Demystifying Gottman-Based Couples Counseling

We are inundated with relationships-focused books that offer a variety of often contradictory advice. The multitude of perspectives can be overwhelming. It is easy to feel paralyzed. Which advice is right? What will actually make a positive, sustainable difference in a committed relationship? The Gottman Method of couples therapy provides couples with accessible, evidence-based blueprint for successful relationships. 

When I first discovered the Gottman Method, it immediately appealed to me due to being based in very rigorous research. Clinical psychologists John and Julie Gottman developed this therapy modality after engaging hundreds of couples in studies that have been conducted over the past 30 years. Using the results from their extensive research, John and Julie Gottman   have been able to predict with 90% accuracy whether a couple in a committed relationship will remain together or break up. The research has significantly contributed to our understanding of what makes a relationship strong and happy.  

The Gottmans did not just explore what makes relationships succeed, but also examined what brings about their dissolution. Some of the biggest predictors of a struggling relationship are what the Gottmans call “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Each of these “horsemen” are communication patterns that tend to signify difficulties in the relationship. They are: criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness. When these Four Horsemen are allowed to run rampant, it becomes incredibly difficult for a relationship to succeed. In fact, the Gottmans found that contempt, when left unchecked, is the single greatest predictor of divorce. 

Thankfully, it is not all doom and gloom. Just because the Four Horsemen are present does not mean the relationship is going to fail. The Gottman Method teaches specific skills to use when the Four Horsemen rear their heads in order to help couples restore a sense of friendship and connection the Gottman Method aims to, among other things, increase intimacy among couples, improve communication, and help build shared meaning together.  One of the staples of the Gottman Method is that it emphasizes generalizability. In other words, the skills developed in session are effective in everyday use, and do not need the therapist present to work well. This allows partners to become self-sufficient. If you’re looking for support in your relationship and want to use one of the most thoroughly researched methods, you do not need to look any further than the Gottman Method.