couple on couch

Maintaining a strong relationship with your spouse or romantic partner can be a challenge. And when you need help, getting trustworthy, effective relationship support can be just as challenging. Relationship education can help you build the life you deserve. 

The Illinois Strong Couples project – a collaborative effort between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Illinois Extension – is designed to provide you with free, proven online help for your relationship.

Whether you want to build greater intimacy and connection, communicate more effectively with your partner, or protect your marriage from divorce, our online program is here for you. Illinois couples who are married, engaged, or have been living together for at least six months can qualify to enroll.

About the program

  • Self-paced
  • Six-session, online program
  • Uses the scientifically-proven ePREP platform
  • Includes support from trained program coaches
  • Free to qualifying Illinois couples

Answers to your questions.

Q: Is this therapy?

A: No, this is not therapy. This program is an online relationship education program that is backed by decades of research. In couples therapy, couples work with a therapist to create an individualized treatment plan, and therapists sometimes ask deep questions. In our education program, all couples receive the same online program and the same series of coach calls that help to guide and encourage you along the way. Coach calls help you practice skills and remind you of what you learned online; coach calls are not therapy calls.

Q: Can you tell me more about the program?

A: Participation in ePREP involves watching 6 online sessions, or modules, with your partner. Each session takes 45-60 minutes to complete. Sessions address research-proven techniques, strategies, and principles to help strengthen your relationship. Program topics include communication, commitment, problem-solving, and fun and friendship.

Most couples complete one session a week.

All couples are assigned a trained coach and receive personalized coaching through a series of brief video calls that occur as couples go through the ePREP program. There are a total of 5 coach calls; calls generally last 20-30 minutes.

For more information about research supporting this project, please click here.

Q: What if my partner is not interested?

A: Participation in the project requires both partners. If you partner is hesitant or reluctant, here are some ideas:

  • Remember that everything can be done in the comfort of your own home at a time the works for the two of you.
  • The time commitment is very minimal – about one hour a week for six weeks to watch the online sessions as well as a few brief video calls with a program coach.
  • This isn’t about trying to change one person, but about helping the two of you be a team and build a stronger relationship together.
  • Participating in the Illinois Strong Couples Project is a good opportunity to get free access to the online program as well as free access to a trained coach – every year, couples spend money to get these resources. If you are unsure, you could always try this project and see what you think. Participation is voluntary – remember that you can stop at any time.
  • If talking about this could be a problem, feel free to write your partner a letter or send them a link to this website so they can learn more about it.

Q: How do we get access to the program?

A: After you and your partner complete your consent form and baseline survey, you will be assigned a program coach who will contact you to schedule your first coach call. After this first coach call (which provides you both a bit more information about the program and a chance to ask any more questions), your coach will email you a personalized, private link to access the program.

Q: We don’t fight a lot…is this program still relevant? (or) We do fight a lot…will this program be able to help us?

A: This program covers a variety of fundamental principles and skills for building – and maintaining – a safe, healthy, and stable relationship. Couples of all types (and argument styles) have been found to benefit from going through this program.

Q: Is it really free?

A: Yes! As part of a research and outreach project supported by the University of Illinois and University of Illinois Extension, we are able to provide this program for free. In addition, as part of a research project evaluating the project by researchers at the University of Illinois, the first 200 couples who complete the program and accompanying three surveys can together earn $150.

 

We realize that getting started can sometimes be the hardest part. Once couples start the program (even if one partner is a little more reluctant), we find nearly every couple completes it after seeing the benefits that the program has for their relationship!

Learn More From Our Extension Experts

Research

Couple relationships affecting adult and child outcomes. Decades of research highlight the ways in which couple relationships can affect many areas of our lives – including our mental and physical health – as well as the well-being of any children in the home.

  • Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. T. (2002). Effects of marital conflict on children: Recent advances and emerging themes in process‐oriented research. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry43(1), 31-63. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00003
  • Goldberg, J. S., & Carlson, M. J. (2014). Parents’ relationship quality and children’s behavior in stable married and cohabiting families. Journal of Marriage and Family76(4), 762-777. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12120
  • Robles, T. F., Slatcher, R. B., Trombello, J. M., & McGinn, M. M. (2014). Marital quality and health: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin140(1), 140–187. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031859