Early research suggests an online ‘relationship check-up’ may be all many couples need to enrich their relationship.

Clinical psychologist Professor Kim Halford has tested a web-based relationship assessment program in Brisbane couples and found many benefited just from the process of going through the questionnaire and the computer-generated report.

Professor Halford, Dean of Research for Griffith Health, said each partner fills in the online questionnaire, which is then automatically scored and provides feedback on the strengths and challenges within the relationship.

He said the report helps some people realise they are doing okay or that they have the ability to fine tune their relationship themselves.

“Sometimes the changes that are needed are small. For example, a person might realise they can cut back on work a bit to give more time to their partner,” he said.

“However other couples will need more structure and assistance to improve their relationship. We can then offer options such as specific resources and telephone coaching by relationship educators or psychologists.”

RELATE, the online relationship assessment tool, was developed in the United States, but is accessible and relevant for Australian couples.

Adopting the concept of delivering relationship education and support into people’s homes, Professor Halford and his research team have developed Couple CARE, a largely self-directed program for committed couples wanting to enhance their relationships.

The program includes a DVD and workbook for home-based learning, and professional support over the phone.

“Most marriage counselling has been delivered face-to-face but these flexible format programs are convenient, unobtrusive and effective,” Professor Halford said.

“Even a one per cent reduction in the divorce rate can save million of dollars each year in direct costs such as court fees and supporting parents’ payments.”

Relationships Australia is a major partner in the research which is being presented at the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy 30th Annual National Conference on the Gold Coast, 6-10 October.