Gottman method of couple therapy: features and operation

Why do relationships break down? Is it possible to find a scientific method capable of detecting the factors that maintain and break relationships? To this end, Dr. John Gottman has developed extensive research in the field of romantic relationships with his wife, psychologist Julie Gottman.

In between, they created the Gottman method of couples therapy, A type of couples therapy aimed at helping couples resolve their conflicts and build healthier relationships. In this article, we will learn about its characteristics and applications, as well as the 7 principles that help maintain romantic relationships.

    Gottman method of couples therapy: origin

    The Gottman Method of Couples Therapy is a type of couples therapy developed by Dr. John Gottman, professor of psychology at the University of Washington, along with his wife, psychologist Julie Gottman.

    Dr. John Gottmann, in addition to being a psychologist, had a background in mathematics and statistics and for more than 40 years had researched the relationship patterns of different couples. He’s relied on science and statistics to try and figure out something as inaccurate and volatile as love, but it turns out he did well.

    J. Gottman’s intention was find the variables that facilitated a breakup, as well as the factors that facilitated the continuity of relationships.

    7 principles of the bond of love

    The Gottmans have worked in clinical practice with over 3,000 couples of all kinds, and have compiled a list of 7 principles that should govern a healthy relationship as a couple, so that the relationship lasts over time and provides well-being. to both parties. .

    These principles are also called The Sound Relationship House, And represent a metaphor for building a house, alluding to the relationship, which can be both house and house. These 7 principles are based on two characteristics that the members of the couple must have: commitment and trust.

    1. Respect the differences

    Empathy is essential for building healthy relationships. This is why it is important that both members of the couple take into account the preferences of the other, respect them and can share these interests at certain times.

    It is not necessary for the two members of the couple to agree on everything, but to listen, respect and accept that they are different people with different concerns and needs.

    2. Show affection

    The second principle of the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy refers to the expression of affection and admiration for the other member of the couple. It is essential that both members of the relationship are able to detect and appreciate the virtues of the other.

      3. Solve the problems

      It is important that the couple acquire the skills necessary to resolve their conflicts or problems. Some ideas for doing this are to gently initiate conversations that can be confrontational, as well as to try to fix the behaviors that have caused the harm, in order to maintain the emotional connection with the partner.

      here negotiation skills will be very important (Sometimes agreements or “covenants” will need to be made with the partner, where both parties give in) and engagement skills. It will also be important to be tolerant of the other and to share their concerns, the couple being a “team” in this regard, together seeking the happiness of both.

      4. Create love cards

      The Gottmanns speak of this concept alluding to a mutual and shared awareness of the other’s world; that is to say, here the important thing is that both parties know how to enter the emotional world of the other, And let them know their aspirations, values ​​and hopes.

      The goal is to build common paths while enjoying the process.

      5. Express your interest

      It is important that both members of the couple are interested in what the other is saying to them. That is why it will be essential to share moments, to engage in conversations of different types, Knowing how to listen, etc.

      In this sense, one of the aspects that will strengthen the relationship is to express this interest and this recognition towards the couple, so that they feel valued.

      6. Manage conflicts

      The Gottman method of couples therapy highlights an essential difference between “conflict resolution” and “conflict management” because, according to the Gottmans, therapy should focus on improving conflict management, not so much on conflict management. its resolution.

      This is because conflicts will always exist in relationships, and in a way this is healthy and keeps the relationship alive. In other words, conflicts are inherent in romantic relationships (And of all kinds).

      This is why the objective must be to manage these disagreements well, and not so much to make them disappear without further delay (because in addition it is practically impossible and unrealistic).

      7. Create shared meaning

      The last principle refers to the enrichment of the relationship, which results from the contribution of both members of the couple to the relationship.

      Thus, it is important for each of them to give the value they deserve to everything that their partner brings. The goal is for both to find and create a sense of shared relationship, where both parties contribute and feed off each other’s contributions.

      When can therapy be applied?

      The Gottman Method of Couples Therapy can be applied at all stages of a relationship, from the start, to educate the two components of the couple in models of healthy relationships, At conflicting stages where events such as infidelities have occurred.

      In addition, studies conducted in relation to the Gottman method of couples therapy show that this type of therapy can be effective both in heterosexual and same-sex couples, as well as in couples from different cultures, sectors and economic status.

      Predictors of Divorce

      But the Gottman method of couples therapy isn’t just about the principles or variables that help the relationship work and last over time. He also talks about the factors that predict or explain divorces, Culmination of the couple’s crisis in marriages.

      These are: the contempt of one or two members of the couple towards the other, the defensive, the criticism towards the other (in particular towards his manner of being and towards his personality) and the impediments or refusal to interact or communicate, by one or both.


      The Gottman Method of Couples Therapy is a type of therapy based on scientific research and studies developed by the Gottman couple. This is why its validity and empirical evidence is high.

      However, it is important to note that each couple will have their own characteristics and that as therapists we will have to maintain a flexible approach therapy if we decide to apply this method. In other words, it will have to be adapted to the needs of the patients in cases where this is necessary.

      Also, it is important to note that in order to implement the Gottman Method we will need to be trained properly, as it is not a type of therapy that can be applied without further delay. The training will allow us to know the method first hand, and gain the confidence to apply it individually and adapted to our clinical practice.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Gottman, J. and Schwartz, J. (2008). Gottman Method Couple Therapy. Couples Therapy Clinical Manual. Fourth edition. The Guilford Press: New York. Chapter 5: 138-715.
      • Lisitsa, I. (2013). An introduction to Gottman’s relational therapy method. The Gottman Institute. A relational approach based on research.

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