Drs. John and Julie Gottman are a married couple who have been helping other couples for four decades. They are world-renowned for their research, writings, and original therapeutic approach to couples counseling. Although there are many different types of couples therapy, the Gottman Method is one with widespread success that many people find is a perfect choice for improving their relationships.
What is the Gottman Method?
The Gottman Method is a specific approach to couples therapy. It begins with a detailed assessment of the relationship. You’ll start by coming together with your therapist to answer questions. Then each of you will have an individual interview with the therapist. Sometimes both partners also complete online questionnaires.
The assessment process is certainly helpful for your therapist to gain information about the relationship and how best to help you and your relationship. However, it’s also helpful for you. It’s really the start of the therapeutic process. As you share your story – together and separately – you begin to gain insight into the bigger picture of your relationship. You get a chance to see where you are, how you feel about things, and what you’d like to see change in the relationship. Telling your story helps you get clearer on what that story is. In other words, the assessment itself is therapeutic.
Of course, the assessment is just the beginning. It helps determine where the therapy goes from there. Your therapist will share with you their feedback about where your relationship is strong and where it needs work. They will also give you a sense of how therapy can help that work to happen, what the priorities will be, and some sense of how long it might take.
You’ll work together in therapy to address three core aspects of your relationship:
- The friendship between you and your partner
- How to better manage conflicts in your relationships
- Ways to create shared meaning to strengthen the relationship
Through a wide variety of techniques and exercises, you’ll work on deepening your friendship and intimacy, handling conflicts in better ways, and healing the past, and working towards a shared sense of your future together.
Will Gottman Couples Therapy Work for You?
As with any type of couples therapy, Gottman therapy may or may not work for you. It primarily depends on your willingness – individually and as a couple – to be open to trying new things in order to improve the quality of your relationship. If you give the exercises your full effort, then there’s a good chance that you’ll find some benefit in this type of therapy.
For example, one of the Gottman Method techniques is the idea of Turning Toward. You will learn how to recognize when your partner is making a “bid” for connection with you and what a positive response to that bid might look like on your part. Then, you go put it into action at home! Because when we feel that our partner is attending well to us, our relationship is strengthened. And when our relationship feels stronger, more sturdy, we handle conflict better as well – even without directly working on the conflict itself.
All of the Gottman couples therapy techniques are built upon extensive research into relationships, and hopefully you can already get a sense of how they build on each other.
Some of the other things that you’ll practice in Gottman couples therapy include:
- Building and maximizing relationship trust
- Creating intimacy through small everyday acts
- Creating rituals, traditions, and shared meaning together
- Developing a solution-oriented, problem-solving approach together
- Growing through healthy approaches to conflict
- Learning how to keep your “love map” of your partner up-to-date
- Nurturing gratitude for your relationship
- Strengthening fondness, respect, and admiration for one another
- Interacting from a place of seeing there are two subjective realities
- The critical importance of being open to influence
Finding the Right Couples Therapist
It isn’t easy finding the right couples therapist. However, working with a therapist who knows the Gottman Method can be a great place to start. Research has shown that it can be an effective form of therapy for couples across all different types of economic, racial, and gender lines. Same-sex relationships benefit from this therapeutic approach as do opposite-sex couples.
One of the most interesting things about this therapy is that it’s designed specifically to help solve the ongoing, perpetual problems that plague many relationships.
Gottman’s research has found that more than two-thirds of marital conflicts are perpetual, which can make those problems seem insurmountable. However, Gottman couples therapy is designed specifically to target those issues. Therefore, the approach may help you even if previous attempts at couples therapy have been unsuccessful.
Of course, you don’t have to be at a crisis point to benefit from this therapy approach. We can use the Gottman Method to help you nip your relationship problems in the bud. We know that you already have a lot of strengths that you bring to the table, and we can help you build upon those strengths so that you create a solid foundation for the relationship in the months and years to come.