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Social Worker Creates Popular Relationship App

Marigrace Randazzo-Ratliff. Photo by Stephen McGee courtesy of the New York Times.

Marigrace Randazzo-Ratliff. Photo by Stephen McGee courtesy of the New York Times.

This may sound odd but social worker Marigrace Randazzo-Ratliff got on the road to launching her popular relationship smartphone app Couple Counseling & Chatting from a dream.

Randazzo-Ratliff, a Plymouth, Mich. social worker who has been in private practice for almost 25 years, was considering writing a book to help couples improve relationships.

Then she  had a dream where a woman from India told her to she needed to do a “book for the future.” Randazzo-Ratliff mentioned this to a girlfriend, who suggested she contact a software developer and turn her relationship advice book into a smartphone app.

The rest is history. Randazzo-Ratliff’s Couple Counseling & Chatting app, which has been featured in the New York Times, got 20,000 downloads in the first month after it launched on Feb. 13 on the Android and Apple platforms.

“It’s nuts,” said Randazzo-Ratliff, MSW, LMSW, who is amazed by how popular her app has become. “The average app gets 50 to 250 downloads a week.”

Randazzo-Ratliff’s app lets individuals and couples get relationship advice, right on their iPhone, Galaxy Notes or other smartphone.

Users of the free app first enter details about themselves — are they male, female, gay or straight — and what is their personality type. For instance, some people have more passive personalities while others may be physical, verbal or intellectually aggressive, she said.

“It’s a way for users to get to know themselves,” Randazzo-Ratliff explained. “How do I cope with anxiety? What do I do when I am in a conflict or angry?”

Then the app takes users through a situational evaluation where they are asked what is causing stress in their relationship. For example, do you have  pressure-cooker job, or is it the kids or the anniversary of the death of a loved one that are troubling you?

The app offers users reading assignments and exercises to help them overcome relationship stumbling blocks. Suggestions could include sending a caring message directly to a loved one you had an argument with or doing some tasks your partner asks you to do.

“The app gives you assignments such as you have to finish two of your partner’s assignments because passive aggressive people don’t always finisih what they promise to do,” Randazzo-Ratliff said.

Users who want personal feedback can send messages directly to Randazzo-Ratliff, who says she has fielded messages from individuals and couples from all over the world, including the Philippines, France, Italy and Jamaica.

A screenshot of social worker Marigrace Randazzo-Ratliff's app, Couple Counseling & Chatting."

A screenshot of social worker Marigrace Randazzo-Ratliff’s app, Couple Counseling & Chatting.”

“I told my husband (Dustin Ratliff) I have turned into an international Dear Abby,” she quipped.

Randazzo-Ratliff says 70 percent of her app users are men. Contrary to popular belief  men can be more emotionally sensitive than women, she said. And many men, especially those in some foreign countries, have a harder time getting relationship advice.

“I have men from India. I have men from Africa and I have women from all over the world,” Randazzo-Ratliff. “The men in these countries have struggled with their issues with women. They want to find out why my wife doesn’t talk to me or why doesn’t my wife have sex with me.”

“They want to learn what to say to get emotionally connected to their wives,” she said.

Randazzo-Ratliff’s app is now free but it has become so popular she could soon earn money from it by putting advertisements on the app, charging for some of the information she provides, or having other therapists pay a monthly fee to send messages directly to their clients through her app.

Randazzo-Ratliff, who is a National Association of Social Workers member, says other social workers should consider using apps to reach out to clients and the public.

“I think if you have had real experience you just have to articulate what you know into concrete tools,” she said. “You have to give real tools so (clients) can move through whatever paralysis, frustration or stress they are experiencing.”

Social workers help clients improve relationships with others. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Relationships website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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