Everyone has their own way of dealing with heartbreak. Some turn to their friends for support, some turn to TV streaming services and some turn to ice cream.
But what if you could check yourself into an alcohol- and technology-free retreat for a long weekend of “transformational therapy” as well as scenic views, all with the purpose of healing your broken heart?
The Heartbreak Hotel, run by counseling psychologist Alice Haddon and author and life coach Ruth Field, is offering just that.
Launched in late 2021, the residential retreats, specifically designed for women, are held at Barsham Barns, a private home located on the coast of UK county Norfolk.
The Heartbreak Hotel was dreamed up by Haddon, who had taken a break from practicing after the death of her mother, and found herself rethinking the way in which therapy is implemented traditionally.
Haddon says she was listening to a radio program on romantic fraud and realized that there were few services available for women struggling to overcome different types of heartbreak.
She began exploring the possibility of a “radical” new concept in transformational therapy that could provide exactly what she felt women dealing with all forms of heartbreak really needed within a group setting.
“We believe that heartbreak connects us to the essence of what it is to be human, and that our vulnerability is also the birthplace of compassionate change and daring creativity,” Haddon says in a statement.
Haddon then went about putting together an all female team and Field, one of her oldest friends, soon came on board.
“We think of the retreat as an intensive care unit for the heart: hot water bottles, blankets, warm drinks, crackling fires, nobody lifts a finger, everyone is taken care of so completely in order that they can give themselves over to the therapy,” Field Travel.
The retreats, which run from Friday through to Monday, can be attended by a maximum of eight women at a time.
“This space is created, which is very safe, in which these women are taken on this journey,” adds Field. “It’s really a realignment and self discovery away from the heartbreak and towards a new way of being.
“So they’re freed from, not just their heartbreak, but from all the sort of structures around which women get lost a lot of the time, like service to others and all of the other roles that we [women] have to deal with.
“Trauma can get stuck in the body and we have an EMDR specialist who comes in and works on releasing that trauma for our guests.” EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, is a technique to unlock and defuse painful memories.
Aside from intensive group therapy sessions, those who check in to the Heartbreak Hotel will also benefit from a menu of plant-based, heart-healing nutritious (and delicious) meals “designed to inspire and nourish your broken heart,” as well as fireside gatherings and walks along some of Norfolk’s beautiful beaches.
“The location is very important,” says Field. “Being by the sea and having daily trips to the beach are absolutely critical as well.
“That sense of the vastness of the ocean, and the smell of the sea, all of that is just so good for healing. It really does help release stress — the cortisol levels go down.
“And of course, the heartbreak is also a period of intense stress on the body, so we do spend quite a lot of time working with that in an organic way.”
The Heartbreak Hotel’s first two retreats, named “Moving Beyond Betrayal,” and “Healing Your Heartbreak'” centered on romantic heartbreak and feedback from guests has been hugely positive.
The team make a point of grouping together women who have had similar experiences.
“That’s how the group therapy seems to work the best,” explains Field. “They can identify with each other in that way that you can really identify with somebody who’s had a similar experience [to you] and it keeps it very specific.”
Those interested in attending one of the Heartbreak Hotel’s retreats must fill out a detailed questionnaire, which can be found on the website, indicating why they’d like to take part.
Once this has been submitted, a “long call” is set up between the potential guest and either Haddon or Field to assess their suitability.
“We do spend quite a lot of time trying to curate the right guests each retreat,” says Field. “We never turn anyone away, but we have often redirected women elsewhere, to other therapeutic services for example, if they aren’t suitable for the retreat.”
Technology and alcohol free
According to Field, the absence of mobile phones and alcohol is hugely important when it comes to ensuring that guests really open up during the intensive group therapy sessions.
“They need to sit with their feelings, and anything that takes them away from that isn’t considered to be valuable in terms of their journey,” she says, before explaining that each guest will receive around eight hours of therapy a day delivered in the group.
“There are also these daily trips to the beach,” she adds. “There’s not a huge amount of free time in between any of this. It’s quite intensive, deep therapeutic work.”
The retreats each cost £2,500 (around $3,275).
Haddon and Field are currently looking into potential retreats focusing on areas such as sibling rivalry, menopause, as well as dealing with the loss of a loved one.
But whatever their reason for checking in might be, the team ultimately have the same aim for every heartbroken guest who walks through their doors.
“Our mission at The Heartbreak Hotel is for all our guests to leave feeling strong and free to act according to their own love values and needs,” says Haddon.
In 2021, Swedish bed manufacturer Hastens opened the world’s first Hastens Sleep Spa Hotel, dedicated to providing guests with a good night’s sleep, in Coimbra, Portugal.
Meanwhile, a Kentucky hotel is allowing guests to bring their plants along with them so that they need not worry about watering them while their away, in what’s described as the “world’s first plant-friendly hotel experience.”