Gottman Method

A Couple holding hands in a Gottman Method session

The Gottman Method is a respected approach to couples therapy that emphasizes the enhancement of friendship, affection, and mutual support within relationships. Grounded in research, this method empowers couples to address conflicts constructively, improve their communication, and build a life of shared meaning together. The Gottman Method is not a quick fix but rather a strategy for deep and lasting change in the dynamics of a partnership.

Thrive Downtown Counselling Centre, based in Vancouver, integrates the Gottman Method into our practice to help couples navigate their relationship challenges. Our trained therapists offer supportive, professional, and evidence-based services, with the Gottman Method playing a pivotal role in our therapeutic toolkit. We foster a deeper understanding and respect between partners to restore connection and joy in relationships.


Gottman Method Overview

The Gottman Method, developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman in the 1980s is a culmination of over four decades of research and practice. This method is a therapeutic approach that is grounded in the “Sound Relationship House Theory,” envisioned by the Gottmans to support and heal relationships.

Dr. John Gottman initiated his pioneering research by meticulously observing the interaction patterns among couples and analyzing the determinants of long-lasting relationships. With Dr. Julie Gottman’s clinical expertise, they crafted this method to empower relationships with the strategies rooted in these observations.

The development of the Gottman Method was a revolutionary move away from traditional couples therapy techniques, focusing instead on specific behaviours and interventions that foster positive outcomes. The approach is proactive and hands-on. It needs thorough assessments and exercises to understand couples’ dynamics and teach practical skills for improving their relationship.


Key Principles of the Gottman Method

The Gottman Method is underpinned by 7 foundational principles known as the Sound Relationship House Theory, which guides couples toward building strong, resilient relationships. These principles are designed to help partners cultivate a deep sense of understanding, appreciation, and intimacy with one another while also equipping them with tools to navigate conflict and share life dreams.

  1. Enhance Love Maps: Know each other well. Learn about your partner’s likes, dislikes, and what’s going on in their life. This is like having a map of your partner’s heart and mind.
  2. Nurture Fondness and Admiration: Show each other love and respect. Remind yourself of what you like about your partner and tell them often.
  3. Turn Toward Each Other: Pay attention when your partner wants to talk or connect. Respond with interest and care instead of ignoring them.
  4. Let Your Partner Influence You: Share power in your relationship. Be willing to listen, compromise, and respect your partner’s ideas and feelings.
  5. Solve Your Solvable Problems: Work out the small things. Communicate clearly, listen well, and find fair solutions to the everyday issues that come up.
  6. Overcome Gridlock: Tackle the big lasting disagreements by understanding each other’s dreams and views, even if you don’t agree. Find ways to support each other’s important goals.
  7. Create Shared Meaning: Build a life together that reflects both of your values and beliefs. Make traditions, set goals, and work on building a life that feels full and meaningful to both of you.


Gottman Method Techniques

The Gottman Method employs practical techniques to strengthen relationships. These techniques focus on fostering a deeper understanding, respect, and affection. Couples are guided to recognize patterns that may lead to discomfort and to develop healthy ways to communicate and process feelings.


The Four Horsemen

In the Gottman Method, “The Four Horsemen” metaphor describes communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Addressing and mitigating these can help maintain a healthy relationship dynamic.


1. Criticism

Criticism involves attacking your partner’s character or personality instead of focusing on specific behaviour. It often includes blame and generalizations, like “you always” or “you never” statements. The method teaches how to voice concerns constructively without criticizing.


2. Contempt

Contempt is an expression of superiority that comes out as sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, or mockery. It’s harmful and implies disgust. The Gottman Method helps couples replace contempt with respect and appreciation.


3. Defensiveness

Defensiveness is a way of avoiding taking responsibility for one’s own actions and often involves making excuses or meeting one complaint with another. The technique encourages taking responsibility and listening actively to your partner’s concerns.


4. Stonewalling

Stonewalling occurs when someone withdraws from the interaction, shutting down dialogue and connection. It’s a response to feeling overwhelmed. The method teaches couples to stay engaged, indicating when they need a break before continuing the conversation.


The Sound Relationship House Theory

The Sound Relationship House Theory is a Gottman Method framework comprising nine components contributing to a healthy relationship. Each level builds upon the previous one to create a strong foundation.


1. Build Love Maps

Building Love Maps involves knowing your partner intimately — their likes, dislikes, worries, and joys — thereby creating a deep understanding of each other.


2. Express Fondness and Admiration

This technique is about actively expressing warmth and affection, recognizing your partner’s positive qualities, and showing respect and appreciation.


3. Turn to Each Other

Turning towards each other means responding positively to your partner’s bids for attention, affection, and support, strengthening the bond.


