The Gottman Method is an approach to couples therapy that includes an assessment of the relationshp and integrates research-based interventions based on the Sound Relationship House theory.
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 like 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.
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
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:
- Frequent conflict and arguments
- Poor communication
- Emotionally distanced couples on the verge of separation
- Specific problems such as sexual difficulties, infidelity, money, and parenting
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'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