Small Things Often

Small Things Often

The Gottman Method in a Nutshell

By Kathy Butler

September/October 2006

A Gottman Method therapist isn't a healer, shuttle diplomat, or referee, but rather a trainer hunched next to a boxing ring with a towel over one shoulder. The therapeutic goal is to train both partners in the behavioral and communications skills used naturally by happy couples, rather than get in the middle and do the work for them. Pointers and behavioral training are supplemented by "cheat sheets," checklists, and exercises for practice at home. Therapists coach couples to do "small things often" to build marital friendships, rather than trying to engineer dramatic breakthroughs.

Throughout the process, the therapist balances the niggling work of skills training with modeling acceptance of conflict and personality differences, described as inevitable in any marriage.

Therapy is divided into distiinct modules, mixed and matched as needed, and not always applied sequentially.

-Assessment. Before therapy begins, each partner independently fills out up to 30 paper-and-pen questionnaires assessing disengagement, thoughts of divorce, abuse, styles of conflict resolution, etc. Separate and joint oral interviews follow. The therapist then sums up the relationship's strengths and deficits, and presents a road map and a therapeutic contract. Research is cited to give the couple hope. Seemingly insurmountable tasks are broken into doable, bite-size pieces. Some couples, such as those with abuse issues or insufficient commitment, are screened out of…

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