4. The Positive Perspective

Maintaining a positive perspective is about having a positive outlook on your partner’s actions and intentions, even in difficult times.


5. Manage Conflict

Managing conflict involves handling disagreements in a constructive rather than destructive way, focusing on problem-solving and dialogue.


6. Make Life Dreams and Aspirations Come True

Supporting each other’s personal goals and dreams is crucial for a fulfilling relationship, which involves actively helping one another realize these ambitions.


7. Create Shared Meaning

Creating shared meaning is about developing a mutual legacy through rituals, goals, and values that reflect what you both cherish.


8. Trust

Trust is ensuring your partner can rely on you and you on them; it’s the bedrock of security in a relationship.


9. Commitment

Commitment means believing in your relationship’s longevity and seeing your future together, despite the ups and downs.


Benefits of the Gottman Method

The Gottman Method offers a range of benefits for couples seeking to strengthen their relationship. It fosters improved communication, deeper emotional connection, and better conflict-resolution skills. Addressing underlying issues and enhancing intimacy allow couples to enjoy a more fulfilling and enduring partnership.


Who Can Benefit from the Gottman Method?

Virtually any couple can find value in the Gottman Method, whether they are in a new relationship or have been together for decades. It’s especially beneficial for partners facing specific challenges like chronic conflict, feelings of disconnect, or those seeking to rebuild trust after a breach.

The Gottman Method is not just for troubled relationships; it’s equally useful for couples who simply want to deepen their connection and understand each other better. It is a versatile approach that can be tailored to each couple’s unique needs and goals, making it a practical tool for relationship enhancement across the board.


Effectiveness of the Gottman Method

The Gottman Method is widely regarded for its effectiveness in transforming relationships. Grounded in over four decades of research, it provides couples with the practical tools they need to foster lasting change. The method is designed to resolve conflicts and improve the overall quality of the relationship by fostering intimacy, respect, and affection.

Moreover, the Gottman Method’s emphasis on actionable strategies means that couples can see tangible improvements in their communication patterns and conflict resolution. The skills taught are not just theory; they are applicable in daily interactions, which contributes significantly to the method’s success in real-world settings.


Success Rate of Gottman

The Gottman Method is known for its strong track record. While Gottman can predict which couples might end up divorced with over 93.6% accuracy, it’s not the same as the success rate of therapy. Still, the method is very helpful for many couples. Therapists using this method are really good at telling if a couple will do well after therapy, as studies show. The important thing to remember is that both people in the relationship must be open and ready to make changes for the method to work best. It’s not just about the therapy but also the couple’s effort.


How Does the Gottman Method Work for Couples Therapy?

The Gottman Method works by providing a structured and goal-oriented approach to couples therapy. The process begins with a thorough assessment of the couple’s relationship and continues with interventions and strategies tailored to their specific needs.

  • Assessment

The process starts with an in-depth evaluation. Couples fill out detailed questionnaires and engage in conversations that allow therapists to pinpoint relationship dynamics. This phase is crucial as it lays out a map of the couple’s emotional world, identifying areas of conflict and aspects of their relationship that are already strong.


  • Therapeutic Framework

After assessment, therapists work with couples to construct a personalized therapeutic plan. This framework includes strategies to address specific issues identified during the assessment. It’s based on fostering the foundational elements of a healthy relationship, like mutual respect and understanding, which are vital for lasting change.


  • Therapeutic Interventions

Finally, couples are introduced to specific interventions tailored to their needs. These may include communication exercises, conflict management techniques, and tools for deepening intimacy. The aim is to give couples practical skills they can use to support one another and navigate challenges together, both during therapy and in their future together.


Duration of Gottman Method

The Gottman Method doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all duration, as it varies according to each couple’s unique challenges and commitment to the process. The therapy is typically structured to adapt to the couple’s needs, which means the length can vary from a few months to a couple of years for more complex issues.


How Long Does the Gottman Method Take to Work?

The time it takes for the Gottman Method to effect change can differ widely. Some couples may notice improvements in their communication and relationship satisfaction within a few sessions, while the process may take longer for others. Commitment to applying the techniques outside of sessions is a critical factor in how quickly couples see changes.


Integrating the Gottman Method with Other Therapies

The Gottman Method can blend well with different kinds of couple therapies. This mix can help tackle personal issues and improve how partners treat each other. It’s like using more tools at once to build a stronger relationship.


The Role of the Gottman Method in Pre-Marital Counselling

Pre-marital counselling often incorporates the Gottman Method to help partners develop a robust foundation for their marriage. It’s used to uncover potential conflict areas and to reinforce positive communication techniques, ensuring that couples enter into marriage with a toolkit for resolving disagreements and fostering mutual support.

