Dr. John Gottman is one of the U.S.’s top researchers and experts on relationships. Based on multiple years of research and observing how functional and dysfunctional couples interact with one another, he and his team developed a treatment targeting the most important aspects of relationships. According to Gottman, there are four interactions that are highly detrimental to a relationship. They are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. These actions are discussed in depth in therapy, both on how they may be occurring within a relationship and how to create alternative ways of relating to each other. In therapy, the clinician will focus on reconnecting the couple by modifying how the couple engages in conflict with one another, building a greater sense of friendship within the relationship, and creating shared meaning with each other.
Therapists assist by helping couples rephrase triggering or hurtful statements into statements that do not incite more conflict and can repair a temporary rift. A few examples of these are:
- Please say that more gently.
- I feel blamed. Can you rephrase that?
- Can you make things safer for me?
- Can I take that back?
- How can I make things better?
- I agree with part of what you are saying.
- Give me a moment. I’ll be back.
- This is not your problem, it is our problem.
These repairing statements are just a few of the many skills that couples will learn throughout the course of Gottman Informed Interpersonal Therapy.