Relationship need a tuneup? A UO clinic has a lot of love to share

Couple with cut-out hearts

If your New Year’s resolutions include improving your life’s relationships, help is on the way.

The University of Oregon’s Couples and Family Therapy program is expanding its free and popular Relationship Check-in from its once-a-year occurrence around Valentine’s Day to once a month starting Friday, Jan. 12, at the HEDCO clinic on the UO

Demand has fueled the expansion of the Relationship Check-in, said Tiffany Brown, the program’s clinical director, as well as the need to increase availability for its important service to the community.

“It gives people in relationships of all kinds the opportunity to check out counseling commitment free and to window shop for continued services,” she said.

Open to the public, the Relationship Check-in is for couples, friends, roommates, families or anyone in any kind of relationship. Participants are seen by advanced, master’s-level students in the Couples and Family Therapy program, part of the College of Education.

Following the initial visit, they can opt to see the clinicians on a fee basis through the program’s clinic, which for years has satisfied a community need for services that are inexpensive and relationship-focused. During the 2016–17 school year, the clinic logged nearly 3,000 hours of client visits.

The Relationship Check-In gives participants a designated time, like a date or as part of a night out, to celebrate the joys of their relationship and recognize its strengths. It also provides a venue for couples to explore issues away from the heat of a crisis or troubled time.

“It’s easier to listen and empathize when we’re not in an escalated place,” Brown said. “It gives couples a booster shot and sometimes that’s all they need.”

Many of the techniques offered in the sessions are strengths-based, such as the “Magic Ratio,” one of Brown’s go-to favorites. Developed by famed couples therapist John Gottman, the ratio says for every negative interaction in a conflict, offer five that are positive.

“Create positive moments for each other,” Brown said. “They can be little things but can amplify good feelings and shift focus from criticism or anger. It creates more capacity for understanding.”

Following the January kickoff, the monthly check-ins are held the first Friday of each month through June. Sessions take place from 2 to 7 p.m. on the hour, and appointments are required.

The clinic asks participants to ask specifically for a Relationship Check-in session so that it can be noted as free and for the student clinicians to prepare. For an appointment or more information, call 541-346-0923.

—By George Evano, University Communications