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Gottman Method Couples Therapy
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Gottman Method Couples Therapy

The Gottman method couples therapy is a scientifically-backed approach invented by Drs. John and Julie Gottman to build healthier relationships. Here is all you need to know about this method.

Together Team
May 31, 2022

Couples therapy is a crucial part of every relationship — 'every' being the keyword. No, you do not need problems in your relationship before considering having a therapy session with your partner. Therapy sessions provide a safe space for opinions to be discussed, and every relationship may need this space occasionally. 

There are several methods of couples therapy, but our focus in this guide is the Gottman Method. 

Psychologists Dr. John Gottman and his wife, Dr. Julie Gottman share a mutual passion for the understanding of healthy relationships. This led to the creation of the Gottman Method Couples' Therapy. The Gottman Method was created to provide help for relationships and provide mental training for relationship teachers who work with couples. 

After over 4 decades of research and observing over 3000 couples in his love lab, Dr. John Gottman and his colleague Robert Levenson concluded that to a large extent, success in marriage is based on the interaction between the couple. Using his famous Gottman method, Dr. John has been on a journey to help as many relationships as possible become better.

What is the Gottman Method?

This is a therapy approach where couples' relationships are assessed thoroughly, and all forms of issues are addressed using research-based interventions from a method known as the Sound House Theory, which we will discuss in detail in a later section.

The Gottman Method uses a technique called the Four Horsemen to discuss communication styles that can lead to the end of a relationship.

Gottman's Four Horsemen

Dr. Gottman, in collaboration with his colleague Robert Levenson, modeled this scheme after the four horsemen of the apocalypse mentioned in the Bible's Book of Revelation. While the horsemen in the Bible are conquest, war, hunger, and death, Dr, Gottman's horsemen are:

  • Criticism
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling 
  • Contempt

Each of these characters is a potential destroyer of relationships, and couples should carefully watch out for any sign of these attributes and fight against them. For each horseman, there is a more productive replica that is safer to use. 

The first horseman, criticism, is the bedrock of destruction, and partners should be intentional about avoiding this. Complaints in place of criticism do the magic. Criticisms attack, complaints simply call attention to a specific wrong action in a bid to correct. Criticisms begin to get pronounced when you find yourself regularly using 'always' and 'never' to your partner. Criticism focuses on the problem. Complaints focus on the solution. 

The next horseman is defensiveness. This is usually a response to criticism. This involves finding excuses and reapportioning blames to the other person. Defensive people tend to try to overexplain, counter criticize, and emotionally blackmail their partners. While your defense might be right, being defensive is not a good approach as it could make the other person feel unheard. 

The stage after defensiveness is stonewalling. As the name implies, in this stage, your partner begins to act like a stone wall. They completely shut down towards you during a conversation, with a visible display of nonchalance. The person stonewalling enters a state of psychological flooding. The brain of the person immediately enters fight or flee mode, and they are unable to make problem-solving decisions or display emotions. There is an invisible stonewall created between you and your partner, and it is almost as if they do not hear a word you say.

Finally, the contempt stage. This is a dangerous place to be in. Here, people start to ridicule, mock, or use abusive words on their partners. Emotional abuse sets in, and the relationship is on a free fall to a break up or divorce. People experiencing contempt are trying to shame or put their partners down. Contempt will sometimes come with a visible display of disgust on a person's face. 

Techniques Used in the Gottman method

The Gottman method specifies nine elements of a healthy relationship under the Sound Relationship House Theory. It explains this theory metaphorically with a house. In this house, there are seven floors which lead to an improved relationship, and two walls that can hold the couple together.

The Sound Relationship House

Here is what this theory means from the bottom to the top of the house:

  • Building love maps: On this floor, the couples get to study each other and learn themselves.
  • Share fondness and admiration: This is where the couple learns to share appreciative words. 
  • Turn towards, not away: Here, the partners learn their needs and how to meet them.
  • The positive perspective: Here, partners begin to see the positive light of one another. 
  • Manage conflict: On this floor, partners learn to manage conflict by; showing empathy, discussing their problems, and then learning to soothe themselves when they begin to feel agitated during conflicts. 
  • Make life dreams come true: Here, partners focus on helping each other achieve their dreams in life. 
  • Create shared meanings: Couples can then begin to have a deeper understanding of each other's inner world.
  • Trust and commitment: These are the two final walls that hold the partners together.

