Gottman Method Couples Therapy (GCT)
Gottman Couples Therapy (GCT), also known as the Gottman Method, is a form of therapeutic intervention which aims to bring couples towards intimacy and understanding. GCT was created by John and Julie Gottman after almost 40 years of researching different relationship patterns. They found that couples in unhealthy relationships often do not make the effort to consciously focus on fondness and admiration for one another but rather only on negative traits. GCT works under the assumption that hostility and distance can harm a relationship much more than we realize they can. In turn, we are unaware of how much we are actually self-destructing our relationships. According to the Gottmans there are two types of problems - perpetual and solvable - and most couples experience perpetual problems. Therefore it is extremely important we learn the right skills to deal with these problems as they come up.
The Gottman Method is based on the Sound Relationship House Theory which was developed by the Gottmans as well. Based on their research, they found nine components of a healthy relationship they incorporated into their therapy.
- Build love maps: Show how well you know and understand your partner’s inner thoughts and feelings
- Share fondness rather than contempt: Try to focus on the positive aspects of your partner rather than the negative ones
- Turn towards instead of away: Remember to respond to your partner when they make attempts to communicate with you
- Maintain a positive perspective: Try to actively engage in problem solving
- Manage conflict: Most conflicts cannot be fully resolved but we should develop the skills to handle them as they arise.
- Make life dreams come true: Understand your partner's goals and dreams so you can help them realize them.
- Create shared meaning: Understand where your relationships lie in the bigger picture, what the true meaning behind it is.
- Trust: This occurs only when you are secure that your partner is looking out for your best interests
- Commitment: We have to understand that the journey with our partners is lifelong and may not always be good times. You must stand by your partner through the ups and downs of life.
Goals for GCT:
- Disarm verbal conflict
- Increase intimacy and affection
- Build empathy and understanding
Relationships Issues Treated by GCT:
- Poor Communication
- Frequent Arguments
- Sexual Challenges
- Financial Concerns
- Parenting Difficulties
Techniques used in GCT
✽ Improving relationship:
Building love maps
- Knowing and remembering little things about your partner (e.g. his/her favourite food, TV show)
Learning how to soothe yourself and your partner psychologically
- E.g. Playing with a pet, writing about your feelings or going for a walk
Switching to a positive perspective
- When your partner does or say something ambiguous, trust that there are good motives behind it
- E.g. You feel unappreciated when your partner does not buy things for you, but your partner may be saving up for your future together.
✽ Conflict management
- Deep breaths while lying down or on a chair
Learning how to de-escalate
- Unflood emotionally
- Know when to step away from the disagreement
✽ Replacing negative conflict patterns with positive ones
Avoiding harsh start-ups to a discussion
- Understand the situation
- Consider good intentions of your partner
Expressing your opinion without judgement or blame
- Using “I” statements instead of “You” statements
- E.g. “I feel upset and unsupported when the laundry is not done at the end of the day.”
- E.g. “I am frustrated that plans to do this were not discussed with me.”
The Therapeutic Process
✽ Assessment by the Therapist
- Initial session to understand the problem
- Completion of Gottman Questionnaire individually
- Separate sessions for you and your partner with the therapist
- Conjoint session to finalise goals and feedback on the questionnaire
- Agreement on frequency of therapy and overall duration of treatment
✽ Therapeutic interventions
- Learning techniques and strategies to strengthen relationship
- Practice tips on conflict management
- Opportunities to understand your partner and yourself to strengthen the foundation of the relationship
You and your partner may feel uncomfortable initially as some changes in interaction explored during therapy sessions may seem forced and unnatural. You may also feel uncertain as you are not motivated from within, but rather acting out of your comfort zone. However, do not give up. The effort, energy and time placed into therapy would not only strengthen your relationship, but also grow the both of you into a more fulfilled version of yourselves.
At Psychology Blossom, our Clinical Psychologist Claudia Doig often helps couples using the GCT method. If you think GCT could help you with your relationship, do reach out to us at 8800 0554 today!
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