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June, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 06

Creating Lucrative Private Retreats that Heal You and Your Clients

By Sharon Desjarlais, CC and Michele McGrew

Imagine that you've just wrapped up your most profitable day ever, leaving your treatment room with a check in hand for $1,500. How many clients would you have to see to earn that much in a day? Fifteen at $100 a session? Ten at $150? Six at $250? Now, imagine you earned that same $1,500, but this time it was from a single client who had one hour-long hands-on session the entire day. And she experienced a profound breakthrough in the pain that had her trapped in poor health for months, even years.

That's the transformation Michelle Noble experienced when she took one of her favorite clients through a one-day private retreat. "It was so rich having a whole day to work with the challenges that tend to surface with bodywork," she said. "We don't have time to address them in a single session. But in a full day together, we've got a broad canvas to play with. So I can bring in a lot of other tools that help them come to a higher level of awareness."

That's just a hint of the empowerment that comes with offering high-end private retreats. For your clients who've been stitching their health together a session at a time, a full day can move them past a plateau. And it can catapult you past the income restrictions you face when you only offer individual sessions. So, what is a private retreat? It's an immersion experience where you devote a focused amount of time – typically one day – to help individuals overcome specific challenges. Everything you do that day is designed to create breakthroughs around a problem they're struggling to overcome. If you are ready to design your first private retreat, just follow these seven simple steps.

private retreat - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Step 1: Find Your Focus

Private retreats work well when they're focused on a single issue or outcome that's important to your client. To find the focus of your private retreat, ask yourself these three questions:

  • What's the main pain point or problem my favorite clients want help with?
  • What outcomes can I help my clients get in one day?
  • What new tools or skills will my clients leave the day with?

Step 2: Draw From Your Signature System

In our last column, we taught you how to use your signature system to craft a high-end private program ("Six Steps to Help You Establish a Six-Figure Practice"). Now you're going to draw from that same signature system to design your private retreat. After helping therapists design their signature systems for years, we've noticed a trend: the first one or two steps of every system almost always create a foundation for their clients to experience the deeper healing that comes through the rest of the system. And that's good news for you, because it's easy to offer one or two foundational steps in a private retreat. It also makes your retreat the perfect stepping stone to a longer private program.

Step 3: Design Your Day

Retreat days break down nicely into five segments or sessions. Here's an easy template to follow:

  • Session 1: 60 minutes
    Invite your client to sit down for a cup of coffee or tea. Tell her how your time together will flow. Establish the outcomes and remind her that this is an important first step on her healing journey. Then take your client through session 1, which can include an opening ritual or guided meditation, a whole-body evaluation, content and coaching on your chosen topic, or creative activities and exercises.

    Break: 15 minutes

  • Session 2: 75 minutes
    Review the insights and aha's from session 1. Then introduce session 2 and take her through an activity or exercise.

    Break for Lunch: 1 hour

  • Session 3: 75 minutes
    Review the insights and aha's from session 2. Then do a hands-on session.

    Break: 15 minutes

  • Session 4: 45 minutes
    Review the insights and aha's from session 3. Then introduce session 4 and take her through an activity or exercise. 

    Wrap Up: 15 minutes

  • Recap the main points of the day and ask her for her biggest discoveries. Remember, giving her the opportunity to speak her insights out loud is a critical part of helping her embody the changes she made. Then celebrate her progress with a closing ritual.

Total Time: 6 Hours

Step 4: Choose Creative Activities

Here's where you get to bring in all those juicy activities you always wished your clients had time for. Things like guided meditations, journaling or automatic writing, role-playing or dialoguing, affirmations, meridian tapping or stretching exercises. As you come up with your list of ideas, consider addressing a variety of learning styles. For highly visual clients, you may ask them to create a piece of artwork or a meaningful mandala. For those who are more auditory, weave in some soothing music or spoken affirmations. By bringing in exercises that appeal to all the senses, you give your clients a more holistic experience that transcends one-on-one bodywork.

Step 5: Add Some Healthy Bonuses

Once you've got your basic day designed, it's time to add in some extra bonuses that make your client feel highly valued. You don't need too many, just enough to complement your focus without overwhelming your client. Here are a few of our favorites: checklists, recipes, herbal teas, candles, floral essences, essential oils, books, catered lunch, dark chocolate, healthy snacks, journals, recorded meditations and, our personal favorite, car service to and from the airport. With a private retreat like the one you're creating, clients will want to fly in to see you!

Step 6: Give Your Retreat an Attractive Name

If you've read our last couple columns, chances are you noticed a theme: you always want to name your programs and retreats for the outcomes they offer, not the processes they include. Michelle Noble's ideal client is a woman who's learning to claim her voice through the healing process. Her retreat day is called, "Noble Steps: Speak Your Peace to Wellness." Isn't that beautiful?

Step 7: Price Your Retreat for a Breakthrough

When you're pricing your private retreat, remember this: money can be a powerful force for healing. Clients who make a healthy investment will stretch themselves to reach the outcomes they want. And there's nothing more inspiring than a highly committed client, is there?

Using our seven step system, therapists are routinely receiving $1,000 to $2,000 a day for their immersion experiences. At $1,000 a day, by adding just three retreats every month to your schedule, you'll generate an additional $36,000 a year. Now, imagine what kind of impact that would have on your practice and your life.

Michelle is already seeing the results in her income and in her client. "It couldn't have gone more perfectly. When I checked in with my client two days later, she said she was noticing how differently she's communicating with people. When she'd normally go into an automatic reactive response, now she's able to step back and recognize, 'I'm me. You're you. And I am not responsible for your feelings, your responses, or for taking care of you.' I can't wait to do another half dozen retreat days!"

Click here for more information about Sharon Desjarlais, CC.


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