Couple assessment can improve the impact of a couple or family program by 30%: 10 Ways Couple Assessments can Improve any Relationship Education Program

Assessment is a critical component of most professions but professionals working with couples or families. We often fail to take full advantage of these assessments. Physicians typically run a variety of diagnostic tests before they make their final decision on treatment. Teachers use examinations to determine a students achievement level. Police Officers use radar to determine the speed a car is driving. Engineers use stress tests to determine whether a structure will be functional for the task.

Over the next ten (10) weeks, I will present ten ways that couple assessment can increase the impact of any marriage or family education program. Taken from the work of those who have researched the effectiveness of couple assessment (including David Olson of PREPARE/ENRICH), the following points explain the ways couple assessment can improve your any relationship education program.

1. Couples assessment can improve the impact of a couple or family program by 30%.

Several independent studies have found that taking a couple assessment at the beginning of your program can improve that impact of a relationship education program by 30%.

One of the first studies to demonstrate the power of couple assessment was done by Worthington and colleagues (1995) who studied the effect of couple assessment with and without feedback. The couple assessment included the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, the PAIR Inventory and a Commitment scale. The main group received 3 sessions of assessment and feedback and the other group did the assessment without feedback.

The assessment and feedback group improved in couple satisfaction and commitment more than just the couples who took the assessment without feedback. Based on the findings, they concluded that 30% of the total intervention size for relationship education programs was based on the couple assessment. They stated that: “Assessment interviews, questionnaires and feedback may not only help couples understand their relationship better but may also stimulate couples to act to improve their relationship… (and) assessment of the relationship may be an ideal, cost-effective way to stimulate the reflection of partners concerning their relationship” (p.473).

A second study by Larson (2007) and colleagues demonstrated the value of the RELATE couple assessment and the additional benefits when a therapist gave feedback. This study involved three groups: assessment and feedback from a therapist, assessment and self-directed feedback and a control group. The control showed no significant change (mean difference of .61) and the self-directed feedback (mean difference was 5.8) groups had significant change across a variety of outcome scales.

The third study by Knutson and Olson (2003) used the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventory. This study also clearly demonstrated that just taking the couple assessment without feedback accounted for 30% of the improvement on the outcome measures. This study had three groups. Two groups took PREPARE/ENRICH, one received four feedback sessions and the other group simply took the inventory and there was a control group. On the marital satisfaction scale, both PREPARE/ENRICH groups improved significantly, while there was no significant change in the control group. Of the 13 outcome scales, the PREPARE/ENRICH group with feedback changed on 10 scales (77%) and the no feedback group changed on 4 scales (30%).

In summary, these three studies all found that taking a comprehensive couple assessment accounted for 30% of the improvement in the couples scores. Adding a couple assessment can increase the impact of any marriage or family education program.

For more tips and reminders, tune in next week… Read about the 10 ways Couple Assessment can improve your relationship education program.

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References: Knutson, L. & Olson, D. H. (2003) Effectiveness of PREPARE Program with premarital couples in community settings. Marriage & Family Journal, 6, (4), 529-546.

Larson, J.H, Vatter, R.S., Galbraith, R.C., Holman, T.B. & Stahmann, R.F. (2007). The relationship evaluation (RELATE) with therapist-assisted interpretation: Short-term effecets on premarital relationships, Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 33, (4), 364-374.

Worthington, E.L., McCullough, M.E., Shortz, J.L., Mindes, E.J., Sandage, S.J. & Chartrand, J.M. (1995) Can couple assessment and feedback improve relationships? Assessment as a brief relationship enrichment procedure. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 42, (4), 466-475.

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