helping couples reconnect with retreats & intensives

Hold Me Tight® Couples Retreat FAQs

couples holding hands, vectorready to registerCouples naturally have a lot of questions about attending a Hold Me Tight 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.

 Retreat FAQs

Retreat FAQs

1. Retreat? Intensive? What’s best for us? What’s the difference?

  • A Hold Me Tight couples and marriage 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 Hold Me Tight 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 Hold Me Tight Retreat is part of their couple’s therapy

If your relationship is in crisis (such as the recent disclosure of infidelity or an active addiction present in one or both partners) then a Marriage or Couple’s Intensive is recommended.

2. My partner can’t attend the entire retreat. I can. Is it worthwhile for us to attend with my partner coming later? Or perhaps we should both join in later?

I am delighted by your interest in the retreat. 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 the retreat in the past have taught me that it is important for both to attend the retreat in its entirely, from beginning to end. 

Early on I had a few couples who joined in on Saturday and missed the Friday. The retreat did not go well for them. They needed the grounding/foundation of Friday. 

I’ve also had a few instances where one partner has begun the retreat and the other has joined in later.

If you have the role of the partner who brings up issues about the relationship and wants to engage in dealing with issues and your partner has the role of peace keeper who finds it challenging to talk about difficult issues… It’s typically the partner who brings up relationship issues who also asks to attend with the other partner joining later. I address this dynamic very directly on Friday in a very helpful and gentle way for both partners…  

Sometimes I am asked if the one partner can pass on to the partner-who-joins-later what they’ve picked up. My response is this: You can “tell” your partner, but your partner will not have the “experience”. Couples tell each other a lot of things. It’s a felt experience that impacts a relationship, not a telling…  I help bring this experience about with a lot of video clips, and some very strong pieces on the deep, heart emotion…  

I am passing this on as a result of  more than a dozen retreat experiences I’ve facilitated.….Of course I am of the opinion that even some benefit is better than none… I just want to be up front and honest with people about the pros and cons of one . While I haven’t done a survey I suspect that a very high percentage of the couples who have attended would advise both of you attending the whole retreat. 

Hope this helps. And if you do attend (no fee reduction sorry) differently I will be eager to hear of your experience and I sure hope you’ll share that with me. 

3. I’m uncomfortable in a group setting…

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!

Please be assured that 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 weekend 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.

Participants also express relief to hear and experience that other couples have relationship struggles similar to their own.

4. Will we have to share particulars of our relationship with other couples?


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

5. How is the retreat structured?

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 to your own couple station and apply what you’ve just seen and heard to yourselves and to your relationship. The couple station is for just you and your partner. You will not be in a small group with other couples. 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!

6. Is it possible that a retreat is contra-indicated for us?

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.

7. What if I arrive and find I know other people who are attending the retreat?

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

8. I’d like to attend without a partner. Will the Hold Me Tight Retreat/Workshop be applicable to me?

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.

9. I am a therapist and would like to attend with my partner. How will I be assured that my clients will not be there?

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.

9. What if I discover that my therapist with his/her spouse is attending as a participant couple?

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.

10. We’re already involved in couple’s therapy/counselling. Will we find this retreat helpful?

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.

11. We’re attending couple’s counselling and our therapist uses EFT…

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

12. Irene Oudyk-Suk has been/currently is our couples therapist…

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.

13. I’ve already read Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight book…

Excellent! You will not regret attending this retreat!

14. Will my health insurance pay for the couples retreat ?


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.

15. Does the registration fee include meals and lodging?

The registration fee for the Toronto venue includes

  • refreshment breaks
  • lunch Saturday & Sunday
  • does not include overnight accommodation

The registration fee for the Millcroft Inn, Caledon venue includes

  • refreshment breaks
  • breakfast & lunch on Saturday & Sunday
  • overnight accommodation Saturday

16. I am a health professional. Will I receive a discount?

For the purposes of this retreat Mental Health professionals are social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, marriage and family therapists, counsellors. Mental Health professionals receive a discount. Check the dates, fees & more page.

17. What is your retreat cancellation policy?

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

Your registration fee minus $100 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 $100 of the registration fee you paid. In the past, there has been a waiting list, so in most cases I have been able to fill a last minute cancellation with another couple interested in attending.

18. What are the start and stop times on retreat days?

Each retreat is a bit different. Below are the approximate start and stop times. 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.

Toronto Retreat:
Friday 1:45 pm Meet & greet
Friday 2 pm – 6 pm
Saturday 9:30 am – 4 pm Lunch (cost included in your registration fee) is on site at around 12 pm but may vary some in either direction.
Sunday 1 – 5:00 pm

Millcroft Inn Retreat:
Saturday 9 am – 5 pm lunch (part of registration fee) is in the meeting room and will be around 12 pm but may vary some in either direction.
Sunday 9:00 am – 5 pm lunch again in meeting room around 12 pm.

19. Do you have accommodation suggestions?

Toronto chain hotels within 10-20 minutes drive from the 2180 Bayview Ave., Toronto retreat site:

For the retreat at the Millcroft Inn & Spa in Caledon, is accommodation on site and cost is included in registration fee. NB: A block of rooms has been reserved at Millcroft Inn.

20. We live close to where the retreat is held, should we still take a hotel?

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.

21. May we take our (nursing) infant along?

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.

22. Who will be the retreat facilitator?

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

23. Will there be therapist helpers at the retreat?

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 here.

Irene and roving therapists at November, 2013 retreat (photo: R. Blake)

Irene and roving therapists at Nov 2013 retreat (photo: R. Blake)

The therapists above from left to right: Joan Marsman, Irene, Elana Lerman, and Robin Blake.

Diverse Group Of People Smiling

ready to registerLook forward to meeting you!

Still have questions? Contact Couples In Step

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