Read the Latest Professional Tips, PDFs and Research
This page is designed for busy professionals like yourself: pastors, counselors, therapists, physicians, social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, nurse practitioners, and other health care professionals.
Did You Know?
We Collaborate With You
Many clients present with complaints about their key relationships. Relationship education is effective, and clinical populations benefit substantially from them. Whether they need help with parenting, communication skills, conflict resolution, forgiveness, or other concerns, we can help you help the people you work with. Our education and skill programs are vetted for you. These are well- researched, best practice programs developed by national experts. Our organization offers these resources locally as a resource to you and your clients. We work collaboratively with you to select the programs that best fit your client’s goals, and help you design a tailor made plan of care that is powerful and cost effective. See our training programs for an annotated list of our current offerings.
Healthy Relationships Improve Mental Health
We can provide you with key research summaries that give you the important findings you need to know. There is strong evidence that healthy marriage and family relationships improve both physical and mental health. The CDC has confirmed from their own research that married people have better mental health across the board. We know from extensive research that children do better on all measures when they live in intact homes with two biological parents. Improving relationship health is actually the single biggest thing we can do to improve overall health and wellness, reduce the cost of health care, and prevent many kinds of physical and mental illness. Read the research summary later on this page to catch up on these important findings.
Education Helps Clients Make More Progress
Recent findings from a large California study (#18 on the research summary references below) confirm that relationship education not only helps troubled couples and parents, it reduces divorce rates. Of course, divorce is necessary in some cases, but there are many unnecessary divorces in couples that never get therapy, or any kind of help. The reality is that all married couples go through periods of distress, including thinking they are no longer in love. Yet many survive, and thrive, if they stay together and work on it. Knowing the positive benefits of relationship education, based on over a dozen meta-analyses, you can have confidence that relationship education will help your clients make progress, and move more quickly toward completing their treatment goals.
We Have An Excellent Bibliography For Your Clients
We often get asked for books and other resources on many different relationship issues. We have done the work of reviewing many materials for you, and continue to assess new resources as they become available. For your convenience, we have assembled a resource bibliography of books, articles, pamphlets, and websites that you can have confidence in recommending to your clients. These are organized in broad categories, such as communication skills and conflict resolution, on our resource page. You may find these helpful to read as well so that you can discuss them with your clients. Many of the books and resources are penned by recognized national experts and developers of best practice programs in relationship education.
Relationship Problems Need Relationship Assessment
Many therapists and other professionals hear about marital struggles in individual settings. Trained to empathize, we support the person we're listening to. Yet hearing only one side of the story can entice us to adopt one point of view about the marital conflict, which may be the client's hidden agenda. In the last few years there has been growing national recognition that clients pursue divorce based on perceived encouragement by their therapist, or other provider, who has never met the client’s partner or evaluated the couple together.
Truth be told – founders in the field discovered early on that marital counseling is one of the most difficult forms of therapy to do. Even when the counselor is with the couple, it's a balancing act to avoid side-taking in the midst of heated and painful issues. Not only that, marital and family dynamics often reinforce the very problem the client needs help with. Take depression – research says the treatment of choice for co-occurring depression and marital discord is marital therapy. Or take alcoholism – despite the widely known dynamic of family enabling, the standard recommendation for the client is to have a year of sobriety before doing marital or family counseling. Untreated families lead to relapse, not recovery. Does that mean individual therapy isn’t needed? No. It means two things: 1) Refer clients with marital complaints for a marital assessment 2) Discuss the findings, plan priorities, and coordinate care if marital therapy is indicated.
Defiant Children Need Better Parenting
Oppositional defiance in children in one of the most heavily researched issues in all of psychology. Many parents and professionals think the way to deal with child defiance is to bring them to counseling. But the treatment of choice for ODD is not child therapy, nor even family therapy. Think about it. How can oppositional behavior be an individual diagnosis in the first place? By definition, it can only occur in interaction with someone else. It’s a classic case of reification – attributing relationship dynamics to an individual. Research indicates the treatment of choice is parenting training. Parents learn how they are involved in power struggles with their defiant child and how they reinforce the misbehavior. Parents need to learn more effective parent skills. Most of the time, that doesn’t involve seeing the child. We provide outstanding parent education and skill training. Read more about our flagship parenting program under parent education.
How to Refer So Your Client Follows Through
Ever notice that it’s difficult to get some clients to follow through with referrals? It’s even harder to land referrals for relationship work. The obvious reason is there’s more than one person to coordinate schedules with. At a deeper level, most people avoid those they are struggling with. We know that married couples sidestep important issues for years, which is a key reason the relationship deteriorates. Even when they’re on the brink of divorce, only 10% of married couples seek marital counseling. So, how do we help them?
