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Does the Gottman Method for Couples Therapy Really Work?

What is the Gottman method, and does it actually work for couples in therapy? Find out here at HealthyPlace.

The Gottman method is a science-based approach to couple's counseling that was first developed in the 1980s and 90s. It involves a thorough assessment of the couple's relationship that informs therapeutic framework and intervention. The method aims to help couples manage conflict and remove barriers to intimacy. Studies show that even couples with normal levels of conflict could benefit from the Gottman method in therapy. So why does this approach get such high praise, and does it actually work?

The Gottman Method and The Sound Relationship House

The Gottman method is applied to help couples strengthen their relationship and manage conflict. The approach is built on The Sound Relationship House Theory developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman.

The two pillars of the Sound Relationship House are trust and commitment. The rest of the house is built on seven equal components or ‘building blocks:'

  1. Love maps: the importance of knowing one another's inner worlds – their stresses, joys and hopes
  2. Sharing fondness and admiration: instead of contempt, couples are encouraged to share affection and respect
  3. Turn towards instead of away: couples need to share their needs and desires for connection rather than turning away
  4. Positive perspective: a positive, problem-solving approach to the relationship is important
  5. Managing conflict: the Gottman method advocates managing conflict rather than solving it, because normal relationship conflict is natural and unavoidable. The focus is not on avoiding problems – it's about learning how to deal with them when they inevitably crop up
  6. Encourages life dreams: it is necessary to create an encouraging atmosphere where both partners can share their values and aspirations
  7. Create shared meaning: this last step is about understanding one another's important visions, narratives and metaphors, as well as those pertaining to your relationship. For instance, a symbol or image that signifies a key moment in your relationship could help create shared meaning.

Does the Gottman Method Work?

So, does the Gottman method work? Throughout the 1980s and 90s, psychologist John Gottman conducted a series of studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health in which he monitored the interactions of couples across a wide spectrum.

Over several years, Gottman found that he could predict divorce rates with 90% accuracy just by observing couples for five minutes during an argument. His findings were revolutionary, and he went on to form the Gottman method with his wife, clinical psychologist Julie Schwartz Gottman.

The authority in this method comes from research which shows that this approach can teach couples new behavioral skills, including kindness, friendship and conflict management. It can prevent couples from moving toward problematic behaviors – which are, in Gottman's experience, early markers of divorce – and replace them with more constructive methods of communication.

Who Benefits from the Gottman Method?

The Gottman method can benefit all couples, including those in same-sex relationships and those across all cultural, racial and economic sectors. This approach aims to help couples replace negative conflict patterns, deepen intimacy, increase closeness and move toward their shared goals. More specifically, it can help couples avoid what the Gottmans refer to as “The Four Horsemen” of contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling.

The Gottman method can be particularly helpful for those experiencing problems in the following areas:

  • Poor communication
  • Lack of trust
  • Frequent arguments
  • Emotional distance
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Infidelity
  • Parenting
  • Financial issues

If you want to initiate positive change in your relationship, then the Gottman method to couples' therapy may work for you. Remember that you and your spouse or partner both need to be prepared to work on your behaviors and interactions for treatment to be effective. Like all forms of therapy, this method only works if you are both committed to respecting one another and working on your relational skills. You can find a trained therapist in your state on the Gottman referral network.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, September 26). Does the Gottman Method for Couples Therapy Really Work?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 10 from https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/does-the-gottman-method-for-couples-therapy-really-work

Last Updated: October 15, 2019
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Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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