Mental Health
What is Gottman Method Couples Therapy?

What is Gottman Method Couples Therapy?

5 min read


Jareena Silva

What is Gottman Method Couples Therapy?

Gottman Couples Therapy is an evidence-based approach to couples counseling that focuses on helping couples identify and resolve conflicts, deepen their understanding and appreciation of one another, and improve the overall health of their relationship.

The History of the Gottman Method

The Gottman Method is based on the research of Dr. John and Julie Gottman who have studied and researched the dynamics of relationships for over 40 years. Through their research, the Gottmans have identified four main goals for couples therapy: to increase respect, appreciation, and affection; to reduce conflict and gridlock; to increase understanding of one's partner; and to develop skills for solving problems. With the creation of The Gottman Method, Dr. John and Julie Gottman also founded The Gottman Institute in 1996.

Dr. John Gottman is a psychologist that focused most of his professional career in creating and promoting the Gottman Method. During his time as a clinical therapist, he focused on marital stability and divorce prediction. He also is a professor at the University of Washington.

Dr. Julie Gottman is a psychologist who has expertise in marriage, abuse and trauma survivors, same-sex marriage, and parenting issues. She has also authored many books about various relationship topics.

In 1996, the couple founded The Gottman Institute, which offers educational resources and programs for mental health providers. They also offer various tools and resources for couples looking to improve their relationships.

The Foundation of the Gottman Method

The Gottman Method is based on the Sound Relationship House Theory. A house is used as a metaphor for a secure and stable relationship. In this metaphoric house, there are 7 levels or "floors", which a couple can explore in order to improve and strengthen their relationship. The house also includes "weight-bearing walls" that are needed to hold the couple together through their journey.

The 7 Floors of The Sound Relationship House

Floor 1: Build Love Maps

The foundation of a successful relationship is learning about each other. This is the first step of the Sound Relationship House, developed by Dr. John Gottman. Building a "Love Map" is key to this process. This map involves getting to know your partner and their preferences. What do they like and dislike? Who is their best friend? What was their childhood like? And how do they like to unwind after a stressful day? Asking the right questions is essential in creating this map and understanding your partner better than anyone else.

Floor 2: Share Fondness and Admiration

We all need to be reminded of how special we are every now and then, and it's especially meaningful when it comes from our partner. Expressing your fondness for them and what you love about them can make a huge difference. Whether it's their sense of humor or their generous spirit, there are so many things to appreciate about your partner. In a healthy relationship, you should both be vocal about all the reasons you love each other.

Floor 3: Turn Towards

When you need emotional support from your partner, you can show it through a gesture or word, which the Gottmans call a “bid”. Your partner responds to this bid when they provide what you need. If they turn away or worse, turn against it, it can put strain on the relationship. On the other hand, if both of you recognize and respond to each other's bids, it makes it easier to express your emotions and needs in a secure environment.

Floor 4: The Positive Perspective

Having a Positive Perspective means viewing life in a more optimistic light. In a healthy relationship, couples should always look for the best in each other and avoid jumping to conclusions. For example, if your partner rushes out the door without a goodbye kiss, don't be quick to criticize them. A Positive Perspective means understanding that they may just have been preoccupied and not thinking, rather than deliberately neglectful. Having this kind of outlook will help to create a stronger bond between you both and make your relationship stronger.

Floor 5: Manage Conflict

It is impossible to completely avoid conflict in any relationship, so it is important to know how to handle it when it arises. The best way to do this is to accept your partner's influence and consider their feelings and desires. Additionally, you should discuss any problems that arise, both solvable and perpetual. Finally, if you find yourself getting heated during an argument, it can help to try self-soothing techniques such as taking a walk or deep breaths to stay calm.

Floor 6: Make Life Dreams Come True

The joy of having a supportive companion is that they will not only motivate you to achieve your ambitions, but also help you accomplish them. This could involve creating a plan to pay any debt that is shared between the two of you, or being there to support them if they decide to go back to education. Making life dreams come true is a clear indication that you wish for your partner to experience the best life possible, and that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make that a reality.

Floor 7: Create Shared Meaning

At the highest level of the Sound Relationship House, couples build and comprehend an inner world as a team. Referred to by the Gottmans as the development of a culture of symbols and rituals that indicate the couple's unity, these Rituals of Connection can be as basic as getting pizza from the same spot each Friday night or as intricate as special ways to celebrate birthdays. These Rituals of Connection form the couple's identity as a unit, crafted together.

The Weight-Bearing Walls

The Sound Relationship House may have many floors, but without the pillars of trust and commitment it cannot stand strong. In a healthy, supportive relationship, two people must vow to put faith in each other and remain together. They should have the courage to love one another unreservedly and strive to nurture that love.

What does the Gottman Method help couples with?

The Gottman Method is helpful for all couples regardless of age or length of relationship. Some issue areas that the Gottman Method can support couples with are:

  • Infidelity
  • Having a difficult time communicating
  • Feelings distanced from one another
  • Intimacy concerns
  • Financial-stress
  • Parenting
  • Chronic conflict

The amount of time a couple may require for treatment depends on the magnitude of their troubles. Researchers have generally looked into ten sessions as an example, but the actual number of sessions is determined by the couple and their therapist.

Before choosing to pursue therapy with a Gottman therapist, it is important to consider your dedication to strengthening your relationship. The Gottman Method involves a rigorous and intense approach, requiring couples to utilize the skills they learn during sessions outside of them. If you are not willing to make this commitment to improving your relationship, the Gottman Method may not be of much benefit.

Ready to start therapy?

If you’re interested in the Gottman Method or couples therapy in general, take our 5-minute questionnaire to find a provider that is the *right* fit for you and your partner.

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About the author

Jareena is MyWellbeing's Community Manager and is dedicated to supporting MyWellbeing's providers in order for them to offer the best possible care for you. Jareena is a mental health advocate and aims to identify ways to destigmatize discussions around mental health and how to make care more accessible.

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