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What is the Gottman Method (& What It Helps the Most)

Kathy Kinghorn

May 1, 2023

Summary of Key Points:

  • The Gottman Method was established and developed by psychologists Julie and John Gottman between the 1970s and the 1990s. During this time, they observed a variety of couples to identify the seeds of discontent that often led to divorce, thus ending a couple’s relationship when there were other options.
  • By studying these patterns, the Gottmans were able to identify key issues and realign the couples they worked with to move past their issues and strengthen their relationships. The method is so effective that couples therapists study and continue to use it to this day, helping couples work through their issues before negativity has a chance to grow and do irreparable harm.
  • Therapy Utah’s trained professionals have helped countless couples regain intimacy and work through issues that previously felt irreparable. Contact us today to learn more about the Gottman Method and find a therapist who can use it to help you.

There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, and every couple goes through ups and downs. However, working on your relationship is essential for improving communication, resolving conflicts, and building a stronger connection with your partner—so it’s worth knowing more about the tools and strategies that can help you accomplish these goals effectively.

The Gottman Method has been a popular tool in couples therapy for decades, and our trained therapists frequently use it to help couples improve their communication and conflict resolution skills. Below, we’ll teach you more about this method so that you and your partner can consider it as part of your proactive approach to enhancing your relationship.

What Is the Gottman Method?

Drs. John and Julie Gottman began studying couples in the 1970s, identifying the key behaviors that were indicative of divorce. They found that certain negative behaviors, such as contempt and defensiveness, were strong predictors of divorce. They also identified the importance of positive behaviors, such as showing affection and expressing appreciation.

In the 1990s, they developed the Sound Relationship House Theory, which identifies the components of successful relationships. The Gottman Method is based on this theory and is a structured approach to therapy that includes the following components:

  • Assessment
  • Feedback
  • Goal setting
  • Intervention
  • Evaluation

The Gottman Method has been widely successful in improving communication, increasing intimacy, and reducing conflict in relationships. As such, it remains a popular and well-reputed approach to couples therapy.

Couple holding hands to symbolize reconnection via therapy

Via Unsplash.

Who Is the Gottman Method Best Suited For?

The Gottman Method is best suited for couples who are seeking to improve their relationship, communication, and conflict resolution skills. It is suitable for couples of all ages and backgrounds, including those in same-sex relationships. The method has also been used to address a range of issues within relationships, including infidelity, communication problems, and parenting disagreements. Couples who are motivated to work on their relationship and are willing to actively participate in therapy are likely to benefit from the Gottman Method.

Couple letting go of each other's hands to symbolize ineffective reconciliation attempt

Via Unsplash.

Who Is the Gottman Method Not Suited For?

The Gottman Method may not be suitable for couples who are experiencing severe relationship issues, such as domestic violence or untreated mental health disorders. In such cases, couples may need more specialized interventions and should seek help from mental health professionals who have expertise in dealing with these issues. Additionally, the Gottman Method may not be effective for couples who are not willing to participate actively in therapy or who are not committed to improving their relationship.

How Does the Gottman Method Work?

The Gottman Method is a structured approach to couples therapy that follows a specific process. The process typically includes the following steps:

  1. Assessment: The therapist conducts an assessment of the couple’s relationship, using a variety of tools and techniques to identify strengths and areas for improvement. This may include questionnaires, interviews, and observations.
  2. Feedback: The therapist provides feedback to the couple on their strengths and areas for improvement based on the assessment. This feedback is delivered in a supportive and non-judgmental way.
  3. Goal setting: The couple and therapist work together to set specific, measurable goals for the therapy. These goals are based on the strengths and areas for improvement identified during the assessment.
  4. Intervention: The therapist uses a variety of techniques and exercises to help the couple achieve their goals. These may include communication exercises, problem-solving techniques, and role-playing scenarios. The therapist may also provide education on relationship skills and strategies.
  5. Evaluation: Throughout the therapy, the therapist evaluates the progress of the couple and makes adjustments to the intervention as necessary. This may involve revising goals or modifying the intervention to better meet the couple’s needs.

Following this structured process helps couples stay focused and motivated throughout their therapy. In turn, this makes working towards achieving their goals a more efficient and collaborative process.

Couple in therapy with hands clasped in laps

Via Unsplash.

Advantages of the Gottman Method

One of the major advantages of the Gottman Method is that it is evidence-based. The method has been extensively researched and has been shown to be effective in improving relationship satisfaction, communication, and conflict resolution. Additionally, the method is structured and follows a specific process, which can help couples stay focused and motivated throughout the therapy.

Another advantage of the Gottman Method is that it focuses on building specific skills and strategies that can be used outside of therapy. The goal is not just to improve the relationship during therapy sessions, but to provide couples with the tools they need to maintain a healthy relationship long-term.

Limitations of the Gottman Method

While the Gottman Method is an evidence-based approach to couples therapy, it does have some limitations. Some of these limitations include:

  1. Limited focus on individual issues: The Gottman Method is primarily focused on improving the relationship between the couple. Addressing individual issues that may be contributing to broader relationship problems may require additional therapy and other techniques.
  2. Time and cost: The Gottman Method is a structured therapy that requires multiple sessions over a period of time. Getting the most out of using this method may require a couple to be comfortable making the investment of time and money required to achieve meaningful long-term results.
  3. Not a one-size-fits-all approach: While the Gottman Method has been successful for many couples, it may not be effective for every couple. Relationships are complex, and what works for one may not work for another.

It is important to note that these limitations do not negate the effectiveness of the Gottman Method. However, couples should be aware of these limitations and consider them when deciding if the Gottman Method is the right approach.

Happy older couple with strong relationship

Via Unsplash.

Real-World Applications of the Gottman Method

The Gottman Method’s versatility and effective track record over the 40-plus years since it was developed make it one of the most broadly useful techniques for couples who want to improve their relationship. By providing couples with a structured, evidence-based approach that focuses on building specific skills and strategies, the Gottman Method helps many couples improve their communication, increase intimacy, and reduce tension.

At Therapy Utah, we employ the Gottman Method and numerous other methodologies to help our clients reestablish trust within one another and move through relationships with the tools they need to succeed. Reach out to us to learn more about how you can build a stronger, healthier relationship with your partner.

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