- Gottman Method
- Gottman Method Couples Therapy
- Goals and Principles of the Gottman Method
- Find a Therapist
- Who Can Benefit from the Gottman Method?
- The Gottman Institute
- What Is the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy?
- What is the Gottman Method of couples therapy?
- About the Gottman Institute
- Goals & core principles of Gottman interventions
- How Gottman Therapy works
- Who can benefit from Gottman therapy?
- Relationship issues appropriate for Gottman therapy
- The Gottman Method — About | The Gottman Institute
- Gottman Method Couples Therapy
- Gottman Method | Therapy Types
- What can the Gottman Method help with?
- Does the Gottman Method work?
- How does the Gottman Method work?
- Length and frequency of Gottman Method sessions
- Structure of Gottman Method sessions
- What happens in a typical Gottman Method session?
- What to look for in a therapist for the Gottman Method
- Find therapists specializing in Gottman Method
The Gottman Method is an approach to couples therapy that includes an assessment of the relationshp and integrates research-based interventions the Sound Relationship House theory.
Gottman Method Couples Therapy
The Gottman Method was developed by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman in the 1980s.
It is an evidence-based form of couples therapy that strives to assist couples in achieving a deeper sense of understanding, awareness, empathy, and connectedness within their relationships that ultimately leads to heightened intimacy and interpersonal growth.
By combining therapeutic interventions with couples exercises, this type of therapy helps couples identify and address the natural defenses that hinder effective communication and bonding.
Couples who enter into the Gottman Method Couples Therapy begin with an assessment process that then informs the therapeutic framework and intervention. An initial session might look this:
- Assessment: A joint session is followed by individual interviews with each partner. Couples complete questionnaires and then receive feedback on their relationship.
- Therapeutic Framework: The couple and therapist decide on the frequency and duration of the sessions.
- Therapeutic Interventions: Interventions are designed to help couples strengthen their relationships in three primary areas: friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning. Couples learn to replace negative conflict patterns with positive interactions and to repair past hurts. Interventions designed to increase closeness and intimacy are used to improve friendship, deepen emotional connection, and create changes which enhances the couples shared goals. Relapse prevention is also addressed.
Goals and Principles of the Gottman Method
The goals of Gottman Method Couples Therapy are to disarm conflicting verbal communication, increase intimacy, respect, and affection, remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy in conflicting situations, and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship.
Drs. John and Julie Gottman developed nine components of healthy relationships, known as the Sound Relationship House theory. These include:
- Building love maps
- Sharing fondness and admiration
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- Turning towards (as opposed to turning away from each other)
- The positive perspective (seeing your partner as a friend, not an adversary)
- Managing conflict
- Making life dreams come true
- Creating shared meaning
Who Can Benefit from the Gottman Method?
In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, co-authored with Nan Silver, John Gottman wrote, “Although you may feel your situation is unique, we have found that all marital conflicts fall into two categories: Either they can be resolved, or they are perpetual, which means they will be part of your lives forever, in some form or another.” Gottman says that 69% of marital conflicts are perpetual problems, and these are of particular focus in much of the work performed by Gottman-trained therapists.
The Gottman Method is designed to support couples across all economic, racial, sexual orientation, and cultural sectors. Research has shown Gottman Method Couples Therapy to be effective for treating same-sex relationships. Some of the relationship issues that may be addressed in therapy include:
According to The Gottman Institute, couples with «normal» levels of conflict may benefit from Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Gottman-trained therapists aim to help couples build stronger relationships overall and healthier ways to cope with issues as they arise in the future.
The Gottman Institute
The Gottman Institute's mission is to improve people's lives through products and programs that educate, inspire and heal. The Gottman Institute offers training in research-based assessment techniques and intervention strategies for mental health professionals.
To practice the Gottman Method, therapists can complete a certification program which designates them as a Certified Gottman Therapist. Speciality trainings for treating addiction, trauma, and affairs are also offered.
- Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work (p. 7). New York: Crown.
- Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2012). What makes love last: How to build trust and avoid betrayal. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- Herrin, T.C (2009). The Analysis of an Integrated Model of Therapy Using Structural and Gottman Method Approaches: A Case Study. All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 368. http://digital commons.usu.edu/etd/368
- The Gottman Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.gottman.com
What Is the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy?
Couples therapy is a generic term that refers to counseling techniques used to help people in committed relationships resolve conflict, improve communication, and enhance the functioning of the relationship.
