Intent on making a proactive commitment to your relationship, but not keen on spending summer in a therapist’s office? Kendra Capalbo of Esclusiva Couples Retreats has just the thing for you: whizzing her clients away to ÀNI, a private resort on Phuket’s sleepy neighbour, Koh Yao Noi, Capalbo will be putting the treat in retreat later this year.
Wellness is big in the post-pandemic world – that’s hardly news. At OutThere, we have noticed a surge in the luxury wellness market urging us to experience everything from Ayurvedic yoga retreats to restorative detox getaways. And often enough, finding a retreat that fits, and investing in our mental and physical well-being, is no doubt a good idea. But whilst most retreats offer a space for personal improvement, what of our relationships with our partners which also bore the brunt of long lockdowns?
Enter Kendra Capalbo, a licensed couples therapist who spends her days helping couples navigate their relationships before they turn sour. The idea is that with support, communication and understanding, intimacy improves and equips couples with skills to navigate challenges.
When we spoke, Capalbo was passionate in her views. ‘As precious as your vacation time is, using some of it to work on your relationship is a fabulous way to be proactive rather than reactive. My days are spent helping clients fix something they feel is broken. Investing in building deeper intimacy helps couples protect their relationships by creating a buffer. When problems arise, couples with strong intimacy will be better equipped to move past them and become stronger’, she explains.
As well as a Master in Social Work, Capalbo has completed all three levels of the Gottman Method of training and gained a further qualification as a sex therapist through the Sexual Health Alliance. In addition, she holds certification in Consensual Non-Monogamy and is a certified Neurodiverse Couples Therapist, working with pairs where one or both partners are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
‘Those are my credentials but what I think sets me apart from other therapists is my passion for working with couples. I no longer take on individual clients and all of my training each year is focused specifically on this type of work’, she adds.
Capalbo’s regular clientele includes many on Forbes 30 under 30 and 40 under 40 lists. However, she believes that a degree of additional training is important for working with diverse relationships and does not think that a one-size-fits-all approach works with all relationships.
‘My method has always been to approach each couple as unique. Their concerns are specific to their relationship and I leave myself open to also learning from the couples I work with. I am no less aware of what I don’t know than I am of what I do know’, says Capalbo. She meets each couple exactly where they are and asks to be walked through their individual story: ‘Ultimately, the path to deeper intimacy is an emotional one at its core’.
The idea of Esclusiva Couples Retreats was born out of this emotional core. From working with high-functioning individuals who came to her when their relationship was in trouble, Capalbo’s light bulb moment came with a single thought – wouldn’t it be great to do something before things get here?
From this thought, she set about designing a format where couples could meet outside of a therapist’s room. ‘Therapy is reactive, and designed to overcome a problem. I’ve built these retreats to be proactive instead, giving couples the chance to strengthen their relationship before issues develop’, says Capalbo.
She sought a serene destination with a peaceful setting, void of everyday noise, which would allow couples to be fully present as they work through activities aimed at bringing them closer. After researching intensely, Capalbo chose ÀNI Thailand, a private resort on the idyllic Thai island of Koh Yao Noi (an OutThere favourite, which we explored during a recent stay at the nearby Six Senses Yao Noi). ‘I’ve always been drawn to Eastern philosophy and religion and feel that the resort will be the perfect backdrop for the first retreat’, she says. It was important to find a place of absolute privacy for her guests, and the retreat will be for just nine couples.
‘I’d looked at a few other destinations and resorts but didn’t feel that they were luxurious enough for the type of clientele I cater to. But when I found ÀNI Thailand, I knew I had the right place’, she adds gleefully.
Capalbo also offers bespoke retreats tailored on a one-on-one basis where couples pick the destination and she joins them, staying at a different accommodation. For some couples, a remote resort may be perfect but for others, a more adventurous experience could intensify the romantic connection. ‘I would follow the same format but the couples have the final say on where and when’, she says of the bespoke retreats. ‘I go alongside the couple to wherever they are planning their next vacation and create a bespoke retreat based on their specific needs with as little ‘work’ as they want, including activities’.
There are plans for further retreats, too. Anguilla, Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic, where ÀNI have resorts, are Capalbo’s top picks. ‘I’d love to do a safari retreat, as well. The idea is to create an incredible vacation that includes a way to intentionally work on your relationship throughout the trip’ she says.
From a professional perspective, Capalbo believes that ultimately, retreats are about what fits best for you and your partner. The key element is that wherever you choose to go, there must be a commitment from each partner to be fully present and intentional. ‘I love it when couples recognise that there is always work to be done. People think they have a great relationship because there is no conflict, but they are running it like a business and forgetting about connection and intimacy.’
As a final word, Capalbo adds that ‘life is hectic, especially for the types of couples I work with. It doesn’t really slow down, so you have to make it. Prioritise your relationship, because, at the end of the day, it is the nucleus of everything else in your life. If you invest your time and energy into it, all other areas of your life will thrive as well.’
The first Esclusiva Couples Retreat will take place from 5th to 11th November 2023 at ÀNI Thailand.
www.esclusivacouplesretreats.com | www.aniprivateresorts.com
Photography courtesy of Esclusiva Couples Retreats and ÀNI Private Resorts