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Montefiore in the News

June 25, 2010

Program Teaches Couples Skills Needed for Healthy, Long-lasting Marriage 

(Bronx, NY -- June 25, 2010) -- Supporting Healthy Marriage, a program offered by University Behavioral Associates, (UBA) the behavioral health subsidiary of the Montefiore Medical Center, is leading the nation in recruitment for a study on the impact of marriage education among low-income couples. UBA recruited over 1000 couples in two years for a federally funded study run by the economic think tank, MDRC (Manpower Development Research Corporation.)

"Due to the high rates of economic stress and unemployment in the Bronx, this borough is a particularly good place to offer marriage education services. The volume of couples seeking services is an indication of the eagerness of low income couples to focus on stabilizing their marriages." said Scott Wetzler, PhD, Executive Director of the program. "Even though the vast majority of children in the Bronx are raised by single mothers, we've found that Bronx couples are eager to work on stabilizing their marriages, more than in other areas of the country," Dr Wetzler said.

There were more couples recruited in the Bronx than in any other locale in the nation, including the other 125 programs that received federal funding. "There's a false belief that people in poor urban communities are against marriage. But we haven't found that. Research demonstrates that people in poor areas like the Bronx value marriage as much or more than in other communities," according to Dr Wetzler.

Although marriage is an important goal for many Bronx couples, Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) is the only NYC program offering couples the chance to learn relationship skills necessary for healthy, long-lasting marriages. At SHM, couples receive 3 months of weekly marriage education workshops, and then are followed by researchers for five years to determine whether the newly learned relationship skills withstand the test of time. These workshops are geared to developing and strengthening communication skills. "Research has shown that the strength of our marriage has a positive impact on our health, happiness, and financial security," says psychologist Wetzler, "But even more important, it has a beneficial impact on our children's academic and behavioral success as well." To ensure couples make the most of the program, funding from MDRC and the Department of Health and Human Services enable SHM to provide child care and transportation reimbursement as well as comprehensive family support services.

The SHM program at Montefiore is a wellness program where couples focus on their relationship fitness much like people focus on physical fitness when they go to the gym to work out on a regular basis. Couples entering the program often feel hopeless and skeptical about their odds of improving their marriage. Couples completing the program leave with renewed hope and confidence in their ability to communicate effectively with one another. The impact of the program filters down to the couples' children which enriches the whole family. "Supporting Healthy Marriage is really a child-focused program," says Samantha Litzinger, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the program. "Because studies show that children raised by happy parents tend to do better in life, our goal is to help parents develop more fulfilling relationships-and lives-which will trickle down to their children."

The SHM program is actively enrolling eligible couples, with recent addition of groups for Spanish-speaking couples. Spaces in the groups are limited. To reserve a spot at the next group, call Elizabeth Guilamo, Supporting Healthy Marriage Recruiter, at (347) 920-0281.