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March 2023

Gottman's Couples Counseling

Gottman’s Couples Counseling

By Mental Health

Gottman’s Couples Counseling

Gottman’s couples counseling is a form of therapy that was developed by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman. This approach to couples counseling is based on extensive research and observation of thousands of couples over several decades. The approach is designed to help couples strengthen their relationships and navigate conflicts in healthy ways. In this blog post, we will explore the key principles of Gottman’s couples counseling and how they can be applied in real-life situations.


The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Dr. John Gottman has identified four behaviors that he calls the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” because they are so damaging to relationships. These behaviors are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. 

Criticism involves attacking your partner’s character, rather than focusing on a specific behavior. 

Contempt involves insults, sarcasm, and other forms of disrespect. 

Defensiveness involves denying responsibility. 

Stonewalling involves withdrawing from the conversation and refusing to engage. 

These behaviors can erode trust and intimacy in a relationship and make it difficult to resolve conflicts.

According to Gottman, a healthy relationship has a “magic ratio” of positive to negative interactions. The ratio is 5:1, which means that for every negative interaction, there should be five positive interactions. Positive interactions include compliments, expressions of appreciation, acts of kindness, and other forms of affection. Negative interactions include criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. By increasing the number of positive interactions in a relationship, couples can strengthen their emotional connection and build a foundation of trust and mutual respect.

The Four Horsemen Antidotes

Gottman’s couples counseling offers antidotes to the four horsemen behaviors. 

For criticism, the antidote is to express your feelings using “I” statements and focusing on specific behaviors, rather than attacking your partner’s character. 

For contempt, the antidote is to build a culture of appreciation and respect, and to cultivate a sense of humor. 

For defensiveness, the antidote is to take responsibility for your part in the conflict and to acknowledge your partner’s perspective. 

For stonewalling, the antidote is to take a break from the conversation and to practice self-soothing techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a key component of Gottman’s couples counseling. Emotional intelligence involves being able to recognize and manage your own emotions, as well as being able to empathize with your partner’s emotions. By developing emotional intelligence, couples can communicate more effectively and resolve conflicts in healthy ways. Emotional intelligence involves being able to express your emotions in a constructive way, listening to your partner’s perspective, and working together to find a solution that meets both of your needs.

Gottman’s couples counseling offers a powerful approach to strengthening relationships and navigating conflicts in healthy ways. By identifying and addressing the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” cultivating positive interactions, and developing emotional intelligence, couples can build a foundation of trust and mutual respect that can last a lifetime. Whether you are struggling with communication issues, trust issues, or other relationship challenges, Gottman’s couples counseling can help you overcome these obstacles and build a stronger, healthier, and more fulfilling relationship.