The Gottman Method Couples Counseling is one of the most popular approaches used by therapists today. It’s unique because it’s based entirely on research from Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julies Schwartz Gottman’s own studies of married couples. By studying more than 3,000 couples, Dr. Gottman was able to distinguish certain behaviors in couples who have successful marriages and those who end up divorced or separated.
Using this method in therapy provides a clear framework for couples to improve understanding and intimacy, self-awareness, empathy, and connectedness, which leads to relationship success. It employs evidence-based interventions based on the Sound Relationship House Theory. This theory deals with couple conflict and resolution as well as the day to day interactions the partners.
Important aspects of this theory also include 7 key concepts that promote relationship success:
1. Building love maps – knowing the intricacies of your partners inner workings and worldview
2. Sharing fondness and admiration – thinking about each other in fond and admiring ways as opposed to negatively and critically
3. Turning toward – partners are responsive to one another’s bids in positive ways
4. The positive perspective – couples in healthy relationship have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions
5. Managing conflict – six skills which are imperative to constructive conflict management
6. Making life dreams come true – supporting and understanding one another’s life dreams
7. Creating shared meaning – Building upon knowledge and understanding of your partner to create a legacy
What does this process look like for couples?
Couples who pursue Gottman Method Couples Therapy will begin with a thorough assessment. This aids the therapist and the couple in creating the therapeutic framework, treatment plan and interventions that are necessary to their relationship success.
The assessment is a three-session process. A joint session is followed by the second session, which includes individual interviews with each partner. Couples also complete questionnaires, known as the Relationship Checkup. They will receive feedback in their third session to aid in development of their individualized plan for treatment.
Both the couples and therapist will decide upon the frequency and duration of sessions. All sessions are typically 90 minutes long. It’s been found that that more frequent sessions to start is ideal. These sessions phase out over time. Maintenance sessions are beneficial to a decreased relapse rate. In some cases, couples have engaged in marathon sessions to work more quickly thorough tough issues.
The interventions utilized with Gottman Method Couples Therapy are very intentional. The goal is to aid a couple in moving through the Sound Relationship House theory, fostering an environment of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship. The couple learns how to build upon their friendship and intimacy, manage conflict effectively, replace negative interactions with positive interactions and to repair past hurts.
Who can benefit from Gottman Method Couples Therapy?
Couples often wait an average of six years from the time they identify problems in their relationship until they seek help. Often times, couples have specifically focused on conflict management and communication to try to repair their relationships. However, studies have found that, although important, these methods are not the cure all to relationship woes.
More important are learning how to build friendship and admiration, achieve a greater understanding of one another, promote a positive perspective within the relationship and create shared meaning.
Dr. Gottman found that 69% of marital conflicts are perpetual and not solvable problems. To tackle such issues, it is important that the couple learn how to navigate such situations with an understanding of the other partner’s perspective.
Dr. John Gottman has been able to predict divorce with a 91% accuracy rate due to decades of research. In all relationships, conflict is present and unavoidable, even in the most successful relationships.
Research has shown that it is not the conflict itself that matters as much as the way it is managed by the couple. Gottman has found that what he calls the Four Horseman are often predictors of relationship demise. However, with the right antidotes and interventions, couples can learn how to repair and manage their conflict while promoting healthy relationship skills and building intimacy.
If you are struggling within your relationship, be it frequent conflict or arguments, feeling emotionally distant, infidelity, sexual difficulties, financial, or parenting issues, Gottman Method Couples Therapy can be an essential tool in helping you resolve and manage these difficulties.
According to Gottman, this method can be beneficial to even those who display “normal” levels of conflict.
Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Crown.
The Gottman Institute. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.gottman.com