It's a scenario all too familiar to many couples therapists: partners in session get riled up to the point that therapy quickly unravels into name-calling, accusations, and even shouting matches. It's an ordeal that's equally exhausting for both clients and therapists. So what's the best course of action?
Renowned couples therapists John and Julie Gottman have spent more than four decades studying couples' everyday interactions in their "love lab." What they've come away with is a blueprint that can predict with startling accuracy the potential for a relationship's success or failure. And de-escalating from fiery situations, where one or both partners get emotionally "flooded," is a prime focus of their work.
In the following video clip from John and Julie's 2015 Networker Symposium address, "What Works in Couples Therapy," Julie shares a surprisingly simple solution for helping flooded partners and getting therapy back on track.
Along with her husband, John, Julie Gottman is cofounder of The Gottman Institute. She's also the author or coauthor of Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage; And Baby Makes Three; and The Marriage Clinic Casebook.
Scientific assessments have radically changed the way couples therapists practice, says Julie. What's more, she adds, these studies have humanized couples who make mistakes. Even partners in successful relationships use criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. But what distinguishes their relationships from disastrous ones is that these partners focus on making repairs following ruptures in their relationship and making them early.
"The couples we see are often in terrible distress," says Julie. "Don’t they deserve the best we can give them? Couples therapy, like any form of psychotherapy, is an art form at its best. But underlying the art, we need methods built on the truth of what couples need to succeed, rather than those based in myths patched together out of stereotypes. Science is the avenue that can best lead us toward truth."
Stay tuned for more clinical wisdom from the Gottmans in our upcoming video blogs.
Did you enjoy this video? Check out John and Julie's article, "Lessons from the Love Lab," in which they explain how science has radically transformed the way we practice couples therapy, and "The Myths and Realities of Couples Therapy," in which they discuss the three phases of romantic relationships, and share how to maintain romantic spark and connection even decades into marriage.
Tags: Anxiety | brain | brain science | Couples & Family | gottman institute | Gottman Method | healthy relationships | John Gottman | Julie Schwartz Gottman | love | love and relationships | relationship | relationship problems | romantic relationships