Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Marriage Counseling Moves Online

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Marriage Counseling Moves Online

Article excerpt

When troubles cloud a marriage, couples typically have several options for resolving their differences. Some work out problems themselves. Others turn to family and friends for advice. Still others head for a marriage counselor's office.

Now, in a high-tech world, they have another choice: online marital counseling. A computerized program called eHarmony Marriage seeks to help couples communicate better, rekindle romance, and resolve conflicts more compassionately, says Les Parrott, who created the program (marriage.eharmony.com) with his wife, Leslie, a marriage and family therapist.

The site is an offshoot of the Internet matchmaking service, eHarmony.com.

"It's perfect for people not quite at the place to get counseling, who want to do something practical to improve their relationship," says Dr. Parrott, a psychology professor at Seattle Pacific University.

That "something practical" begins with a 40-minute online questionnaire covering issues ranging from finances to housework, trust, family relationships, and spirituality. Each partner answers separately. Their responses generate a computer report outlining their strengths and weaknesses as a couple.

"It will reveal where you guys are really strong and where you will find the most benefit if you invest in this area," Parrott says. For instance, "You do really well in communication until you get to this area - in-laws."

From that summary, the computer produces a "marriage action plan" that includes interactive video exercises, articles, and resources.

Couples pay $150 for the program, which typically takes six to eight weeks to complete. Users are often in their 30s and 40s. "Women tend to be the first to move in this direction," Parrott says. "Men tend to be a bit more oblivious to the problems."

Although online matchmaking is widely accepted, does Internet marriage counseling, with its click-of-the-mouse approach, hold a legitimate place?

Diane Sollee, director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education in Washington, D.C., thinks it does. Explaining that good counseling gives people new information, she says, "You can do that in any medium - face to face, over the phone, by computer."

It's also a way to help couples who are far apart - a husband in Iraq, his wife in the United States. …

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