The Gottman Method is a highly structured and goal-oriented form of couples therapy that is designed to help couples maintain healthy, lasting relationships.
The Gottman Method was developed by Dr. John Gottman and his wife 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 like this:
- Assessment: Individual interviews with each partner are conducted, followed by a joint assessment of the couple.
- Therapeutic Framework: The couple and therapist decide on the frequency and duration of the sessions.
- Therapeutic Interventions: An analysis of couple conflict is one example of a therapeutic intervention. The couple enact a recent conflict and through observation, the therapist identifies the strengths and problems and implements interventions that aim to improve the couple's communication. The therapist assists the couple in effectively repairing the conflict.
The principle goals of the 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, also known within the practice as the Sound Relationship House. 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
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.” Unfortunately, Gottman says, 69% of marital conflicts are perpetual problems, and these are of particular focus in much of the work performed by Gottman Method therapists.
The Gottman Method is designed to support couples across all economic, racial, sexual orientation, and cultural sectors. Some of the relationship issues that may be addressed in therapy include:
- Frequent conflict and arguments
- Poor communication
- Emotionally distanced couples on the verge of separation
- Specific problems such as sexual difficulties, infidelity, money, and parenting
The Gottman Institute claims that even strong couples with “normal” levels of conflict may benefit from the Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Gottman 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 is a facility that works to administer healing to couples and provides training and knowledge to health care providers and mental health professionals alike. The institute’s mission is to recognize that there are families in crisis situations and each member of a family is uniquely deserving of and capable of compassion.
To practice the Gottman Method, therapists complete a certification program offered by The Gottman Institute. Drs. John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman run workshops and clinical training in the Gottman Method Couples Therapy for mental health professionals.
- 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