What a gift to see ourselves as others see us.

Photos from 07 Denver, 08 San Francisco
(send any you have and we'll add them)

"Divorce Prevention VACATION" - how the conference is good for your marriage

Past Conference Dates & Locations:

1997, Sheraton National, Arlington, VA, May 15-20
1998, Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, VA, July 8-12

1999, Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, VA, June 30-July 6
2000, Adam’s Mark, Denver, June 27-July 4
2001, Rosen Cener Hotel, Orlando, June 19-26
2002, Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, VA, July 9-17
2003, John Ascuaga's Nugget, Reno, June 24-July 2
2004, Adam's Mark, Dallas, July 6-July 14
2005, Adam's Mark Dallas, June 21-June 29
2006, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, June 20-28
2007, Denver Adam's Mark, June 26-July 3
2008, San Francisco Hilton, June 30-July 6
2009, Orlando Shingle Creek Resort, July 6-12
2010, Orlando Shingle Creek Resort, July 6-12

Here are comments from attendees of Smart Marriages conferences:

Dear Marriage Education supporters,
There's no better way to get yourself fired up and equipped to help couples
succeed in their relationship than by attending the Smart Marriages
Conference.  This year in Orlando, plan on having more intriguing programs
than time in the day, and plan on being so jazzed up that it's hard to
sleep..  If you've been to SM before, you know what I'm talking about!  If
you haven't been, you haven't had the full immersion in the richness of
what's available to help us in our work with couples.

In addition, there's networking galore.  You'll hobnob with all the biggies
in the field, and be able to confab with loads of your colleagues.

There IS nothing like Smart Marriages.  Download the brochure, drool over
the program, and get yourself there!!!
Patty Howell
I learned more in a 2-day Institute than I have learned in the past year of my
Marriage & Family Therapy graduate studies. The Smart Marriages presenters
challenged our way of thinking and are remarkable teachers. 
Maxi McKee
I appreciated the high-level quality if presenters, plenaries and workshops.
Very well organized! Very affordable! Great value!

Dean Shrock, PhD

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Thank you for a conference that changed my life, my marriage and my
Diane Loberger
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I was amazed at how good the keynotes were. Often at other conferences I've attended,
the keynotes were more like "commercials" for a program or book the presenter wrote.
Kathy Steele
I heard about it from my clinical supervisor. She has attended for the last 3 years
and RAVES about how good they are!
Carrie Schlichtenmyer, Indiana
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I always leave this conference feeling as though I got a another Masters degree,
with the amount of knowledge I walk away with.
Edmund Arroyo, LCSW

I loved the opportunity to meet with these incredible authors and purchase materials at reduced prices.
Donna Lindenstruth
It strikes me that the Smart Marriages conference has become a really big deal
with as many important things happening behind the scenes in individual meetings as in the
Bill Doherty, PhD
As a Chaplain who served 20 years in the military, Smart Marriages has been the single most important training I have ever received. All Chaplains should be required to attend this training yearly. The men and women of the armed forces will receive cutting edge pastoral care and counseling skills as a result.
- Lieutenant Commander B. J. Baughman, Chaplain Corps, United States Navy
One of the most exciting and best run conferences I have attended in over 20 years in the field.
Carol Fishbein, PhD, CEDS

I have started to make the Smart Marriages Conference a must attend after participating
in several around the country already. I refer my clients regularly to the website to read
the articles and other information which every couple who truly wants to have a happy
relationship will gain insight from. I know of no other forum with so much valuable information
from the top experts in the marriage field and you don't even have to leave your home or office!!
Diane works tirelessly to bring this to all of us who are passionate about LOVE, our partners,
and children!! This coalition is not just for professionals; it is for everybody!!!
Robin Siebold, Ph.D., LMHC

You told me it was so, but still can't believe how comfortable I felt attending all the training
sessions alongside therapists - even psychiatrists - and blending right in. It never came up
whether I was a mental health person or not. I think it's brilliant to not put degrees on the badges. 
I learned so much and had a great experience and felt like I was an insider, very welcomed and
one of the gang.
You do a truly great job and it's a gift to make the
conference open to the public.
Rita from Canada

I've found more answers in two days than I have in two years of therapy.
Kristen Lee Mead, stepmother
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First time I have attended EVERY event at a
conference - in body and spirit! Looking forward to the next one.
Miriam Davis, LPC
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I love the fact that within one conference I can gain certifications, gain unlimitable knowledge,
access endless resources, and have all the top expertise under one roof. Oh yeah and
I can get all my CEUs at the same time!!
Kevin McCal

Research is a must in a changing world. The Conference presented soild research in practical approaches to assist with helpful interventions in my practice.
Kennenth Finch, PhD, LMHC

Looking forward to Smart Marriages which has become one of my
"can't miss" conferences. I truly believe some of the best
presenters in the world show up there; I have learned a lot."
William Fals-Steward, PhD
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Being my first Smart Marraiges, I found this past
week to be more informative than any other conference I've attended during
grad school.
Max Zubatsky
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I greatly appreciated hearing directly from the many pioneers
and innovators in the field instead of hearing from someone who has read their books! Especially
helpful was the use of videos, role-plays, and demonstrations instead of straight lecture - kept
my interest and provided examples of practical applications - very helpful. I also appreciated
the common ground of strengthening marriages and families that brings together such diverse
groups. I find that to be quite stunning!