One specific form of couples therapy that is particularly popular is the Gottman method, which can help people to improve the health of their marriage or romantic partnership.
Read on to learn about the Gottman approach, including its goals and core principles, as well as what you can expect from the assessment and treatment process with Gottman counselors.
What is the Gottman Method of couples therapy?
The Gottman Method of couples therapy was developed by Dr. John Gottman, who spent 40 years researching his methods with couples to determine the most effective ways to help couples improve their relationships.
The Gottman Method of couples counseling begins with a thorough assessment of the health of a relationship and then proceeds to offer evidence-based strategies to help couples address the issues in the relationship.
While a Gottman therapist and a couple will decide together how often the couple will meet and how long sessions will last, Gottman therapy follows the same set of principles, including a basic assessment process and the use of specific therapeutic interventions.
About the Gottman Institute
The Gottman method couples therapy is backed by the Gottman Institute, which Dr. John Gottman and his wife Dr. Julie Gottman founded together. The couple has conducted extensive research on every aspect of relationships, and developed a couples therapy approach that can not only correct relationship problems but also strengthen relationships that are already happy.
The Gottman Institute provides workshops and do-it-yourself training materials to couples, in addition to offering Gottman method training to couples counselors.
Goals & core principles of Gottman interventions
The primary goal of the Gottman Method is to support all couples, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, cultural background, and sexual orientation. Specifically, couple counseling techniques that follow Gottman psychology have the following goals:
- Help couples to create greater empathy and understanding for each other
- Increase levels of intimacy, respect, and affection in the relationship
- Address verbal conflict within relationships
- Improve feelings of stagnancy within the relationship
How Gottman Therapy works
Gottman Therapy works by following the process outlined by the creators of this counseling philosophy.
A couple’s time with a Gottman therapist begins with a thorough assessment of the functioning of the relationship and then proceeds with Gottman interventions that are aligned to the couple’s strengths and challenges.
A Gottman assessment involves both joint and individual interviews between the couple/each individual and the Gottman therapist.
The couple will also complete a variety of assessments that evaluate the health of the relationship, including areas of strength, as well as challenging areas for the couple. The results of the assessment process are utilized to create interventions that strengthen the health of the relationship.
A common tool that Gottman counselors use is the “Gottman Relationship Checkup” which is an online assessment tool that scores a couples relationship in various areas, including friendship, intimacy, emotions, conflict, values, and trust.
Each partner completes the assessment on their own, and a report is generated, which includes recommendations and a summary of areas of strengths and weaknesses in the relationship.
While this assessment tool contains the same list of questions for each couple, it provides treatment recommendations specific to a couple’s unique needs, so treatment is individualized.
The John Gottman theory utilizes a specific therapeutic framework but considers each couple’s unique needs and preferences when determining the number of therapy sessions to be completed, as well as how long each session will last.
The Gottman approach utilizes a framework that includes what is called a “Sound Relationship House.”
The components below make up Gottman’s “Sound Relationship House:”
- Building love maps: This requires partners to become familiar with each other’s life history, stresses, worries, high points, and dreams. Essentially, building a love map involves each member of the relationship acquainting themselves with the other’s psychological world.
- Sharing fondness and admiration: To achieve this, partners must express affection and respect for each other instead of approaching each other with contempt.
- Turning toward each other: When relationships hit rough patches, partners might avoid communicating with each other or ignore each other’s attempts to connect. Turning toward each other requires a conscious effort to share feelings and respond positively to each other’s attempts to connect or share affection.
- Adopting a positive perspective: Instead of viewing each other negatively, the Gottman method encourages partners to use repair attempts during conflict and utilize positive problem-solving techniques.
- Managing conflict: This room of the sound relationship house requires couples to recognize that conflict is inevitable and must be managed. It also necessitates an understanding of the fact that some conflict between partners is perpetual, meaning there is no solution to it, and it can never be resolved.
- Making life dreams come true: With this component of the Sound Relationship House, couples work toward becoming comfortable with openly expressing their desires, values, and goals with each other.
- Creating shared meaning: In this top floor of the Sound Relationship House, couples focus on creating shared visions and developing meaningful rituals together, such as unique ways of saying goodbye and reuniting at the end of the workday and enjoyable activities completed together.
Using the therapeutic framework discussed above, Gottman interventions include tools to help partners strengthen their relationships. Learning successful Gottman communication methods is a major component of these interventions. Some examples are as follows:
- Gottman Repair Checklist: This Gottman communication intervention helps couples to identify healthy ways of repairing conflict.
