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Honey, we need to talk

We accept that even the most loved-up valentines have the odd lovers' tiff, but how many arguments are too many?

Matthew Swainsbury, a PhD researcher in QUT's School of Psychology and Counselling, is looking for couples to take part in a free "pre-intervention" therapy session in a bid to get Australians talking about relationship counselling.

The Relationship Health Check Project is a one-off session for couples where one or both people in the relationship feel they have hit a rough patch, but haven't necessarily thought about the possibility of therapy.

"We know that many couples don't seek out therapy when they probably should because they're scared of what it's going to involve, or one or both partners don't think their problems are serious enough to warrant visiting a therapist," Mr Swainsbury said.

"In fact, despite couples therapy's demonstrated effectiveness only one in four couples who eventually went on to divorce had sought this form of help."

Mr Swainsbury said nearly 60 per cent of couples who began therapy failed to finish the course of counselling, something he believes may have to do with psychologists relying too heavily on the assumption that both participants feel the relationship is in trouble.

The other assumption is that the couple believe therapy will fix the problem.

"Often with therapy we are dealing with a person who has admitted there is a problem but that dynamic can be vastly different with couples," he said.

"This project is all about meeting each person on their level instead of assuming they are at that ready-to-change stage.

"By having the couples openly discussing their difficulties and also measuring their level of relationship distress with a questionnaire early on means we can say to them 'your score indicates severe relationship distress. How does that sound to you?' some people will know they were in trouble while others say 'I had no idea we were in such dire straits'."

"We're looking at this as an almost 'pre-intervention' - just a one-off session to get people thinking about whether therapy could help them," he said.

"Australians - particularly men - sometimes have the attitude that we don't talk about our problems and by the time they do it's often too late. The horse has bolted and the relationship is beyond repair.

"This is just a way of helping to get things off to the best possible start."

The one-off free sessions are being held at QUT Health Clinics at 44 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove. For more information contact Matthew Swainsbury on 07 3138 0999 or m.swainsbury@connect.qut.edu.au.

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Media contact: Alita Pashley, QUT media officer, (07) 3138 1841 or alita.pashley@qut.edu.au

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