Barbara Shaffer, PhD
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The plenary sessions were excellent. Both of the pre and post conference institutes
I attended were great! They will be directly applied to my practice.
Michael Borders, PhD, ABPP
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The best part is meeting a host of folks who have the same passion as you do.
Frank Samuel

Price & CEUs awesome! Best deal in town! All the presenters were passionate, well-informed,
Steve Rockman, PhD
Dana Point, CA
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I love the way the conference is set up where I can get a new certification, hear great
speakers, get the latest research, and choose from so many seminars to take things of
particular interest to me and in my career. Thank you!
Kathleen Mary Wilson, MEd, Newport News, VA
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The best and most stimulating conference I've ever attended - and that's in 30 years of
attending conferences! Thanks.

Lee Raffel, MSW, MFT, Wisconsin
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This is the first time I have done the pre and post conference training institutes. I believe this
was a fantastic use of my time. Keep including these!
Ed Gray, Memphis
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I was excited and overwhelmed by the amount of expertise gathered. I count it a privilege
to be here and to have the opportunity to talk with these giants outside the sessions.
I also very much enjoyed networking with other attendees.
Pamela Adams, MSW
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I have been attending professional conferences for the past 22 years
(AAMFT, PAMFT, APC, Networker, etc, etc,). This is the first
year I've attended Smart Marriages. It has been by far the best,
most balanced, positive, challenging, and professionally
helpful conference I have ever attended. I'll be back next year.
Carol Young Schreck, MFT
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The best aspect for me is the atmosphere of respect for a variety
of ideas, approaches, professional backgrounds and chosen modes
of involvement in marriage education.
Richard Kindred, PhD
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Some of the best social scientists & clinicians in one place at one time -
very impressive and educational!
Mary McGinnis, LMHC
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We LOVED Smart Marriages!! Four attended from our office and we benefited greatly.
Every keynote and every workshop was top notch. Without a doubt the best conference
I have ever attended! It was so inspiring to see people of every ethnicity, and every religion
and no religion all under one roof for one reason....to support marriages and remarriages
and step families and marriage enrichment. The resources, the networking.....all were
supportive of our work.
Gail McDonough
Coordinator, Marriage Program Development
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My REPORT to World Wide Marriage Encounter list on attending SMART Marriage Conference
We attended SMART Marriage Conference at the invitation of Dr. Carolyn Curtis, Executive Director, of the Sacramento Healthy Marriage Project. This year we have organized a Steering Committee of pastors and lay people to apply to become a partnering agency to begin marriage and relationship courses in local United Methodist churches this fall.

We were excited to be at this conference in the midst of 2000 others who are passionate and committed to helping couples enrich and save their marriage relationships. We were blown away to meet, and attend a workshop with Dave & Claudia Arp, founders of the 10 Great Date program. Then we were amazed to see and hear live and on stage, keynote addresses by Dr. John Gray (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus), Tony Robbins (Internationally famous motivational speaker) and Dr. Willard Harley (His Needs, Her Needs).

It was also our joy to attend 20 of the more than 150 workshops. Most of these workshops featured the authors and creators of out-of-the-box, do-it-yourself marriage and relationship skills courses that can be put on in any church, school, community center, hospital or lodge. Some of the other workshops we attended were: Divorce-busters, Smart Steps for Step Families, Love and Respect, PAIRS, and etc. We also attended some how-to programs on using the internet to share information about and between programs, grant-writing, marketing, networking and etc.

Most, if not all of these programs are based on solid social science research about marriage, divorce, family and relationship patterns in our culture by governmental and/or university researchers, may of whom were there as speakers or workshop leaders.

We were delighted to find our friends, Harry & Deb Thomas of Colorado there with a beautiful exhibit for Marriage Encounter United Methodist. They were giving out several new electronic marketing tools to tell people about the program. They were part of a large exhibit area where 40 or 50 different programs were available for purchase. The vendors were there to discuss their strengths and capabilities of each.

Finally, at this conference we were able to network with people who are pioneers in this field. We were particularly interested in meeting people who are developing programs focusing on Black Marriage, Hispanic Marriage, and Asian Marriage. We also attended a United Methodist caucus and met pastors and lay people from around the nation who are working in this field.