What are the Goals and Principles of this Method?

 According to Gottman, this approach is aimed at improving intimacy, getting rid of barriers that create stagnancy in the relationship, increasing respect and affection, disarming conflicting verbal communication, and improving the sense of empathy and understanding in the relationship. 

What the Gottman Method Can Help With

Gottman found out that there are just two types of conflicts:

  • Resolvable conflicts
  • Perpetual conflicts

He also said that all conflicts in relationships fall under these two categories, no matter how distinct you think your conflict might be.

Most conflicts are perpetual (about 69%), so the Gottman method teaches couples to live with them. The Gottman method can help build a closer bond between couples by solving all kinds of relationship issues. 

Also, this method helps couples who feel like they do not have any problems and are only trying to understand each other better. 

Who Can Benefit from the Gottman method?

The Gottman method has a vast application and is effective for solving several relationship-based problems. It is effective for people of diverse races, beliefs, classes, and cultures. Dr John Gottman also believes that same-sex relationships can benefit from this method as well. Even happy couples can benefit from this method by getting happier. 

What Kind of Issues is the Gottman Method Best For?

Couples that are considering separating should try this program as it has been packed to specifically handle difficult situations.

 Some of the people that can benefit from this approach include couples with:

  • Poor communication
  • Frequent conflicts and arguments
  • Emotional distance and on the verge of separation
  • Specific issues like money, parenting, infidelity, and sexual problems.

Does the Gottman Method Work?

Studies have shown the high effectiveness of the Gottman Method. There are several ways to partake in this program. In addition to having individual therapy sessions, there are workshops and regularly organized retreats. This ensures that participants stay consistent in practice. 

A study proved the effectiveness of the Gottman therapy method after studying couples who went through ten sessions, massive improvements in compatibility and intimacy were noticed. 

This method has one of the highest research put in place to test its effectiveness. Many clinical trials have been conducted to prove the effectiveness of this program. 

To strengthen the reliability of this method, there are several positive testimonials from couples who benefitted from this approach. 

Why Choose The Gottman Method For Couple's Therapy?

The Gottman is scientifically-backed and has an integrative approach. With numerous positive results to support the claims of this method, its effectiveness is not in question. 

In addition, this method is not difficult to follow through. It simply requires commitment on the part of the couples to be effective. It is also not a long-term therapy, so you do not have to spend a lot of time getting it done. There are various sessions available. If the commitment for couples therapy seems too much, there are webinars and self-paced online coaching programs.

There is also a two-day workshop and a two-day couple retreat. There is an option for physical and online participation. The entire program is designed to help you at your convenience. 

So, to recap, this is why you should choose Gottman:

  • Proven effectiveness
  • Flexibility
  • Ease
  • Availability of different sessions

What to Look for in a Gottman Method Couples Therapist

When you are ready to begin, you will need to get a therapist. Gottman therapists are specially trained to give you the best results. There is a certification program that all Gottman therapists must undergo to become qualified.

The therapy session is intense and thorough, and participants are expected to be committed enough to continue with the practice outside the walls of the therapy session. There are four training levels that all therapists must undergo before being certified:

  • Level 1: Basic principles, evaluations, and interventions on the Gottman method
  • Level 2: Relationship dynamics, theory, assessments, treatment planning, and handling of co-occurring disorders
  • Level 3: An advanced workshop where the skills of the methods are practiced and refined
  • Level 4: Collaboration with a senior Gottman therapist

Before you enroll, ensure that your therapist has completed all four levels of training on the Gottman method. 


Therapy is an excellent mode of expression for couples. It can tackle difficult issues in problematic relationships and make happy relationships even happier. 

When choosing a therapy method, choose one that is suitable for you and your spouse. Also, remember that personal commitment is key in every therapy session. The Gottman Method is a highly recommended one that is constantly being proven effective. It provides the flexibility that you need, completely eradicating every excuse to miss it.

Choose a convenient schedule, stay committed to the program, and you will be well on your way to a thriving relationship.

Together Team

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