By focusing on key elements like managing conflicts, nurturing fondness and admiration, and creating shared meaning, the Gottman Method sets up pre-marital counselling to anticipate the challenges of marriage and cherish the partnership’s strengths.


Role of the Therapist in the Gottman Method

In the Gottman Method, therapists play an instrumental role. They don’t just observe and advise but actively engage with couples to facilitate the adoption of Gottman’s strategies. Therapists are tasked with fostering an environment where both partners feel heard and valued, guiding them through exercises that promote understanding and empathy.

Through the therapist’s support, couples learn to navigate the rough waters of their relationship, applying Gottman’s principles to repair and strengthen their bond. This approach enables partners to not only understand the method’s theoretical framework but also to experience and practice these techniques in real time, creating lasting change.


How to Maintain Relationship Progress After Completing the Gottman Method Therapy?

After couples complete therapy using the Gottman Method, the journey towards a stronger relationship continues. It’s essential to keep the principles learned in therapy active daily. This means regularly checking in on each other’s needs, maintaining open lines of communication, and consistently applying conflict resolution tools.

Implementing regular relationship ‘tune-ups’ can also be beneficial. Couples are encouraged to revisit the strategies and exercises they learned during therapy, ensuring that the positive behaviours become a permanent part of their relationship dynamic. Just as one maintains a car to prevent issues, relationships require ongoing attention and care to thrive.


Things to Consider When Looking for a Gottman Method Couples Therapist

Choosing the right Gottman Method couples therapist is a pivotal step in your journey to improve your relationship. Finding a professional with the right qualifications that align with your needs and values is important. Below are some critical factors to consider when looking for a Gottman method couples therapist.



A therapist’s approach to Gottman Method therapy should resonate with you and your partner. Each therapist may have a unique way of applying the method’s principles, so inquire about their process and what to expect. Knowing if their style is structured or more flexible can impact your experience and progress.



Ensure that the therapist has official Gottman Method training and certification. This qualification means they’ve been trained in the specific techniques and principles of the method and are equipped to guide you effectively.



While many therapists might offer Gottman Method therapy, look for one specializing in it. It ensures they have dedicated experience and are current with the latest developments and research in the field.



Ultimately, the success of therapy often depends on how well you connect with your therapist. It’s essential to choose someone you both feel comfortable with, who is empathetic, and who fosters a safe space for both partners to share and grow.


Thrive Downtown Counselling Centre Can Help

Couples Therapy is a significant step towards nurturing and strengthening your relationship, and choosing the right therapeutic approach is pivotal in this journey. The Gottman Method, with its proven strategies and techniques, offers a comprehensive guide for couples looking to deepen their connection and resolve conflicts.

Thrive Downtown Counselling Centre provides a supportive and understanding space for couples to explore the Gottman Method, facilitated by certified professional counsellors who are dedicated to your relationship’s growth. Our therapists are committed to helping you apply what you learn in therapy to everyday life. Trust in the expertise and compassionate care at Thrive Downtown to guide you and your partner toward a fulfilling and enduring relationship. Contact us today and embark on a journey of rediscovery and meaningful connection.


Gottman Method FAQs:


What are the common communication problems in relationships, according to Gottmans?

Dr. John Gottman identifies certain communication pitfalls that often plague relationships. These include what he terms the “Four Horsemen”: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Each represents a negative communication pattern that can erode the relationship over time. Recognizing and addressing these issues is critical to improving communication and a relationship’s health.


What is the Gottman repair checklist?

The Gottman repair checklist is a tool developed to help couples navigate through conflicts more effectively. It offers practical strategies for partners to use to de-escalate tension, communicate more constructively, and come to a mutual understanding. This checklist is an integral part of the Gottman Method, aiding couples in repairing their interactions and finding common ground.


What is the number one predictor of divorce, according to Gottmans?

According to Dr. Gottman’s research, contempt is the number one predictor of divorce. Contempt goes beyond criticism by communicating disgust, which reflects a level of disrespect that acts like a poison in a relationship. It is the most damaging of the “Four Horsemen” and is considered a critical area to manage for couples wishing to salvage their marriage.


What lies at the heart of every failed relationship, according to Gottmans?

Dr. Gottman believes that a lack of friendship and positive connection is at the core of every failed relationship. When couples lose their fundamental emotional bond, all aspects of their relationship suffer. The absence of affection and admiration, the failure to turn toward each other, and the breakdown of positive interactions are central to relationship deterioration. Therefore, maintaining a strong foundation of friendship and emotional connection is key to a lasting relationship.