Couples Therapy: The Gottman Method vs Emotion-Focused Therapy - Group Therapy LA
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Couples Therapy: The Gottman Method vs Emotion-Focused Therapy

Couples Therapy: The Gottman Method vs Emotion-Focused Therapy
July 10, 2024

Which couples therapy approach is right for you?

Both the Gottman Method and EFT improve relationship satisfaction but differ in approach. Struggling with your significant other can be incredibly stressful. However, couples therapy can provide essential relief by helping you and your partner better understand each other and uncover the underlying issues in your relationship. In this post, I am comparing two effective types of couples therapy: the Gottman Method and Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT).

The Gottman Method

Developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, the Gottman Method is rooted in more than 40 years of research. This method empowers couples by assessing their relationship and offering interventions to enhance problem-solving skills, strengthen bonds, and deepen intimacy. The key components of the Gottman Method follow:

  1. The Sound Relationship House Theory: A practical tool reviewing seven components essential for a healthy relationship: building love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, turning toward a positive perspective, managing conflict, making life dreams come true, and creating shared meaning. This theory structures a secure and stable foundation for a lasting marriage.
  2. Gottman Institute Assessment Tools: Tools like the Gottman Relationship Checkup, a survey analyzing relationship dynamics, providing feedback, and recommending personalized treatment plans. Its popularity stems from its accuracy and detailed insights.
  3. The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse: Four negative communication patterns that predict relationship failure if not addressed: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
  4. Repair Attempts: Both partners must de-escalate conflicts actively and make continuous efforts to resolve issues.
  5. Emotional Coaching: Encourages partners to understand and validate each other’s feelings, fostering empathy and ensuring no one feels unheard.
  6. Creating a Shared Meaning: Promotes the development of a unified vision for the couple’s life, encompassing traditions, routines, goals, and values.
  7. Love Maps: Understanding your partner deeply, knowing their fears, dreams, preferences, and dislikes, enhancing mutual understanding and connection.

The Gottman Method provides practical tools and strategies to improve communication, manage conflicts, understand each other better, maintain effort, and build a strong foundation for a healthy relationship.

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)

A short-term therapy designed to strengthen relationships by enhancing the emotional and physical bond between partners. It is grounded in attachment theory and is widely recognized as a valuable approach in couples’ therapy.

Key Components of Emotion-Focused Therapy:

  1. Attachment Theory: Emphasizes the need for emotional security in relationships, highlighting the importance of being emotionally accessible and open to interaction to maintain healthy bonds.
  2. Identifying Patterns: Focuses on recognizing and addressing negative patterns that weaken relationships, intervening to prevent deterioration, and fostering stability.
  3. Emotion Regulation: Helps partners understand and manage their emotions, facilitating deeper emotional connections and mutual understanding.
  4. Creating Stable Bonds: Aims to establish secure bonds by promoting responsiveness, emotional vulnerability, and active engagement, even during conflicts.
  5. Promoting Forgiveness: Emphasizes the role of forgiveness and acceptance, enhancing intimacy and understanding by embracing each other’s imperfections.
  6. Emotion-focused therapy provides a framework for couples to improve their emotional skills and reconnection, promoting healthy emotional expression and understanding.

Research Findings: Gottman Method vs Emotion-Focused Therapy

Studies indicate that both the Gottman Method and EFT are effective in improving relationship satisfaction, though they employ different approaches. The Gottman Method is data-driven and structured, focusing on specific behaviors and communication patterns, while EFT emphasizes emotional experiences and attachment needs.
Research on the Gottman Method has shown that couples who follow its principles report lasting improvements in relationship satisfaction and stability. Similarly, EFT has demonstrated long-term benefits, with couples maintaining better emotional connections and lower divorce rates years after therapy .

Conflict Resolution:
The Gottman Method provides detailed strategies for managing and resolving conflicts, making it particularly effective for couples struggling with communication issues. EFT, on the other hand, focuses on the emotional underpinnings of conflicts, helping couples understand and address the deeper emotional issues driving their disputes.

Emotional Intimacy:
EFT excels in fostering emotional intimacy and security, making it ideal for couples who feel disconnected or have experienced emotional injuries. The Gottman Method also improves emotional intimacy but does so through structured interactions and exercises that build mutual understanding and respect.

Gottman Method: Best suited for couples who prefer a structured, research-based approach and are looking to improve specific relationship skills and behaviors.
EFT: Ideal for couples who want to delve into their emotional experiences and attachment needs, and who seek to strengthen their emotional bond and intimacy.


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Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2012). What makes love last?: How to build trust and avoid betrayal. Simon and Schuster.
Johnson, S. M. (2004). The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy: Creating connection. Brunner-Routledge.
Gottman, J. M., & Notarius, C. I. (2000). Decade review: Observing marital interaction. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(4), 927-947.
Johnson, S. M., Hunsley, J., Greenberg, L., & Schindler, D. (1999). Emotionally focused couples therapy: Status and challenges. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 6(1), 67-79.
Johnson, S. M. (2009). Attachment theory and emotionally focused therapy for individuals and couples. In J. H. Obegi & E. Berant (Eds.), Attachment theory and research in clinical work with adults (pp. 410-433). The Guilford Press.
Carrère, S., Buehlman, K. T., Gottman, J. M., Coan, J. A., & Ruckstuhl, L. (2000). Predicting marital stability and divorce in newlywed couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 14(1), 42.

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