Retreat FAQ’s

Retreats help troubled relationships, strengthen good ones.

Naturally you have many questions about attending a Couples Retreat, ranging from “I hate groups” to “Might our insurance pay for this?” Your concern is addressed on this Retreat FAQs page! Click on the question and the answer appears below.

A  couples retreat is for a number of couples with both group and private couple time (no requirement to share in the larger group).

A 3-Day Intensive is just for you, your partner, and a therapist.

Learn more about a 3-Day Intensive

Here’s some more about the couples who come to a couples retreat:

  • Couples range from being together a few months to many years
  • Some couples are in their first relationship, some in their second or third
  • Most are committed and looking to deepen, enrich, and/or repair their relationship
  • Many come wanting to re-ignite the closeness they once had
  • Others come quite uncertain about the future of their relationship
  • Some come wondering if their relationship could benefit from the deeper work of couple’s therapy
  • Some are therapists wanting to learn more about Emotionally Focused Therapy
  • For some a couples retreat is part of their couple’s therapy

You are not alone! Many people are. You are to be commended for even reading this far if you find the thought of a retreat uncomfortable!

The conversations between you and your partner are private,  for just the two of you. You will not need to share or report on your conversations to anyone or to the group as a whole.

By the end of a retreat there is usually at least one brave soul that has confessed to discomfort in a group setting! Invariably others breathe a sigh of relief when this disclosure happens.

While sharing the intimate details of your relationship is discouraged, retreat participants frequently express relief to have been in the presence of other couples who are working on their relationship. This relief is based on simply being in an environment with other couples, not on the basis of the sharing that has happened.


I’ve intentionally developed the retreat structure so there is no expectation that attending couples share the unique challenges of their relationship.

In any group there are always a few brave folks who feel comfortable sharing so there will be some sharing that is helpful for the entire group, but that sharing does not have to come from everyone.

There were couples here at all stages in their relationship and I think they all benefited, no matter what stage of the relationship they were in. We didn’t really get to know what everyone’s problems were (thank goodness!), but enough was said, so that I could tell it was pretty good for everyone.

–Retreat participant, 2013

Read more participant comments

The retreat moves back and forth between

    • presentations to the larger group by Irene to the group as a whole
    • private couple discussion times about the large group presentation

During the group presentation you’ll learn how to examine your own couple interactions for effective and less effective patterns of interaction. You’ll watch video clips of couples sharing about their relationship patterns. You’ll actually observe these couples working through their stuck points (these are real couples, not actors!). You’ll hear how to positively harness the recent discoveries in neuroscience that can help all of us better appreciate what goes wrong and right in adult love relationships.

After the group presentation, you’ll go with your partner to apply what you’ve just seen and heard to yourselves and to your relationship.

For online retreats you will be moved to a virtual breakout room.

For in person retreats  you’ll go to a couple station. The couple stations are all in the same room. There is some distance between each couple station. Irene will also be playing background music during the couple station times. Couples worry at the outset about their privacy. This worry evaporates about 5 minutes after the first couple station time has begun!

The breakout room or the couple station is for just you and your partner. You will not be in a small group with other couples.

A retreat is contraindicated if:

  • you are dealing with the recent discovery/disclosure of a major attachment injury such as infidelity
  • there is an untreated and ongoing addiction concern such as alcohol and/or other drugs, gambling
  • lifestyle habits such as pornography are significant flash points in your relationship
  • if one or both of you is thoroughly committed to following through on a separation/divorce within the near future

The above concerns are best managed within the context of marriage/couples counselling and/or a couple’s intensive.

When the above concerns are resolved, or in the distant past, then a couple’s retreat is not at all contra-indicated. As a matter of fact, in those situations, you are likely to experience this Hold Me Tight® Couples Retreat particularly helpful.

Life is so busy these days for most of us, for you to even think about attending is wonderful and a reflection of how important you feel your relationship is. 

The couples who have attended a retreat in the past have insisted that it is important for both to attend the retreat in its entirely, from beginning to end. 

