Couples Counseling: Gottman Method Couples Therapy

Gottman method couples counseling

The Gottman Method Couples Counseling is one of the most popular approaches used by therapists today. It’s unique because it’s based on extensive research of married couples. Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman conducted studies of over 3,000 couples.  Through these studies, Dr. Gottman was able to distinguish certain behaviors in couples that either lead to the success or demise of a relationship.

This method provides a clear framework for couples to strengthen their relationship, especially when utilized in therapy. It improves understanding, intimacy, self-awareness, empathy, and connectedness. These are key elements to relationship success. Furthermore, this method employs evidence-based interventions based on the Sound Relationship House Theory. This theory promotes specific skills that lead to a couple’s success. The focus is on strategies for conflict management and resolution, as well as the day to day interactions between partners.

7 Concepts of the Sound Relationship House Theory

Important aspects of this theory also include 7 key concepts that promote relationship success:

  1. Building love maps – knowing the intricacies of your partners inner workings and worldview
  2. Sharing fondness and admiration – thinking about each other in fond and admiring ways. Taking an interest in your partner and responding in positive ways, as opposed to negative or critical responses.
  3. Turning toward – partners are responsive to one another’s bids in positive ways
  4. The positive perspective – couples in healthy relationship have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions
  5. Managing conflict – six skills which are imperative to constructive conflict management
  6. Making life dreams come true – supporting and understanding one another’s life dreams
  7. Creating shared meaning – Building upon knowledge and understanding of your partner to create a legacy

What Does this Process Look Like for Couples?

Couples who pursue Gottman Method Couples Therapy will begin with a thorough assessment. This aids the therapist and the couple in creating the therapeutic framework for treatment. This allows the therapist to identify goals and interventions specific to a couples plan for success.


The assessment is a three-session process. A joint session is followed by the second session, which includes individual interviews with each partner. Couples also complete questionnaires, known as the Relationship Checkup. They will receive feedback in their third session to aid in development of their individualized plan for treatment.

Therapeutic Framework

Both the couples and therapist will decide upon the frequency and duration of sessions. All sessions are 90 minutes long. Research show that more frequent sessions to start is ideal. These sessions phase out over time. Maintenance sessions are beneficial to a decreased relapse rate. In some cases, couples have engaged in marathon sessions to work at a faster pace thorough tough issues.

Therapeutic Interventions

The interventions utilized with Gottman Method Couples Therapy are very intentional. The goal is to aid a couple in moving through the Sound Relationship House theory. This fosters an environment of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship.

With use of Gottman Method interventions, the couple will learn how to…

Build friendship and intimacy
Manage conflict
Replace negative interactions with positive interactions
Repair past hurts.

Who can Benefit from Gottman Method Couples Therapy?

Couples often wait an average of six years from the time they identify problems in their relationship until they seek help. Often, focus has been purely on conflict management and communication to try to repair their relationships. Yet, although important, studies found these methods are not the cure all to relationship woes.

For a couple to successfully manage conflict and create a healthier bond, a couple’s focus needs to be on how to foster friendship and admiration, promote a positive perspective, achieve greater understanding, and create shared meaning.  Dr. Gottman found that 69% of marital conflicts are perpetual and not solvable problems. To manage these issues, a couple must learn how to navigate situations with an understanding of the other partner’s perspective.

Dr. Gottman has been able to predict divorce with a 91% accuracy rate due to decades of research. In all relationships, conflict is present and unavoidable. Even in the most successful relationships will experience difficulties.  However, research has shown that it is not the conflict itself that matters as much as the way a couple manages it. Gottman refers in his research to the “Four Horsemen” as the predictors of divorce. But, couples can learn how to repair and manage their conflict with the right antidotes and interventions. Couples learn to manage struggles while building healthy relationship skills, intimacy, and connection.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy can be an essential tool in helping couples resolve and manage…

Frequent conflict or arguments
Feeling emotionally distant
Sexual difficulties or infidelity
Financial struggles
Parenting issues

According to Gottman, this method can be beneficial to even those who display “normal” levels of conflict.  Couples therapy, when utilized as maintenance for your relationship, provides the best outcomes.

If you are interested in more information, visit our website or email to get scheduled with one of our skilled clinicians.

Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Crown
The Gottman Institute. (n.d). Retrieved from