This experience brings us new hope that we can continue to help couples make marriage the best that it can be. As Carolyn Curtis told us, marriage counselors can no longer do this work alone. World-wide Marriage Encounter should support this movement and become one of the sponsors of the SMART Marriage Conference. Also the Marriage Encounter leadership needs to begin to provide courses not just on our Marriage Encounter weekends, but also adopt and provide leadership for some of these new programs in local churches. Our United Methodist Churches and most churches are located in residential neighborhoods where these programs are needed. This ministry is a mission and a calling. Marriage is God's gift to us all. We can no longer hide our light under a bushel, but put it up on a candlestick for all to see. So let us let our light shine so that all may glorify God.

Glenn & Gwen Tilton
Lay Executive Couple
Marriage Encounter - United Methodist
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The conference absolutely exceeded my expectations - and my client work has
been transformed by this conf. I will be back!!!
Chris Pekary, LPC, NCC, MDiv, MAt
Memphis, TN
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We have attended two of the Smartmarriages conferences. Both of us are academics
at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and attend many conferences around the world.
Yours is the most wonderful, enriching and enjoyable of all!! If we had the money, we would
attend every year.

Reineth Prinsloo
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I enjoyed the inspiration I received regarding the need to impact my community both by
having a great marriage myself and through community involvement.
Reed Mueller, PhD
Corbett, OR
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This was a great conference. I'm not sure it was "better" than other years-they've all been great (I've been to five) but the fact that it continues to have such high energy, year after year, is amazing. It's inspirational. Also, you keep introducing new directions of growth, such as the Robbins-Madanes materials, Laugh Your Way, Alpha Course, First Dance, community policies. You do a great job of balancing all the edges of the movement without allowing one edge to push the others off the table. E.g., keeping scientific validation on the table while keeping the door open to emergent delivery options. So many of the other professional orgs (AAMFT, AAPC, AACC, APA) I follow have ended up losing one or the other edges of the tension, and as a result become either anti-intellectual, or else hide-bound, or subject to 'silver-bullet' thinking that annoints one thing as the total solution. I'm sure you've heard this a lot, but I appreciate it. It's a gift to the nation, in my opinion.

CH (LTC) Peter J Frederich
Office of the Chief of Chaplains of the U.S. Army
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This conference provided the most productive four days of my professional life and no
conference is even in close second place. We launched our initiative, jump-started the regions and
it was a phenomenal success - phenomenally productive.
Chris Gersten
Principal Deputy, Health and Human Services (HHS)/Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
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Thank you for setting up such a great conference. The most appealing component to the
whole big deal without a doubt is the passion, which leaked from every speaker and was ever
present in every conversation. So well done! Smart Marriages is tremendous.
Richard Kane,
Director, Marriage Week in the UK
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There was lots of energy everywhere. Every presenter I saw was dynamic and engaging. I especially liked that each one of them included appropriate parts of their own personal story. This made them human, more approachable and aided understanding. They each used themselves in ways that advanced their overall lessons rather than detracting or focusing too much on themselves as sometimes happens. It did not happen in any of the workshops or keynotes I attended.
Cindy Ariel
The plenary sessions were *****
The workshops were *****
Great balance of experience/clinical/community.
State of the art material. All the star presenters in the field.
Keep it up.
Richard Mikesell, PhD
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This year's conference has been such a transformational experience for me, both
professionally and personally.

My "ex-boyfriend" (we'd been apart since April) attended the conference, too.
We did not attend together, but by the end of it, we began talking about
making a fresh start. We both learned so much while there.

Thanks again for the great contribution you make to smart marriage and smart
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I consider this, without a doubt the best conference I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of.
It is an excellent mixture of theory and practice. It is attended by a wide consortium
of practitioners representing all different kinds of fields and types of
organizations. It is the motherload of information networking. I heartily endorse attending!
Tom Rinkoski, MEd
Diocese of Green Bay
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This was my first conference -- in fact, up until a few months ago I
had no idea SmartMarriages existed. A friend recommended the conference
when she heard about my
transition from a therapy orientation to a coaching and education
orientation - with particular focus on relationships. To be frank, since
I'd never heard of the organization before, I didn't expect much. But I
followed my friend's advice, and my intuition, and registered.

From day one I was truly blown away by the expertise, substantive content,
diversity of topics and perspectives (oh how much I appreciated the
collegial and respectful disagreements) and the generosity (in terms of
preparation time and sharing of materials) of the presenters. I also found
the community of participants to be tremendously energizing and affirming.
In fact, when I called home my husband commented on my obvious enthusiasm
and I told him, "It's great to be with so many people talking about things I
really care about. I feel like I'm home."

