Not just looking for love… sharp rise in people going online for relationship support

21 May 2014

The internet has increasingly become a popular place to meet your match.

There’s now a dating website for almost every niche and to suit all tastes, but love isn’t all people are looking for on the internet, as increasing numbers of people are browsing for relationship support online.[i]

Research also shows that online relationship support can be an effective starting point for situations that require longer-term face-to-face help.[ii] The range of different services available is becoming broader and is expected to grow in future, relationship experts say.

Since 2008, relationship research charity OnePlusOne has been leading the way with its online relationship support services for couples, young people, and separated parents, which have been used by 1.8million users.

Rather than simply offering information, OnePlusOne’s services aim to help individuals and couples help themselves tackle relationship issues early on before they reach crisis point.

They offer three levels of support for users: check it out – articles, research and information, talk it out – more personalised support, such as forums for discussion and work it out – intensive support including workshops and courses.

Since its launch in January, the charity’s Splitting Up? Put Kids First service has had more than 1,200 users sign up. It’s is designed to help separating couples create a bespoke parenting plan so they can co-parent and agree on childcare arrangements.

The service was this month shortlisted in theDigital Leaders 100 run by Digital Default News. The awards recognise the top 100 individuals, organisations, and products making a real difference in the world of citizen-facing eServices.

In its first year (2008), the charity’s TheCoupleConnection service had 170,158 unique users, which trebled to 500,062 users in 2013.

TheParentConnection launched in 2012 had 43,849 unique users in its first year and 77,286 at the end of last year.

The Listening Room is a daily free live chat service offering one-to-one support to anyone needing somewhere to offload concerns they might have about their relationship. It’s completely anonymous and available 365 days a year.

Sometimes the biggest concern people have is that they feel they’re not being heard. According a British Social Attitudes Survey, 43% of adults said they wouldn’t want anyone to know if they’d seen a counsellor.
Some of the reasons people are opting to ‘go-it-alone’ and go online is that it’s completely anonymous, which reduces the stigma of having to admit a problem by making an appointment to see a professional and is readily available 24/7.

Relationship breakdown costs the UK tens of billions of pounds every year, yet evidence shows that with the right support early on, couples can prevent their relationship from falling apart.

Dr Mariya Stoilova, senior researcher at OnePlusOne said: “the internet has changed the way we live our lives and the way we do relationships. While online dating is not a novelty, seeking relationship support online is a much newer trend, which adds new and important elements to the existing terrain of relationship interventions.

“There is an overwhelming wealth of relationship information available online and getting advice from a reliable source is important. We have been working to fill in this gap for many years and to provide evidence-based and effective interventions that can help people ‘do’ relationships better. Following the growing interest in online support, we have expanded the breadth of what we offer online.”

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For more information contact Nadia Gilani at OnePlusOne on 020 7553 9538 or email nadia.gilani@oneplusone.org.uk

About OnePlusOne

  • OnePlusOne is an evidence-based charity that has been researching what makes couple relationships work or fall apart for more than 40 years.
  • The charity creates services based on the latest evidence to help people to resolve relationship difficulties themselves.
  • It also provides online training for frontline family workers to equip them with the skills to offer timely relationship support in a face-to-face setting.
  • For more information, go to www.oneplusone.org.uk

[i] Translation of Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy to a Web-based Intervention, Doss, 2013 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/famp.12020/abstract

[ii] The Implementation of Computerized Cognitive Behavioural Therapies in a Service User-Led, Third Sector Self Help Clinic, Cambridge University Press, Cavanagh 2011 http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8296043

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