Marriage Retreat » Retreat FAQs » How Is Our Approach Different?

How Is Our Approach Different?

What you get working with us is markedly different from what most marriage counseling or couples therapy provides.

The obvious difference is that we work intensively rather than through weekly sessions. But that’s not all.

The other big difference is the nature of the help you get from us. Refined over three decades, our fundamental approach to helping couples is different — different from most couples therapy — and even different from what most intensive retreat programs offer.

The Format: A Dedicated Timespan for Transformation — The obvious difference from traditional therapy is our intensive retreat format. Perfected over thirty years, we have shaped this into a powerful program where you can make significant changes in a short period of time.

As a pioneer of marriage retreats, three decades ago John saw the value of intensive focus for couples to successfully heal, reconnect and rebuild trust. He’s developed a powerful approach that gives maximum benefit in a short time.

The Approach: Get Tools and Coaching, Not Just Talk — Perhaps our biggest difference is the approach we use to help you make substantial changes during a retreat. We have a tool-based approach. We give you tools for deep healing, productive communication, and positive change.

In our retreats, you will learn to use practical, effective tools to communicate better and to heal the rifts in your relationship.

These tools enable you to emotionally repair ruptures, collaborate instead of struggling in conflict, and put your partnership onto a solid foundation to enjoy a positive connection.

Grounded in Scientific Findings, Not Opinions — The tools you will acquire draw from groundbreaking scientific studies that identify what is needed to have a secure, healthy, and fulfilling marriage. Unlike opinion-driven methods, our approach is firmly grounded in evidence.

The scientific basis for our approach is slowly gaining traction in therapy education institutions. But it’s still rare to find therapists with the years of training and supervision needed to effectively use this information to help couples.

The Science of Love and Happiness

John’s 55 years of experience in the field of psychology is extensive, starting as a research psychologist at UCLA, continuing to Stanford University, where he received his Ph.D. and subsequently co-founded and -directed one of Stanford’s most prestigious research centers, funded by the National Science Foundation Department of Psychobiology.

Our work with couples brings together two scientific domains that shed light on the causes of satisfaction versus distress in long-term relationships: neuroscience and attachment theory. We also incorporate the most effective components of contemporary evidence-based models for couples therapy.

Thousands of studies in the fields of neuroscience and attachment research reveal critical factors for nurturing a joyful, mutually satisfying, and intimate partnership.

Informed by Neuroscience — The field of neuroscience provides vital insights into the functioning of the brain and nervous system. Of particular significance is how the primitive part of our brain, geared toward survival, can override our higher cognitive and relational functions. Unconsciously, such triggering and hijacking can take couples into states of fight, flight, or freeze, leading to escalations of anger or withdrawal. These reactions block productive, loving communication and will worsen over time, eroding a couple’s ability to share happiness together.

Drawing from Attachment Theory — The field of attachment theory studies how couples form emotional bonds and what creates a solid connection. It specifies what fosters security and positivity vs insecurity and dissatisfaction. It identifies pivotal factors and behaviors that underpin healthy emotional connections. In such connections, partners share a profound sense of security, well-being, mutual affection, love, and joy. Each person feels understood, accepted, and has their needs met.

Evidence-Based Clinical Models — We are well-versed in current treatment models that incorporate neuroscience and attachment. His expertise includes Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) by Sue Johnson, Somatic Experiencing (SE) by Peter Levine, the Neuro-Affective Relational Model (NARM) by Larry Heller. John is also a recognized expert in the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) of Stan Tatkin. PACT is widely rated to be superior in effectiveness for helping couples in distress.

“John’s work is of help to anyone wishing to repair an ailing relationship. With decades of experience behind him, he is a highly intelligent, creative force in the field of science and relationships. His work is inventive and inspiring.” — Stan Tatkin, Wired for Love

John played a founding role as a core faculty member at the PACT Institute, actively contributing to curriculum development and training couples therapists and marriage counselors to effectively help their clients to build secure-functioning relationships.

Tools to Be a Strong Couple

Couples in trouble need new, effective communication tools that get positive results. That is what our tool-based approach provides: an extensive body of practical tools that empower you to overcome reactive cycles, resolve emotional blocks, repair ruptures, manage triggers, rekindle positive connection, and restore trust and hope.

We are dedicated to giving you tools to overcome patterns that keep you stuck in negative feelings. You gain power to successfully resolve issues as a team and to communicate in ways that keep you feeling connected and appreciated.

In the terminology of attachment science, this is called secure functioning. But you don’t have to have a scientific background to benefit from the practical tools you get to turn an insecure, reactive pattern of relating into a secure, happy connection.

Our approach fosters the power couples potentially have to help each other heal and grow. A couple is not merely a pair individuals. We see a couple as a “system-of-two” with unique properties and powers to rewire each other’s emotional attachment systems. Coaching couples to utilize these powers is one of our specialities.

Healing Your Relationship

Why are our retreats so successful in helping couples turn things around? We give you the tools you need to overcome reactive cycles, to heal and repair ruptures, to find win-win solutions to issues, and to reconnect and operate together as a team.

While many therapists act as if it’s their job to solve a couple’s issues, we give you practical tools to solve your own issues — yourselves!

Instead of trying to feed you a fish, we show you how to fish.

Our tool-based approach — and the specific practical and effective tools that we coach you to use — differentiates us from most traditional couples therapy and even from a majority of intensive retreat programs.

We will teach you the tools and coach you to use them to achieve your own best solutions. In the process, we will help you heal what needs to be healed, overcome negative communication patterns, and collaborate well as a couple.

Read more details about John’s background, training and approach →