Marital and family instability is an often-overlooked issue in our society, relegated to the realm of personal issues that one doesn’t discuss. Therefore, accessible relationship assistance is lacking in most communities. According to Kristina Gordon, professor of psychology, couples typically go to clergy for counseling, but the majority of clergy are not trained in delivering effective, science-based relationship interventions.
The Knoxville Marriage Initiative (KMI) grew out of a pilot program called Relationship Rx that Gordon and her students completed in 2016. KMI is an innovative collaboration between the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, local churches, and community agencies that trains clergy and community volunteers to provide empirically-supported relationship education in churches and in community organizations. The program accomplishes this through partnerships with local agencies and nonprofits and experts in marriage education, divorce prevention and marriage restoration at the University of Denver. Everyone in Knoxville and surrounding counties is eligible to participate.
Since KMI’s creation, approximately 400 couples have enrolled in relationship education programs. The majority of these were involved in Relationship Rx. Single people are also encouraged to participate in the program to learn how to grow healthy relationships.
To date, sixteen churches have been trained. Four more will be trained this spring. Community partners include Compassion Coalition, Restoration House, Helen Ross McNabb, and Emerald Youth Foundation. Gordon plans to develop partnerships with a total of 100 churches and community agencies over the next ten years.