- The Four Horsemen Activity: This involves learning about the Four Horsemen, which include contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Dr. John Gottman has identified these as relationship-destroying conflict styles that should be avoided. Couples in Gottman therapy learn to identify these four conflict styles and replace them with healthier ways of managing conflict.
- Conflict Blueprint Exercises: Gottman counselors may use conflict blueprint exercises to help couples use healthy conflict-resolution behaviors, such as compromising, listening, and validating each other.
- Dreams with Conflict Exercise: This is among the Gottman method worksheets that can help couples to gain a better understanding of each other’s beliefs, dreams, and values on particular topics.
- The Art of Compromise: This Gottman worksheet helps couples to identify areas in which they are able to be flexible, as well as areas that represent “core needs” that they cannot compromise.
The Gottman Repair Checklist is a core component of helping couples to improve their communication during times of conflict. It is based upon the idea that couples benefit from using repair attempts, which are actions that keep negativity under control during conflict. Repair attempts can be broken down into several categories:
- I feel: These are statements that partners use during the conflict, such as expressing that they are fearful or stating that they feel sad or unappreciated.
- Sorry: As the title might suggest, this involves apologizing to a partner during the conflict by directly expressing fault, asking for forgiveness, or admitting to overreacting.
- Get to Yes: This type of repair attempts to look for a compromise and may involve expressing agreement or a desire to find common ground.
- I Need to Calm Down: These repair attempts can involve asking to take a break, asking your partner for a kiss, or expressing feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Stop Action!: Used when an argument is beginning to escalate. Stop Action requires asking your partner to stop the conversation, suggesting that you start over, or agreeing to change the topic.
- I appreciate: When a couple uses these repair strategies, they may admit to their own wrongdoing, thank their partner for something they have said or done, or acknowledge that they understand their partner’s point of view.
Check out this video by Dr. Julie Gottman, who explains ways to convey your complaints in the relationship without hurting your partner:
Gottman recommends that partners master the art of making repair attempts and responding to their partner’s repair attempts to avoid relationship problems.
Gottman interventions during therapy sessions may involve games that help partners to choose repair attempts that they will use when they encounter conflict.
Who can benefit from Gottman therapy?
Remember that Dr. John Gottman developed the Gottman Method to help any couple, regardless of race, income level, cultural background, or sexual orientation, so the Gottman approach can be beneficial for just about any couple.
Fortunately, much research has been conducted on the Gottman method, and a recent study in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy found that the method is highly effective for gay and lesbian couples, who experienced improvements in relationship satisfaction after eleven counseling sessions using the Gottman approach.
What can be concluded from studies this is that Gottman psychology is respectful of diversity and can be effective for a range of relationship types.
While couples counseling is often thought of as being intended for those who are already struggling in their relationship, Gottman does not believe that couples need to be in the midst of chaos to benefit from this method of couple therapy techniques.
That being said, couples who are about to marry and want to start out on the right foot can benefit from Gottman therapy to help them develop the tools for a strong and successful marriage.
Couples who have a seemingly healthy level of conflict can also benefit from Gottman therapy to enhance their conflict management skills and prepare them to manage future issues that arise in the relationship.
Finally, couples who are in the midst of serious relationship conflict or challenges can profit from Gottman therapy, as they can learn healthier ways of managing conflict and gain a better understanding of each other to repair the relationship.
In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychological Research found that when couples underwent a program that utilized Gottman psychology, they enjoyed improvements in love, intimacy, and respect in their relationships, making Gottman couples therapy an effective option for couples who have significant work to do within their relationship.
Relationship issues appropriate for Gottman therapy
The Gottman Institute reports that the Gottman method can address issues those below:
- Ongoing conflicts and arguments
- Unhealthy communication patterns
- Emotional distance between couples
- Relationships that are nearing a separation
- Sexual incompatibility
- Money problems
- Parenting issues
Dr. Gottman also notes that the majority of problems in relationships are “perpetual problems,” and he separates these from solvable problems. Most of the work in Gottman therapy focuses on managing perpetual problems, which are unresolvable problems that couples seem to return to again and again.
These problems arise from differences in values and personalities between couples, and the Gottman method focuses on helping people to manage these differences in healthy ways and build shared meaning together so that perpetual problems do not lead to issues contempt, criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness.
