• Mary Ellen Lester,

    1. University of Iowa
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    • Mary Ellen Lester, MA, is a graduate student in Counselor Education, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.

  • William J. Doherty

    1. University of Iowa College of Medicine
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    • William J. Doherty, PhD, is Associate Professor, Department of Family Practice, University of Iowa College of Medicine. Address reprint requests to Dr. Doherty, University of Iowa, Department of Family Practice, Oakdale Family Practice Office, Oakdale, IA 52319.


This retrospective survey was conducted to determine how couples felt about their Marriage Encounter experience an average of four years later. One hundred twenty-nine couples were randomly selected from those who attended a National Marriage Encounter weekend in Eastern Iowa over a ten-year period. The results indicated that about 80% of the couples reported a totally positive experience. The most frequently cited positive aspect of the program was the “dialogue” or communication technique designed to encourage the expression of feelings. Nearly one in ten couples reported three or more negative effects of the program on their relationship. The most frequently cited negative effect was that needs were identified on the weekend but not subsequently fulfilled, resulting in greater frustration for the respondent. Within the design limits of a retrospective survey, we concluded that Marriage Encounter is viewed as a helpful experience by most couples, but that a significant minority of couples may experience negative consequences of the program.