Do you have that one friend who you text into the wee hours of the morning every time that you and bae hit a rough patch? You can give that friend a break, because thanks to a new app, you can now text professional relationship experts for advice on the spot. Relationup is a new app that provides 24-hour, on-demand access to relationship advisors who can answer your most pressing questions and guide your relationship in the healthiest direction.
Relationup was founded by Rhonda Milrad, a Beverly Hills-based social worker who has spent the last 20 years of her career as a leading couple's therapist. Milrad developed the app's format, in which users can have text conversations with a specifically-selected advisor in 15-minute modules for $12, after sharing her personal phone number with clients and witnessing how greatly it benefited them. Milrad found that creating a fast, accessible, and affordable means of communication allowed her clients to discuss urgent issues that didn't require an expensive, lengthy therapy session, but did need immediate attention.
Users can sign up by name or anonymously (should that make them more comfortable) and their first conversation is also free. Additionally, the user has the ability to change advisors or extend the length of the conversation.
Relationup is so effective because it acts almost as a baby step to traditional therapy. Seeking therapy is often stigmatized; the healthy, positive action is sometimes viewed as an embarrassing sign of failure. Milrad spoke to Bustle about this misconception and about Relationup in general.
1. It Provides Support In Urgent Situations
Relationup is designed to provide assistance for what Milrad describes as urgent situations. However, as has been discovered since first releasing the app, "urgent situations" run the spectrum. When Milrad first began receiving texts from her own clients, the messages would range from wanting to know what to do after a date or whether or not to text someone they haven't heard from, to the problems that plague more established partnerships (lack of communication, uncertainty of how to end the relationship). Advisors on Relationup are equipped to deal with all of these kinds of issues, which allows the user to decide what is urgent and appropriate for a text conversation and what isn't.
2. It Matches You With An Appropriate Advisor
One of the most comforting aspects of Relationup is the fact that you can learn about your advisors before you decide whether or not you want to speak with them. This helps remove the cold, clinical quality of some therapist-patient relationships. All advisors go through an intensive vetting process in order to determine their specialties and experience working with different ages, genders, and orientations, and all have acquired a Master's Degree or higher in their field. There is a matching process that connects the user to the advisor with the most relevant background for the specific conflict at hand. When signing up, the user has to fill out a brief questionnaire identifying five pieces of information: age, gender, orientation, who they need to talk about, and what the problem is about. In order to answer that last question, the user checks off categories such as commitment, compatibility, communication, sex life, infidelity, etc.
When you get matched with a specific advisor, you are able to see a profile complete with pictures and some biographical information. Milrad says, "We have deviated from traditional psychotherapy, where you walk into a room, sit down, and know nothing about the person sitting in front of you. With the app, you can say, 'I really like that this person is a mother' or 'I really like their credentials.' And if it doesn't feel right for you, then you can choose another advisor." The goal, Milrad says, is for the power of choice to be in the user's hands. Additionally, during app testing, users really liked their ability to change from advisor to advisor to figure out which perspectives work best for them.
3. You Can Connect With An Advisor At Any Time
Another relief is that you will immediately connect with one of their 150 advisors at any time (and there will soon be even more advisors, due to the app's growth). Milrad tells Bustle, "The goal is 24/7 access," which will be achieved thanks to advisors working from different time zones. And, just as you will be able to see information about your advisor right off the bat, your advisor will also be able to see the information from your questionnaire, which "allows connection and familiarity right that second."
4. It Makes Help Accessible
The high cost of therapy is one of the most common reasons for why people avoid seeking help. Prices for an hour-long session can be as expensive as $100 - $250 (Compare that to Relationup's $12 conversations). Milrad originally began offering her phone number to clients in an effort to combat economic obstacles that prevented them from seeing her as often as would benefit them. The Relationup model grew from these interactions, and deviates from the typical structure of therapy in order to make counseling more accessible. Milrad says, "I really wanted to take away the formalities and barriers that stop people from getting help. You don't have to have this long-term relationship with one person every week. This is so much less expensive than regular therapy and provides instantaneous help. In my practice, I was really interested in doing that too," which is why she began sharing her phone number in the first place.
Relationup can also act as a therapeutic support system for people who have moved on from weekly or monthly sessions with a long-term doctor. As Milrad explains, the goal of therapy should be to eventually move on from treatment. However, that doesn't mean you won't still need a quick piece of advice every now and then. Dialogue and guidance is always required for human beings, no matter their stage in life. Texting with an advisor on Relationup allows for that type of communication without having to continue paying expensive therapy bills. Milrad says, "People's economic situations change, their work situations change— they can't spend three hours a week in therapy anymore. That, or people get better, and then they're out in the real world and need some guidance. This service really allows them to have an opportunity for an instantaneous, on-demand experience from someone who is really there for them."
5. It Is Honest About Its Capabilities
Relationup doesn't trick its users either; it lets you know right away that this isn't therapy in the true sense of the word, but can be utilized as a therapeutic form of relationship coaching in lieu of traditional therapy. Says Milrad, "Therapy is a whole different animal. It's this whole in-depth process and is really wonderful for people who can take advantage of that. Relationup is a here and now on-demand experience with a well-vetted professional. It's for those moments when you need a little help."
6. It Normalizes The Idea That Relationships Take Work
"The misunderstanding about relationships – from dating to ending them – is that you're not going to need help along the way," Milrad says. "But a healthy relationship is one that is going to have bumps along the way. A healthy relationship is one in which a couple can deal with those bumps. Getting help to have perspective, insight, and thoughtfulness about your behavior can only make the relationship better. What we are trying to do with this app, by yanking it out of the therapy world, is to say to people that it's normal to get help, not shameful. People wait too long to get help, and when people finally come in for therapy, there is a big problem to dig out of. Some of them have the time and effort to go through the process of therapy, and some of them don't. We want Relationup to not only normalize the idea that we have bumps along the way, but allow people to have a place to get help."
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