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The Gottman Method

Goals and Principles

In the words of Drs. Julie and John Gottman, “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.”

Development

The Gottman Method was developed by Drs. John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman in the 1980s. Grounded in scientific research, it is a pioneering form of therapy that enables couples to reach a deeper level of understanding, awareness of their own and their partner’s feelings and, most importantly, true empathy for those feelings. This is achieved by using therapy and exercises to identify and disarm the defenses that stand in the way of open communication and authentic bonding. The end result is greater intimacy, growth and connection.

Through 40 years of research and working with thousands of couples, Dr. John Gottman identified what he calls the Four Horsemen—the harbingers of doom in a relationship that can be addressed and turned around. These negative communication styles are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

Theory

The Gottman Method begins with an assessment of the relationship through a joint session as well as individual time spent with each partner. Together, we will set a framework for counseling including how many sessions and their frequency, followed by therapeutic interventions focused on three key areas that drive lasting intimacy: friendship, conflict management and creating shared meaning.

The theory holds that all marital conflicts fall into two categories: either they can be resolved or they are perpetual, meaning they will be part of your lives forever, in some form or another. Dr. John Gottman says that 69% of marital conflicts are perpetual problems. Learning how to navigate perpetual problems is an important skill in reconnection.

To support that reconnection, their Sound Relationship House Theory identified nine components of healthy relationships that provide a strong foundation for happiness and are at the heart of this therapy.

  • Building love maps (this is how to learn about each other’s hopes, concerns, joy and inner lives)
  • Sharing fondness and admiration for each other (appreciation increases affection and decreases contempt)
  • Turning towards your partner instead of away (stating your needs, addressing your partner’s needs and creating positive reinforcement through shared, happy moments)
  • Developing a positive perspective (seeing your partner as a friend not an adversary to improve relationship repair efforts)
  • Managing conflict (conflict is natural and can lead to growth if handled effectively)
  • Making life dreams come true (creating a supportive environment for your partner’s aspirations)
  • Creating shared meaning (this is the “narrative” of your relationship, complete with metaphors and myths; think of it as your own inside joke or your language of love)
  • Increasing trust (truly believing that your partner has your back)
  • Developing commitment (believing and acting in a way that respects and nurtures the lifelong journey of your relationship)

Why We Incorporate the Gottman Method

The Gottman Method is an evidence-based approach with extensive longitudinal research to support its efficacy. We use these research findings about relationship dynamics to educate couples guiding them to see where their own patterns appear. Through this understanding changes can be made. Barriers are removed, respect, affection and intimacy are restored and couples move from practicing positive relationship skills to incorporating them into their daily lives.

Debbie and Craig are both trained in The Gottman Method.