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The Gottman Method Of Therapy

Updated: Jan 30

couple sitting in sunset - gottman method of therapy

With everyone spending increased amounts of time at home with their spouses, it’s become a running joke that “the cracks are starting to show” in every relationship. And it’s not all that surprising, either: even in the best of times, some people find it difficult to properly communicate what they need and want from their partner. In fact, couples therapy is fairly common, and we have helped many Calgarians through the rough patches in their relationships. One of the practices that we use for these situations is known as the Gottman Method.

What is the Gottman Method?

Quite simply, the Gottman Method is a research-based approach to couples therapy, in which the treatments are based on in-depth assessments of the relationship’s specific needs and problems. It was developed by Dr. John Gottman, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Washington, who used statistical analysis and math to create models and formulae that would help identify common themes in human relationships. He found four factors that caused rifts between partners, “The Four Horsemen”, which were criticism, defensiveness, a refusal to interact, and contempt. Based on this, he created a therapeutic framework that would address the root problems and resolve the issues.

How does the Gottman Method work?

First, the couple does joint and individual assessments, giving detailed feedback on their perception of the relationship. Once they’ve decided on a timeline for sessions, the therapist employs interventions that systematically strengthen the partners’ conflict management, creation of shared meaning, and their underlying friendship. The main goal of the Gottman Method is to get rid of conflicting verbal communications, as well as increase intimacy, respect, and affection. It helps people in stagnant relationships reconnect and regain empathy for each other, and ultimately, helps fill out the nine components of what Dr. Gottman and his wife, Dr. Julia Gottman, developed into the “Sound Relationship House” theory:

1. Create shared meaning: Understand the narratives and myths of the relationship

2. Make life dreams come true: Encourage each other’s hopes, values, and aspirations

3. Accept your partner’s influence

4. Dialogue about problems

5. Practice self-soothing (these three all fall under “Manage Conflict”): Understand the difference between allowing problems, and allowing problems to fester negativity

6. Having a positive perspective: Approach problem-solving positively

7. Turn toward instead of away: State your needs and ensure you are trying to connect

8. Share fondness and admiration: Express appreciation, respect, and affection

9. Know one another’s world: Learn your partner’s inner psychological world

Who can use the Gottman Method?

It’s designed for everyone! It can cross all economic, racial, and cultural barriers, and has proven effective on same-sex relationships, too. Dr. Gottman stresses that all marriages and partnerships have conflicts, and thus can be trained to have better management of and responses to those conflicts. The method helps couples build stronger relationships and gives each person the right tools to better navigate future troubles, too.

Looking for couples therapy?

You’re not alone in your search – the staff of Flourish Psychological Services is here with solutions. Let us know what you need, and we’ll be here to help with all of our different types of therapy when you’re ready!



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