So, my hat's off to you for your dedication, time commitment and management
skills that made this such an enjoyable and valuable conference. I was blown-away
by the deep content, professional presentations and generosity of sharing concepts
and materials. Wow!

Ruth Donahue, MSW
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I have attended conferences for 26 years and this was the best. Second to none, and that is no joke.
Roger Thompson, Executive Director
Christian Counseling Center
Paducah, KY
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Thank you all for a wonderful experience! It has already improved my own marriage.
Keep up the good work. You are touching lives.
Kathy Gomez
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Rita DeMaria's "What Now?!" workshop gave me what I never learned in grad school - how to sell
yourself and manage a business. More courses in this area would be great!
Phillip Johnson, PhD
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For me, this was the greatest conference ever. I always think you can't top the one from
the year before, but you always do. We had a great
audience at our session - I always say, the best people in America come to Smart Marriages!
Thank you so much for this great movement you are building. I feel we are all really
gaining momentum, and the annual conference is a great "push"!
June Saunders
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The best training I have EVER attended.
Elizabeth Amazaki, MSW
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I want to highly recommend the PREP Institute. Their humor and style made the 3 days fly by.
And, the program works with all relationships.
Suzanne Baily, MSW
Klameth Falls, Oregon
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It was terrific to learn new concepts and practical easy-to-impliment techinques.
I was greatly inspired to go back and work at keeping couples together. I also loved the keynotes!
Mary Ashpes, MSW
Baltimore, Maryland
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Hello Joe,
You asked me if I will be attending this year's SmartMarriages Conference. Absolutely!
Without a doubt! Wouldn't miss it for

the world! I attended my first SmartMarriages conference this past July, and
I was blown away. I come from the corporate world, and have attended a lot
of conferences over the years. The SmartMarriages conference was by far the
best conference I have ever attended in my life.

I encourage all the readers of the Catholic Marriages newsgroup to
attend this conference if there is any way humanly possible. The lineup of
speakers is amazing, and absolutely unbeatable. Not only are
"giants" of Catholic Marriage Ministries represented, but so are all the
giants from all the other marriage fields. To hear John Gottman, Michele
Weiner-Davis, Willard Harley, Gary Smalley, Scott Stanley, Bernard Guerney,
Sherod Miller (and many, many others) speak at one conference - and then to
have a chance to meet them "up close and personal" is truly wonderful.

Joe, I look forward to seeing you (and hopefully many other readers of this
posting) at Smart Marriages!

Dennis Stoica
Orange County Marriage Resource Center
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This was my first Smart Marriages Conference (for a variety of reasons, I was
not able to attend previously), and I was struck by several things. First, I am
much more accustomed to psychological conferences, which tend to be quite
academic and at times esoteric --- this conference was refreshing in that it was
intelligent, and yet inviting, accessible and informative. Secondly, I was able to
present a poster and the poster format was quite different (from the 20 + others
I have presented at APA and MPA) , and I must say, I enjoyed the opportunity
to present some information without the need to be present at the poster for a
designated period of time. But probably the thing that most struck me was the
way in which you have somehow been able to bring together a variety of people
from several different disciplines / perspectives / employment / ideologies and
get them to work together in a cooperative effort. I am so accustomed to everyone
working off in their own separate silos with very little "cross pollination" --- the
Smart Marriages Conference was a refreshing change --- and I walked away with
the impression that much of the credit goes to you. Thank you. I did cross paths
with you several times at the conference, but each time either the line of people
waiting to talk with you was quite long or else you were scurrying from one
commitment to another, so I decided not to add one more thing to your already
hectic schedule by introducing myself to you. So thank you for all the work
that you put into Smart Marriages.
John Buri, PhD, Professor
Department of Psychology
University of St. Thomas
St Paul, Minnesota

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This was an "over the top" conference. Fantastic. Great. Wonderful. What can I say?!?
A Question: You always tell everyone of the fantastic things going on outside the hotel. In the 9
conferences I've been at, I've only had time to get out of the hotel twice. There's too much going
on at the conference to leave. When you're at the best place in the world, why would you want
to go outside? Now if you made the conference a little less fantastic, then there would be a reason
to look for stuff out of the hotel.
By the way, I've already been in contact with Chief Justice Sears. We are trading information.
She is incredible.
Judge Jim Sheridan
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Here are two reports from attendees to their colleagues back home: Harry and Kate Benson
from the UK and David and Jean Abrams to his military pals at Fort Richardson in Alaskal. 
Click to read their articles to gain a
broader impression of the conference experience:

On Attending the 2001 Smart Marriages Conference, Harry Benson, UK

Smart Marriages Conference - An Army Perspective, David Abrams, Fort Richardson, Alaska

If any of you would like to share your impressions on attending the Smart
Marriages conference(s) - or your observations of how the conference and you have
grown over the years - send them along.

Back to Conference Details.

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