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Does couples therapy really work?

Turns out the answer is a resounding YES! In the last 40 years or so world class researcher John Gottman has been looking closely at what makes relationships work and what makes them fail. His findings have been astonishing in their accuracy. Seems that successful couples understand a range of concepts, skills and strategies that improve their ability to manage conflict, continuously deepen their friendship and intimacy, create a deep sense of shared meaning, and develop high levels of trust and loyalty.

John Gottman and his wife Julie Schwarz-Gottman, a clinical psychologist, then took all his research findings and developed an evidenced based approach to couples therapy that assists couples who are struggling to develop all of the skills, understanding and strategies required to become 'Masters of Relationship'.

A trained  Gottman therapist will be able to skilfully guide you and your partner through a therapeutic process that will help you both to gain deeper understanding of both your own emotional needs as well as your partner's and how to use a range of conversation skills, simple strategies and tools to help you create a strong, satisfying, close and intimate relationship.

One of the big differences between Gottman Method Couples therapy and most other approaches is that your therapist will engage in a thorough assessment process to ensure that they fully understand YOUR relationship dynamics and issues.  They will then share with you their understanding of the issues and how these might be addressed through therapy.  Together you, the therapist and your partner will establish the goals of your therapy and will be able to review your progress regularly.

To ensure couples therapy is successful for you there are a few things that help:

Intensity - when couples attending therapy in an intensive mode they are able to quickly resolve and repair old hurts and move to rebuilding and rejuvenating their relationships within just a few weeks.  Intensive modes of therapy might include attending marathon therapy (2 solid days focused on your relationship with a highly skilled and experienced therapist); therapy that is 'massed and faded out', in other words scheduling 2-4 hours of couples therapy a week in order to fast track your relationship recovery;

Expertise of the therapist - many therapists will say they do couples therapy but in reality few have completed specific in depth training in evidenced based approaches to couples therapy.  Asking question such as "what specific training have you had in couples therapy?", "what approach to couples therapy do you take? And where did you learn that?", "Are you certified in any couples therapy approaches?".  Beware couples therapists who say they use a particular approach who's only training has been reading the book, while this may help with a theoretic understanding it does very little in skilling the therapist in managing the sometimes challenging moments that can arise in your relationship;

Willingness and motivation - without doubt the success of any therapeutic process is predicted by the willingness and motivation of the client/s.  If you and your partner both want to repair, rebuild and rejuvenate your relationship then with the help of an intense approach and a skilled therapist you really can't fail.

Written by Trish Purnell-Webb, Clinical Psychologist, Certified Gottman Therapist, Master Trainer and Consultant.

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