One way is to use your relationship with them as a bridge. If they trust you, they are more likely to take a risk with someone you endorse. Most people are afraid of being vulnerable with someone new. They say yes, but don’t go. So, as you talk to them about the referral, ask for their permission to call the other provider – on the spot. Dial the phone, introduce yourself, say you have someone in your office who you want them to see, and hand over the phone to your client. They chat, break the ice, and set up either an appointment or time when they can talk further. Ideally, the counselor will spend a few moments talking to both parties before the session. It’s exposure therapy in action.
But when there's two of them, it's a different ball game. Many times clients will say their spouse is unwilling to go to therapy. If you explore this with them, you will often discover they are either assuming, have never discussed it directly, or the issue only comes up during arguments. Of course, the argument is about which of them should go to counseling. We have resources to help your clients get off this merry-go-round. Ask your client to read our Tips for how to approach your spouse about marriage counseling, Tips about how to select a marriage counselor, and Tips on how to get the most out of marital therapy. This kind of education helps lower their fear of following through with what they already know they need to do.
Don’t have time for a phone call? It’s actually less time consuming than chasing clients to follow through. Having your secretary chase them will take just as long, and isn’t going to yield the same results. Their relationship is with you. You pass forward the benefit of your good connection. Walking them through the process both motivates and builds the bridge for them to cross over to another professional.
Check out these links to read more research
- Relationship Education Research
- Outcome research on Relationship Education
- Skill Training Helps Troubled Couples
by Duane Nelson
National data indicates that 90% of the US population marries, and that most people who divorce remarry within a few years. A large body of social science research documents that married adults, as well as children from intact families, have less illness and better health in nearly every area of mental and physical health (1, 2, 3). We know that relationship health is paramount to prevention of many family, social, educational, legal, economic, health, and community problems.
In fact, success in our primary relationships predicts success in many life areas. Children clearly do best on many measures if they live in intact, two parent households where their parents have “good enough” marriages (4). Even normal brain development depends on positive attachment bonds with parents (5).
Marriage has long been associated with a wide array of medical, psychological, financial and social benefits for adults and children. The Centers for Disease Control has concluded that married adults are healthier than unmarried adults – those never married, cohabiting, divorced, or widowed - on nearly all measures of health (6).
Studies throughout the social sciences agree that married people are healthier, wealthier, happier, and live longer (2, 7). The findings in mental health confirm that married people suffer less from all forms of mental illness, have fewer hospitalizations, lower rates of relapse, and faster recovery (8). The findings are very similar for children (5, 6). These are impressive results that we can capitalize upon for the prevention of many kinds of illness.
A comprehensive review of 20 years of research concluded that unmarried people of both sexes “have higher death rates, whether by accident, disease, or self-inflicted wounds [suicide], and this is found in every country that maintains accurate health statistics.” (9)
Poor marital quality or lack of marital status increases the likelihood of heart disease, poor endocrine and immune functioning, high stress levels, and cancer survival rates (1, 18). Married people utilize fewer medical services, have lower infant mortality rates, shorter hospitalization stays, higher sexual satisfaction, heal faster, and live healthier lifestyles (1, 2, 3, 18, 22).
The process of deterioration in most marriages is centered in unresolved conflict, deterioration in interaction, and escalation of negative attitudes toward one another (10). Improving communication and conflict resolution skills, along with developing more open and positive attitudes, are known to restore relationship interaction and functioning (11).
There is direct carryover from marital relationships to parent-child relationships (14). Parents with poor marital relationships, or who are separated, have less contact, less supervision, and lower quality relationships with their children (2, 4, 13). Moreover, longitudinal studies show that most adult children of divorce have life-long negative effects: higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse, more criminal behavior, higher rates of depression and mental illness, lower educational attainment, lower earnings, and higher divorce rates themselves (2, 13, 14,15).
Divorce and unwed childbearing have immense personal and social costs. Unmarried women are far more likely to be physically and sexually abused, and children of divorced or never married parents are 6 to 30 times more likely to suffer serious child abuse (18). Only 30% of adults are psychologically better off following divorce (9), and half of Minnesotans regret not working on their marriages when they had the chance (23).
Divorce and unwed childbearing also have staggering financial costs. Half of all women and children end up in poverty following divorce (18), and 75% of all welfare applications come from women who recently had a significant relationship breakup (19). In 2006, the average cost of divorce to local taxpayers was $30,000, while the cost to the nation was conservatively estimated to be $112 billion dollars per year. In Minnesota, 70% of those in poverty live in unmarried households, and taxpayers pay $574 million per year to subsidize divorce (19).
Relationship difficulties cross over from home to work and school settings. Children who do not live with both biological parents do worse on all academic measures, have higher truancy and dropout rates, repeat grades more often, and have lower overall levels of academic achievement (2, 18). At work, marital problems cause decreased employee productivity, higher absenteeism, more frequent health problems, and lower morale. Most employees who go through divorce are less productive for three years (24).