When Irene first started offering retreats in 2012, a few couples  joined in a few hours after the retreat started, or on the second day. This did not go well for those couples as they missed out on the foundational elements on which the rest of the retreat rested. 

There have also been instances in the past where one partner was present at the beginning of the retreat and the other joined in a few hours later. Sometimes this is unavoidable. Here are some things to consider. 

While it is possible to  “tell” your partner what the missed content was, your partner will miss out on the “experience”. Couples tell each other a lot of things. It’s the felt experience of the retreat that has the most impact on the relationship, not a telling…  and so the partner who joins in later will miss out on some of the felt experience. 

If one of you cannot join in at the beginning of the retreat (no fee reduction sorry) please let Irene, the retreat facilitator know.

Discovering someone there that you already know will no doubt feel awkward.

Here’s how I address that: at the beginning of the retreat I will speak to how there are a variety of couples present: couples in strong relationships seeking to strengthen their relationship, therapists wanting to learn about EFT in a very first hand way, as well as couples in distress. You do not have to share which group/s you are in!

I will be clear that folks refrain from mentioning who else was at the retreat with them. You are of course free to tell others that you attended.

I also set the stage by letting the entire group know that couples are free to socialize, or not, with each other during breaks and the like.

Previous participants have noted how pleased they were with how I’ve managed confidentiality.

There was a very good balance between instruction and time for us to practice what we were learning. I also felt you were very respectful of privacy and people’s sensitivities.

–retreat participant, 2012

Read more participant comments

Yes! You may have been in a significant relationship with an adult partner previously. You may be in such a relationship in the future. You may be curious about adult partnerships. You’re the adult child of parents who may still be alive; you may have siblings and/or friendships. This retreat is focused on intimate partners; however there is applicability to other close relationships as well. Please let Irene know you are attending without a partner. The private discussion times will be modified to suit your circumstances.

All persons who attend will be asked if they have ever been involved in counseling and who the counsellor/therapist was. If someone reports that you have been their therapist the retreat facilitator will certainly inform you of this and you will have the option of canceling your registration without any penalty.

No. Same sex couples have attended Couples In Step retreats.

When you register for this retreat you will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire. There will be a question asking you to list the therapists you and/or your partner have seen. If you list a therapist who will be attending the retreat as a participant (ie., not a roving therapist), that therapist will be notified and given the option of withdrawing their registration. If your therapist decides to attend anyway, you will be informed and you will have the option of canceling your registration without any penalty.

You will especially find this retreat helpful if your couple’s therapist is using EFT with you. Most therapists, even if not trained in EFT, are familiar with EFT and will likely support your attendance at this retreat. Do check though, with your therapist, for his/her input about you attending this retreat.

Attending this retreat will be a win-win for the progress of your couple’s therapy.

You are SO welcome to attend! You are eligible for a reduced fee too! You will find that this retreat is a great accompaniment to the therapy you are doing, or have done, with Irene.

Excellent! You will not regret attending this retreat!

Possibly. For couples living in Ontario The Hold Me Tight® retreat and the Physical Intimacy and Touch retreat may be covered under your extended health insurance benefit.

When your extended health benefit covers the services of a psychologist no retreat costs will be covered (Irene is not a psychologist).

However, when your extended health benefit (in Ontario) covers the services of a social worker or a registered psychotherapist, the counselling portion (not the food and venue costs) of the retreat may be covered through your benefit.

Please note, Couples In Step cannot guarantee that your extended health plan will reimburse the medical portion of the retreat, even when your plan covers social work or registered psychotherapy.

The receipt you receive when you register for the retreat will not have sufficient information on it to submit to your health insurance. At the end of the retreat you’ll receive a medical receipt that may be submitted to your health insurance for reimbursement or that you can use as a medical expense claim on your tax return.

Note: You will not receive a medical receipt for the Lasting Connection™ retreat. The Lasting Connection™ retreat is not therapeutic in the same way that the Hold Me Tight® and the Physical Intimacy retreats are, so no medical receipt will be distributed at the conclusion of the retreat.