On the other hand, some problems discussed in Gottman therapy may be solvable, meaning they surround a parenting issue or a problem within a couple’s sex life, which can be resolved through problem-solving together.
The Gottman approach helps couples to become better at identifying which problems are solvable and which are simply perpetual problems that won’t ever arrive at a resolution.
By accepting that there are some differences that just can’t be solved, partners can learn to love and respect each other when discussing these differences, which ultimately strengthens the relationship.
The Gottman Method is a specific form of couples counseling that addresses unhealthy conflict management and communication styles and helps couples to improve their intimacy, love, and respect for each other.
It has been found to be effective in the research, and it is useful for many issues that couples encounter, such as sex problems, emotional distance, and differences in values and opinions.
If you are interested in couples counseling, you can find a list of providers who offer online marriage counseling.
The Gottman Method — About | The Gottman Institute
The Gottman Method is an approach to couples therapy that includes a thorough assessment of the couple’s relationship and integrates research-based interventions the Sound Relationship House Theory.
The goals of Gottman Method Couples Therapy are to disarm conflicting verbal communication; increase intimacy, respect, and affection; remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy; and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship.
Learn more about Gottman Method Couples Therapy here. Most of our CE courses and certification in Gottman Method Couples Therapy are also relevant in non-clinical settings for other professionals who work with couples.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for clinical professionals and receive updates on trainings, new courses, professional opportunities, and resources to help you dig deeper into Gottman Method Couples Therapy.
See The Gottman Method in action and learn ways to apply it with your couples in practice with the Art and Science of Love.
Video:Drs. John and Julie Gottman talking about the Gottman Method
Gottman Method Couples Therapy
Couples who enter into Gottman Method Couples Therapy begin with an assessment process that then informs the therapeutic framework and intervention.
A conjoint session, followed by individual interviews with each partner are conducted. Couples complete questionnaires and then receive detailed feedback on their relationship.
Check out the online assessment tool the Gottman Relationship Checkup. Created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, Affective Software, Inc., and The Gottman Institute, this online couples assessment tool automatically scores a relationship’s strengths and challenges and provides specific recommendations for intervention.
The couple and therapist decide on the frequency and duration of the sessions.
Interventions are designed to help couples strengthen their relationships in three primary areas: friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning.
Couples learn to replace negative conflict patterns with positive interactions and to repair past hurts.
Interventions designed to increase closeness and intimacy are used to improve friendship, deepen emotional connection, and create changes which enhances the couples shared goals. Relapse prevention is also addressed.
Buy the poster version here.
Build Love Maps
How well do you know your partner’s inner psychological world, his or her history, worries, stresses, joys, and hopes?
Share Fondness and Admiration
The antidote for contempt, this level focuses on the amount of affection and respect within a relationship. (To strengthen fondness and admiration, express appreciation and respect.)
Turn Towards Instead of Away
State your needs, be aware of bids for connection and respond to (turn towards) them. The small moments of everyday life are actually the building blocks of relationship.
The Positive Perspective
The presence of a positive approach to problem-solving and the success of repair attempts.
We say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve” conflict, because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Understand that there is a critical difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.
Make Life Dreams Come True
Create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her hopes, values, convictions and aspirations.
Create Shared Meaning
Understand important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.
This is the state that occurs when a person knows that his or her partner acts and thinks to maximize that person’s best interests and benefits, not just the partner’s own interests and benefits. In other words, this means, “my partner has my back and is there for me.”
This means believing (and acting on the belief) that your relationship with this person is completely your lifelong journey, for better or for worse (meaning that if it gets worse you will both work to improve it).
It implies cherishing your partner’s positive qualities and nurturing gratitude by comparing the partner favorably with real or imagined others, rather than trashing the partner by magnifying negative qualities, and nurturing resentment by comparing unfavorably with real or imagined others.
Gottman Method | Therapy Types
The Gottman Method is a type of couples therapy that helps partners learn more helpful ways of coping with relationship issues. It was developed by Judy and John Gottman, who have backgrounds in clinical psychology and research. They aimed to create an approach suitable for all couples, irrespective of race, religion, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
The therapeutic goals of the Gottman Method are to:
- Stop conflicting communication
- Increase intimacy, respect, and affection
- Remove barriers
- Improve empathy
Read on for more information to help you decide if the Gottman Method is a good fit for you and your partner.
What can the Gottman Method help with?
