from the feedback we got from couples many of whom were initially hesitant or skeptical about doing a virtual retreat. Several of them ended up finding reasons they thought the Zoom retreat was better than doing it in person.

“We were initially quite apprehensive about doing an intensive retreat online vs. in person. But John coached us the same as if we were together. He is an incredible coach, the best in his field. We learned a huge amount about each other and how to communicate far better than we ever have.
“I first thought ‘I don’t want to do this virtually. I need the person right in front of me.’ I thought I wouldn’t get as much out of it doing it online. But now I can say that it was life-changing. Just the couple of days have really opened our eyes and our hearts. Doing it online was actually much better for us. To experience being 100% tuned into while in the comfort of our own home was amazing.
“We’ve done an in-person retreat in the past, and now this virtual retreat. The virtual retreat was actually far less stressful. Being in our own home was much better than being in a strange place. It was easier. No stress from travel. No being in a different place. Being here at home and scheduling the sessions to suit us helped us apply the tools and make the changes we wanted in our daily lives.”
“In hindsight, there are no negatives to doing this online, and there are some real positives, in addition to just the easier logistics: we were alone together during the off hours and the breaks, in our own comfortable, familiar surroundings. That made it far easier to focus on what we were actually there to accomplish and it made the breaks and meals very relaxing relative to being far from home in a hotel.”
“I didn’t know if I would like online work because I have never done it before. But it felt very good to have that distance between you and us. It felt good to be in my own space, use my bathroom, take a 10-minute nap if I need to during the break. The safety of our home made us more open to the process which went deep and was healing for us.”
“The worries and fears that we had in regards to the lack of efficacy of the online program dissipated on the first day working with you. Your reassurance and commitment to making the program as beneficial as in-person was apparent and truly appreciated. We do not feel that the online program was lacking in any way and would highly recommend it to our family and friends.”
“This has been awesome to do during the coronavirus time. We’re really grateful for you. We really weren’t doing very well. The emotional repair process you gave us has been huge. This all has been really effective.
“We’re definitely glad we did the retreat virtually. The comfort and safety of being in our own home made such a big difference. We wouldn’t have been as comfortable doing it somewhere else. Although getting away from home is the common idea about a retreat, that would not have at all been as good as how secure we felt at our place. Being here really helped us do the work better.”
“You helped us so much. We thank you from the bottoms of our hearts. This retreat was a really good experience, in the comfort of our own home. We have received such great tools from you.”
“Our online virtual retreat has been a very good experience. We have come a long way. Being in our own house helped a lot. It is easier to be more truthful and access emotions not having the therapist sit in the room. I felt like we as a couple were a unit.
“During this stay-at-home period, the online intensive we did with you has literally saved our marriage. We are so glad we found you. And we thank you for the security we have found with each other through working with you.”
“I really liked doing the retreat from home. In our own house, in our surroundings, we felt more comfortable, we felt we could be more intimate, and it’s not unnatural in any way. And it felt like it was us doing the work, with you just making sure it kept moving along, so we didn’t get stuck.”
“When you go somewhere else, it almost makes it seem like this other place is the important thing. And people say, when they go on retreats, that they ‘come back to reality’ at home again, and it’s terrible to come back to the same old thing. But with our virtual retreat, the transformation happened in our reality. There was no ‘back to reality.’ This is our reality. So it gives our changes a much more solid foundation.”
“We had hoped to get away and come to see you in beautiful Sonoma. But it worked out well to stay home and be able to spread out our sessions. That gave us plenty of time to put the tools we learned from you into practice for a day or two. And then we could get further coaching from you and improve even more.”
“We ended up glad we did the work virtually rather than being somewhere that might have felt more artificial. You were in your spot, and we were in our spot. That felt very organic. I can see some people might want to get away from home, but being here in our own home was a very good thing for us. There was a sense of pride that we could be improving our ’emotional home’ and doing it right here where we live.”
“In the end, I thought the virtual retreat was preferable to doing it at your place. If we had gone away it might seem the location made all the magic happen there. But here, it was in our own home we were making it happen. I really do think that doing the retreat virtually works quite well. I would never have thought it would be as productive this way. But now, I can say I prefer it.”