information for transformational people

PREP 246Within My/Our Reach - an opportunity to improve relationships 

Previous blogs have highlighted the importance of the relationship between parents in raising a child. See 'Help children by helping their parents', 'The effect of inter-parental relationships on children' and 'Dads want to succeed as fathers but parent relationship needs to be strong'.

There is a relationships course called 'Within Our Reach' (and a course for singles called 'Within My Reach') birthed out of 30 years of research in the field of relationship health led by the University of Denver which has been given in workshops to over 300,000 individuals in USA, Europe and Australia. There have been many evaluations and results of some are as follows:

  • Participation in the Within My Reach program is associated with a significant decrease in physical and emotional abuse.
  • At a 5-year follow-up, couples had higher levels of positive and lower levels of negative communication skills and lower levels of marital violence compared to a control group.
  • One year after the course, couples had one-third the rate of divorce of a control group.
  • Participants of one evaluation were from diverse backgrounds and exhibited many of the risk factors for poor relationship outcomes including unemployment, low income, and childhood experience of abuse or neglect. Evaluation indicated that the program was beneficial for both singles and partnered individuals. Singles reported increased belief in ability to obtain healthy relationships. Partnered individuals reported increased relationship quality, relationship confidence, and reduced conflict. Regardless of relationship status, participants also reported improvement in general relationship and communication skill.
  • Another evaluation with  low-income, at-risk individuals involved with various social service agencies showed that participants experienced high levels of training satisfaction; significant increases in knowledge, communication ⁄ conflict resolution skills, and relationship quality; as well as a trend in the reduction of relationship violence.

Within Our Reach and associated courses are created by PREP Inc who provide training for those who teach relationship education; volunteers, teachers, mental health professionals, clergy, and more. The resources aim to help couples maintain high levels of functioning and prevent marital problems from developing. They also help single mothers avoid destructive relationships. Topics covered include communication, conflict management, commitment, friendship, sensuality, problem-solving, and emotional supportiveness, among others. PREP curricula generally contain anywhere from 8 to 14 hours of relationship education content and are usually conducted in a group workshop format.

Some time back I attended a seminar by Professor Scott Stanley of the Center for Marital and Family Studies, University of Denver and co-director of PREP Inc., and subsequently met up with Dr Galena Rhoades, also from University of Denver and involved in PREP. They are very willing for PREP materials to be used here by churches and they would train the trainers.

From Centre of Social Justice research, in the UK, co-habiting couples with children under 5 are 6 times more likely to break-up than married couples with children under 5. There is a gap in what the Church offers here regarding relationships as we usually focus on ‘The Marriage Course’. Within Our Reach and Within My Reach focus on relationship issues for married couples, co-habiting couples and singles - especially where lack of stability and threats to physical safety and emotional well-being are often experienced by low income single mothers in their relationships with male partners. It would be great to help them believe that they deserve to be treated with respect and be physically and emotionally safe in an intimate relationship.

If you are interested, you could simply run this as a single church within a community but here's an idea of a possible initiative that could be scaled:

The Church in a town (some churches working together) could run the programme and use the approach to build long term relationships with people helped by the need to capture some very simple research e.g. quality of relationship/communication before course, after course, in 1 year, etc, relationship stability over time ie split, divorce, etc. The research would be very easy to set up and data can easily be entered online.

So scenario for a church run (community franchise) programme could be

Take Within My Reach and/or Within Our Reach licenced and adapted (language and examples) to run in UK. (Some of this has been done already).

Create research questions and keep simple. Set up generic online questionnaire. 

For a town or local authority borough:

  • Inform/discuss with town movers and shakers e.g. local authority, businesses, press. See if funding available. 
  • Could Local Authority and others eg NHS, Police refer people?
  • Negotiate a deal with local shops for attendance vouchers e.g. Boots the Chemist, etc. The number of people completing the course goes up dramatically if vouchers are offered for attendance at all sessions.
  • Announce a relationships study in a town put on by a neutral org (attached to church(es) there).
  • Advertise workshops especially in parent/toddler groups, etc.
  • Set up online study for that town
  • Deliver course
  • Capture simple research
  • Follow up participants every 6 months.
  • Repeat the process at appropriate intervals.
  • Publish research at certain points – builds credibility and relevance..

Rollout to other towns via churches, negotiate national voucher deal with relevant businesses.

That's one idea - you may have another. Happy to discuss - contact here.

More details of PREP are here.

Here is a 4 min video on history of PREP and introduction in Estonia:

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Geoff Knott, 28/06/2017

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