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  • Writer's pictureDonna McMillan

The relationship counselling method with four decades of research.

Caucasian couple embracing standing side by side in a park.

Who are the Gottman’s?

John and Julie Gottman are the creators of the well-known Gottman method. Together they have created the most thoroughly researched relationship counselling, spanning over 40 years. John Gottman is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Washington. It is here that he founded the “Love Lab” where he conducted his research on couples’ interactions. Throughout his observations on the couples’ behaviours in the lab, he was able to figure out what the couples who were doing well, were doing differently compared to the couples who were doing poorly. These observations helped shape the way the Gottman method was created. John has written numerous published academic articles and books on relationships including the best-selling, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, What Makes Love Last and Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Julie Gottman is a clinical psychologist who is highly sought after as an expert advisor to media and organisations. She co-wrote Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love and 10 Principles for Doing Effective Couples Therapy. She is in private practice and specialises in couples dealing with trauma, substance abuse and cancer patients.


How does it work?

Relationship counselling using the Gottman method starts with an assessment phase. This includes getting to know you both as a couple, meeting each of you in an individual session to discuss your own perspectives and completing an online questionnaire. The final stage of the assessment process, is the counsellor presenting a treatment plan to work through the challenges that are discovered. The assessment phase is a rigorous but critical process required to figure out where you need help as a couple. Once this process is complete, the goals from the treatment plan can be worked through.


What to expect in your sessions?

Couple laughing in a field together.

After the assessment phase, we then move on to the therapeutic phase. Depending on what concerns you want to work through as a couple, the counsellor will be able to guide you each step of the way. The counsellor will show you the best way to approach your concerns, with a variety of exercises and techniques that are conducive to having relationship harmony. More specifically, relationship counselling using the Gottman method focusses on helping couples strengthen their relationship in three key areas: conflict management, friendship and creating shared meaning.

The duration and frequency needed for relationship counselling depends on the counsellor you see. Relationship counselling at Connections Counselling begins with 90-minute sessions. Ideally these will be done on a weekly basis. Once things have improved consistently, session duration moves to 1-hour sessions with longer gaps in between sessions. Finally, at the end of counselling, a discussion about relapse prevention will be done to ensure that the changes you have made as a couple continues.


How many sessions will you need?

Same sex female couple embracing in their home.

The answer to this depends on several factors and all couples are different. If it’s for relationship maintenance, this will result in a shorter amount of sessions. However, if there are more significant challenges such as infidelity, this can take longer. It also comes down to the couple and how well they can do the work outside of counselling.


Is the Gottman method right for you?

Relationship counselling can help in the following areas:

  • Poor communication

  • If you are experiencing conflict

  • Addressing specific concerns such as intimacy, parenting, infidelity, handling finances and addiction.

  • To build a foundation for a healthy relationship

The Gottman method can also support couples across all racial, economic, racial, sexual orientation and cultural areas. Research has shown that the Gottman method is an effective evidence-based practice for treating same sex relationships.

Male kissing female on her forehead in nature.

One of the most critical components of ensuring relationship counselling is effective, is continuing to do the work outside of the sessions. Whilst the counsellor can help in the areas you get stuck as a couple, the skills you learn during each session should be practiced outside of counselling as well. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but a consistent and conscious effort needs to be made. Otherwise, if you aren’t doing the work that is required, it can prolong the healing process.


Other considerations

There is no one size fits all approach to relationship counselling. Perhaps the Gottman method does not resonate with you, and that’s okay! There are other types of relationship counselling to choose from such as Emotionally Focussed Therapy (EFT) and Imago therapy. It’s important to do your research and find the best fit for you as a couple. Another important consideration is finding the right counsellor who you get along with. You may find the right approach for you, but if one or both of you don’t gel with your counsellor, you won’t get the most out of it. The right counsellor will validate both of your concerns, won’t take sides and listen to both of your needs.

Finally, relationship counselling is not appropriate for couples experiencing domestic violence. The best places to seek support in these areas are domestic violence specialists such as the Domestic Violence Crisis Service in Canberra or the National Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Counselling Service.

Caucasian couple smiling at each other underneath a teepee.


John & Julie Gottman - about (2022) The Gottman Institute. Available at: (Accessed: February 12, 2023).

New Outcome Research study shows effectiveness of Gottman Method Coupl (2017) PRWeb. Available at: (Accessed: February 12, 2023).

Same-sex couples - research (2021) The Gottman Institute. Available at: (Accessed: February 12, 2023).

The Gottman method - about (2022) The Gottman Institute. Available at:,the%20context%20of%20the%20relationship. (Accessed: February 12, 2023).


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