When differences between partners seem inconsolable, many people consider ending their relationships. However, this often isn’t an easy or ideal option, thanks to any mix of emotional and financial factors. Couple’s counseling is a popular alternative to the dreaded breakup or divorce, but it’s crucial to find the right type of couple’s therapy for you.
Use this overview of two of the most common methods of couple’s therapy and consider which may be a better fit for your relationship’s needs.
The Gottman Method
One of the most common types of couple’s counseling is Gottman Therapy. Created by power couple doctors Julie and John Gottman, this is a research-focused method of therapy that strengthens the foundations of a relationship.
The main principles of the Gottman method center on shared commitment, positive interactions, and managing conflict. This method focuses on building your relationship through sharing appreciation for each other and how your relationship can positively affect your life.
The Gottman Method in practice
Your experience with the Gottman method may look something like this:
During your first session, you’ll tell the therapist about the history of your relationship. Then, after providing information on some of the ongoing issues of your relationship, your therapist will ask each member of your partnership to complete a survey separately from each other.
Afterward, you’ll each get an individual session with the therapist. During this time, you’ll talk about the relationship, build a personal rapport with your therapist, and discuss your goals for couple’s therapy. Finally, the therapist will present their assessment of your relationship and treatment plan.
From there, the goal of the sessions is to increase respect, intimacy, and communication skills within the relationship through various activities as a couple to learn more about the other.
Why Gottman is used
Gottman therapy is a systematic, effective method of therapy. Your ‘road map’ should let you know exactly what to work on after each session, making it an excellent choice for couples with solution-oriented mindsets and overlapping long-term goals.
Emotionally Focused Therapy
Emotionally focused therapy, or EFT, is an attachment theory-based approach to couple’s therapy. This short-term therapy method created by doctors Greenberg and Johnson focuses on creating a secure emotional bond between partners.
Emotionally Focused Therapy in practice
EFT treatment typically comes in three stages.
- The de-escalation stage focuses on finding and reframing negative patterns in your interactions with your partner. In this stage, your therapist will ask you about your conflict style in your relationship, then help you understand how your negative emotions lead to certain undesirable behaviours. Depending on the therapist, you’ll spend around 75% of your sessions in this phase. Once you understand your partner and become more emotionally available, you’ll move to the next stage.
- The second stage focuses on bonding. This stage helps couples reduce their conflict. With emotional availability and reframing skills, your therapist will help you work on communicating your needs and wants to your partner, then accepting them. By the end, you will have a solid framework for mutual support and making your wants and needs heard.
- The last stage of EFT is the consolidation of change. This involves reflecting on your therapy experience and practicing new strategies for dealing with conflict. At this point, you should be dealing with issues differently, preventing conflict and allowing your relationship to heal.
Why Emotionally Focused Therapy is used
EFT is a powerful therapy method for dealing with issues in the moment. Your sessions will focus on bonding and rebuilding connections. It’s particularly effective for couples with one partner struggling from a chronic illness such as depression or PTSD because it allows both parties to understand each other and reframe how they deal with conflict.
Both the Gottman and EFT methods of therapy are great options for couples, depending on their goals for the relationship. Finding out which approach works best for you can be a helpful step in choosing a therapist that fits your needs.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.