Typically the registration fee for the in-person Hold Me Tight® Toronto venue includes

  • refreshment breaks
  • lunch Saturday & Sunday
  • materials (ie., workbooks, etc)
  • does not include overnight accommodation

However during this time of Covid, there will be adjustments food and beverages will be provided at the retreat. You will be kept informed of this.

The registration fee for the touch and physical intimacy retreat at the Millcroft Inn in Caledon venue includes (this may change during the time of Covid)

  • refreshment breaks
  • breakfast & lunch on Saturday & Sunday
  • overnight accommodation Friday & Saturday
  • materials (ie., workbooks, etc)
  • access to the Millcroft Inn Spa indoor-outdoor warm and cold pools, steam room, sauna
  • walking trails

The registration fee for the in-person Lasting Connection™ retreat does not include meals. Arrangements will be made to order in through UberEats a lunch meal on the Saturday. Beverages will be provided (though this may be different during Covid).

For the purposes of  the Hold Me Tight® retreat Mental Health professionals are social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, marriage and family therapists, counsellors. Mental Health professionals receive a discount for the Hold Me Tight® retreat. Here are the discounts:

  • You are eligible for a $75 discount if you have been or are currently in couples therapy at Couples In Step. Discount code is CIS75
  • Couples currently in couples therapy with another therapist are eligible for a $50 discount/couple. Discount code is CTO50
  • Mental health professionals/health professionals are eligible for a $25 discount. Discount code is HP25

Please note that there are no available discounts for the Lasting Connection™ or the Touch and Physical Intimacy Retreats.

Payment in full is due at the time of retreat registration.

Your registration fee minus $200 will be reimbursed if your cancellation is 3 weeks or more prior to the retreat date.

Your registration fee is non-refundable, but transferable, should your cancellation request comes in the 3 weeks prior to retreat date. You are welcome to attend another Hold Me Tight® Retreat with Couples In Step within 24 months of the registration date.

However if Couples In Step is able to replace your registration with another, you’ll be refunded all but $200 of the registration fee you paid. In the past, there has been a waiting list, so in most cases a last minute cancellation can be filled with another couple interested in attending.

Each retreat is a bit different. Check the individual retreat page for the start and stop times:

Hold Me Tight®

Lasting Connection™

Touch & Physical Intimacy

As the retreat approaches Irene will inform you of the exact start and stop times. Whatever the final start and stop times are, you can count on Irene starting and ending at the time she says she will.

There are hotels within 10-20 minutes drive from the 2180 Bayview Ave., retreat venue:

Taking a hotel or B&B, even if you live nearby, will enhance your retreat experience because it will enable the two of you to stay focused on yourselves as a couple rather then get pulled back into the good distractions of daily family life (kids, errands, work, etc).

If you’d prefer to go home, then you might find it helpful to arrange your home life during the retreat days so that you have maximum couple time and minimal commitments while at home.

Nursing is a great attachment experience for both you and your baby! Wonderful.

Please let Irene know that you’re wanting to attend with your nursing infant. She’ll ask you some questions about your infant’s age, about your infant’s temperament and if you’ll feel comfortable helping the rest of the group tend to the retreat by taking your infant, if he/she fusses, into another room.

Irene will limit attendance at the retreat to one nursing infant.

Irene Oudyk-Suk, MSW,RSW, RP is the retreat facilitator. Irene is passionate about her work with couples and this particular retreat in particular.

Learn more about irene

Depending on the number of couples enrolled, there will be 2-4 “roving” therapists helping at the retreat. Irene and the roving therapist/s have emotionally focused couple’s training so there will be consistency in approach from therapist to therapist. All bring years of experience and training so you and your partner will be well supported if you need/desire additional input during the private couple conversations.

If you want to know who the roving therapists will be for the retreat you wish to attend just ask Irene.

If you are a therapist and would like to be volunteer as a roving therapist at a Hold Me Tight® Retreat, learn more.