The effectiveness of improving relationship health through education and skill training programs is well established (21). There were 8 meta-analyses of these programs between 1993 and 2010. All came to similar conclusions. These programs show strong positive outcomes, are cost effective, and have high return on investment (18, 21, 24). Laboratory research corroborates that negative patterns of interaction predict divorce with 90% accuracy, and that these patterns are changeable (11). What is more, these programs work for prevention as well as interventing in troubled marriages (18, 21).
Family scholars from many disciplines have verified its effectiveness, and called for relationship education and skill training to become part of mainstream health care (1, 2, 13, 21). Even family law has called for more family friendly principles to guide it (25). One large study in California demonstrated effectiveness across several ethnic, language, and cultural groups as well (20, 21).
To be clear, relationship education does not encourage people to stay in abusive or harmful relationships, or stigmatize people who are divorced. Rather, we know that most people encounter common relationship struggles they do not expect and are ill-prepared to handle. These programs prepare people to weather the ups and downs everyone experiences.
Relationship education is done effectively in group educational settings, which is much less costly than marital therapy (21). Since most couples who divorce never go to therapy, education is the only way to reach them. Further, relationship education is effective at any stage of relationship development, and can be effectively delivered by trained lay people, further reducing costs (18, 21).
Unfortunately, relationship health has not yet been recognized as central to health and wellness (21), or been considered important by mainstream healthcare. By all standards, it is comparable to immunizations for prevention, except that it delivers many more private and public benefits. In fact, relationship education is the single biggest thing we can do to reduce poverty, improve educational attainment, lower the cost of health care, and prevent a great deal of physical and mental illness.
- Statton (2009). “Making the Connection Between Healthy Marriage and Health Outcomes: What the Research Says,” National Healthy Resource Center: Conference Proceedings from the Wingspread Making Connections Conference, October 20-22, 2008. www.healthymarriageinfo.org.
- Wilcox, et. al. (2011). “Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences,” Third Edition. New York: Institute for American Values.
- California Healthy Marriages Coalition (2007). “Why Marriage Matters in America.” California: Healthy Relationships California.
- Amato (2005). The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social and Emotional Well-being of the Next Generation,” The Future of Children. Vol. 15, No 2, pp. 75-96.
- Commission on Children at Risk (2003). Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities. New York: Institute for American Values.
- Schoenborn (2004). “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999-2002,” Vital and Health Statistics, No. 351. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Waite & Gallagher (2000). The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially. New York: Doubleday.
- Whitehead & Popenoe (2002). “Changes in Teen Attitudes Toward Marriage, Cohabitation and Children: 1975-1995,” The National Marriage Project: Rutgers University. www.marriage.rutgers.edu.
- Coombs (1991). “Marital Status and Personal Well-Being: A Literature Review,” Family Relations, 40, p 98.
- Gottman & Silver (1994). Why Marriages Succeed or Fail… and How You Can Make Yours Last. New York: Simon & Shuster.
- Gottman & Silver (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- Waite, et.al. (2002). “Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings From a Study of Unhappy Marriages.” New York: Institute for American Values.
- National Fatherhood Initiative (2007). Fatherhood Facts, 5th ed., Published by the National Fatherhood Initiative, www.fatherhood.org.
- Erel & Burman (1995). “Interrelatedness of Marital Relations and Parent-Child Relations: A Meta-Analytic Review,” Psychological Bulletin. Vol. 118, No. 1, pp. 108-132.
- Wallerstein, Lewis & Blakeslee (2000). The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study. New York: Hyperion.
- W. Bradford Wilcox, ed. (2010). “When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America,” The National Marriage Project: Rutgers University. www.marriage.rutgers.edu.
- Scafidi (2008). “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and All Fifty States,” New York: Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, et.al.
- Howell (2011). “The Case for Relationship Education: Creating Social Benefit Through Skills Training,” Healthy Relationships California. www.relationshipsca.org.
- Schramm (2006). “Individual and Social Costs of Divorce in Utah,” Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Vol 27, No 1, pp. 133-151.
- Howell et al (2013). “Impact Report: Research on the Impact of Relationship and Marriage Education Programs in California.” California: Healthy Relationships California.
- Ooms (2005). “The New Kid on the Block: What is Marriage Education and Does it Work?” Policy Brief No.7: Center for Law and Social Policy. www.clasp.org.
- Hetherington & Kelly (2002). For Better or Worse: Divorce Revisited. New York: Doubleday.
- Hawkins et al (2000). “Minnesotans’ Attitudes About Marriage and Divorce,” Provo, Utah: Family Studies Center, Brigham Young University.
- Turvey & Olsen (2006). “Marriage and Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business?” Minneapolis: Life Innovations.
- Glendon (2006). “Marriage and the Law: A Statement of Principles.” New York: Institute for American Values and Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
- Birch, Weed & Olsen (2004). “Assessing the Impact of Community Marriage Policies on County Divorce Rates,” Family Relations, Vol. 53, No. 5, pp. 495-503.