The Gottman Method was designed for any couple experiencing relationship issues, such as:
That said, you don’t need to be experiencing relationship strain to benefit from couples therapy. Gottman Method practitioners also encourage the participation of couples with healthy relationships to strengthen their relationship.
Does the Gottman Method work?
There is research supporting the effectiveness of the Gottman Method in improving marital adjustment and intimacy (1) and The Gottman Institute itself has conducted numerous studies supporting its efficacy.
How does the Gottman Method work?
The therapeutic strategies of the Gottman Method aim to strengthen relationships. Therapists focus on the couples’ relationship in three areas:
- Friendship: Increasing closeness and intimacy, and deepen emotional connection.
- Conflict management: The therapist helps couples identify unhelpful patterns of conflict and learn new, more positive ways of interacting. There is a focus on repairing past hurts.
- Creation of shared meaning: Creating change, including changes to friendship and conflict management that enhance the couples’ shared goals.
The interventions used in Gottman Method are The Sound Relationship House Theory, also developed by the Gottmans. According to this theory, a healthy relationship consists of the following components:
- Build love maps: Knowing your partner’s inner world
- Share fondness and admiration: Affection and respect
- Turn towards instead of away: Communicate your needs, connect, and be aware of your partner’s efforts to connect with you
- The positive perspective: Take a positive approach to solving problems
- Manage conflict: Handle the inevitable conflict in relationships
- Make life dreams come true: An atmosphere where each partner can talk honestly about their hopes
- Create shared meaning: Understand important visions and narratives about your relationship
Length and frequency of Gottman Method sessions
The frequency and duration of sessions are decided between the couple and therapist, individual needs. Couples experiencing relationship strain often need around 15 to 20 sessions.
Structure of Gottman Method sessions
Therapy begins with an initial assessment to determine the strengths and needs of the couple. A conjoint session with the therapist and couple is followed by individual sessions between each partner and the therapist. Here, each partner has the opportunity to describe what has brought them to therapy. Both partners complete questionnaires, and a conflict discussion is filmed.
The therapist uses this information to provide feedback to the couple about their relationship. This feedback from the therapist’s assessment is then followed by goal-setting and discussion with the couple.
Once goals have been agreed upon, the therapeutic intervention starts, as described below.
What happens in a typical Gottman Method session?
The content of a session depends on the needs of each couple and point of progress through therapy.
Typically, however, a session begins with a discussion of current concerns and emotions, which becomes the focus of the session. This is relevant because the Gottman Method is experiential; the therapist works with the couple on emotions and experiences occurring in the present moment, in the therapy room.
Depending on the couples’ goals, the therapist might then teach the couple alternative patterns of interacting with each other. This involves learning skills for:
- Decreasing negative emotion during conflict: This might involve reviewing and discussing conflicts, acknowledging their part, and considering what could be improved; or learning physiological exercises for decreasing their arousal (relaxation exercises to reduce heart rate, for example).
- Managing conflict: In the framework of the Gottman Method, conflict is considered an inevitable and functional part of a relationship. Accordingly, the goal is not to eliminate conflict, but instead to learn more helpful ways of managing it and preventing it from escalating.
- Increasing positive emotions during conflict and outside of conflict situations: This might involve building love maps (described earlier), and encouraging a culture of appreciation for one another.
- Creating shared meaning in the relationship: This might involve discussing shared goals and values, or making rituals of emotional connection (for example, deciding together what dinner time should be ).
What to look for in a therapist for the Gottman Method
There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a Gottman Method therapist, including:
Specialization: Look for a couples therapist who has completed training in the Gottman Method through The Gottman Institute. Therapists often include this information in their biography on their website or online profile.
Qualifications: With so many different provider types available, it can be difficult to decide which type of mental health professional to see.
The most important thing is to look for a currently licensed couples therapist. This ensures that your therapist has completed the appropriate level of education to practice.
All therapists on Zencare have already been vetted for this purpose.
Personal fit: The trusting relationship between you and your therapist, known as the “therapeutic alliance” can have a huge impact on the efficacy of therapy. It’s important to work with someone both you and your partner trust and feel understood by — therapy is more ly to be successful when you both feel that the therapist is unbiased and non-judgemental.
The best way to judge how you might feel about a therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. This also allows you to ask about their Gottman Method training, experience, and what therapy will be . Try to speak to a few different therapists before deciding.
Find therapists specializing in Gottman Method
Find therapists who specialize in Gottman Method on Zencare. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!