Evidence-Based Models of Couples Therapy

First we Start with Science. Finding the right models is the Easy Part:

There are So Few of Them…

What are Evidence-Based Practices?

Evidence-based practices are treatments that are based directly on scientific evidence. This evidence links particular sets of behaviors and symptoms, with treatment designed to intervene, lessen, or alleviate this distress. Most evidence-based practices were studied in several large-scale clinical trials, involving thousands of patients.

Then, a careful comparison is made between the effectiveness of one “treatment” vs. the efficacy of another (or no treatment at all, like a wait-list group). When one treatment is consistently proven to be superior to another, it is labeled “Evidence-based Practice” (EBP).

Emotionally-focused couples therapy has been tested against other modalities in this way.

Other researchers have studied a variety of couples themselves, in a laboratory setting, and followed them over decades. These studies, like the ones Dr. Gottman has conducted, are science-based, linking actual interactional patterns firmly to marital happiness or divorce outcomes.

Gottman Certified Therapist

At Couples Therapy Inc, we take a strong stand requiring all of our Couples Therapists to demonstrate training and skill in at least one of these scientifically-proven evidenced-based approaches. Most also have additional models they use. We all have a basis in science, to keep the guesswork out of it.  Our goal?

To apply the right help to the right couple.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy is a structured, goal-oriented, scientifically-based therapy. Intervention strategies are based upon empirical data from Dr. Gottman’s four decades of research with more than 3,000 couples.

What is Gottman Method Couples Therapy?

Science + Common Sense

Gottman Method Couples Therapy combines the knowledge and wisdom of four decades of Gottman research and clinical practice. Through research-based interventions and exercises, couples learn to break through barriers and achieve greater understanding, connection, and intimacy in their relationships.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy is a structured, goal-oriented, scientifically-based therapy. Intervention strategies are based on empirical data from Dr. Gottman’s four decades of research with more than 3,000 couples. This research shows us what works to help couples achieve a healthy long-term relationship. The Gottman Method Couples Therapy was developed out of this research to help couples:

*  Break through and resolve conflicts when they feel stuck

*  Increase respect, affection, and closeness​

*  Generate greater understanding between partners​

*  Keep conflict discussions calm.​

The Gottman Theory For Making Relationships Work

  • Build Love Maps: How well do you know your partner’s inner psychological world, his or her history, worries, stresses, joys, and hopes?
  • Share Fondness and Admiration: The antidote for contempt, this level focuses on the amount of affection and respect within a relationship. (To strengthen fondness and admiration, express appreciation and respect.)
  • Turn Towards: State your needs, be aware of bids for connection and turn towards them. The small moments of everyday life are actually the building blocks of relationship.
  • The Positive Perspective: The presence of a positive approach to problem-solving and the success of repair attempts.
  • Manage Conflict: We say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve” conflict, because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Understand that there is a critical difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.
  • Make Life Dreams Come True: Create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her hopes, values, convictions and aspirations.
  • Create Shared Meaning: Understand important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.

Research shows that to make a relationship last, couples must become better friends, learn to manage conflict, and create ways to support each other’s hopes for the future. How can couples accomplish this?   By paying close attention to what Gottman calls the “Sound Relationship House”, or the seven components of healthy couples.

The BIG BIG Book walks you through questions that help your couples therapist to know which level of the house needs work.  They will share that with you during the Feedback Session.

What does it sound like?

If your couples therapists asks you to re-phrase your criticism another way, into a “complaint,” or asks you to start your sentence off a bit more gently, you know this is a Gottman Method intervention. Criticism is one of the Four Horsemen Gottman describes as bearers of bad marriages. Read more about The Four Horsemen.

Learn More about Gottman Method Couples Therapy.

Learning to love someone means knowing what’s realistic to accept and what’s not.

We want to help.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Sue Johnson, Ph.D. is the co-founder of the “Emotionally Focused” model of therapy. Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy has demonstrated its effectiveness with couples in over 25 years of clinical research. Dr. Johnson describes patterns that couples engage in, in to attempt to meet their intimacy needs.

Her model helps couples learn what these steps are in their dance, and how to change them. What we “think,” we now knows most often follows what we feel. Feelings engage us, engross us, capture our attention immediately.

When we live with a person who is sensitive and responsive to our needs, we feel safe and cared for. When that doesn’t happen, however, there are predictable ways we respond, based upon our earliest history. These Johnson calls “Dances.” When they work, they are like a Tango. When they don’t, they are demonic dances: Demon Dances.

These predictable “dances” are based upon “attachment style.” Attachment styles are the way we connect and rely on important others. Attachment styles are a significant predictor of relationship satisfaction. Distressed relationships are often insecure bonds. This means that an individual can’t get basic healthy attachment needs met because of rigid interaction patterns (“demon dances”) that block emotional connections. I provide my couples with a popular attachment instrument, and begin treatment with a fundamental understanding of each of your attachment styles. It guides our work.

Watch as series of short movies about this under the title:

"Couples Therapy Videos Explaining Attachment"

Elements of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Every element of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy all have research support:

  • the EFT perspective on relationship distress;
  • the way of treating this distress
  • the process of change
  • the attachment framework

"…When we live with a person who is sensitive and responsive to our needs, we feel safe and cared for. When that doesn’t happen, however, there are predictable ways we respond, based upon our earliest history. These Johnson calls “Dances.” When they work, they are like a Tango. When they don’t, they are demonic: "Demon Dances.”

Attachment Injuries

It is important in this work to help couples to recognize deep attachment injuries and have the tools to heal them.

These are times when one or both really needed the other, and felt that you were let down.

These have happened at some point in your relationship, maybe years ago, but it never got resolved. The goal is to help you to work through these attachment injuries. 

What does it sound like?

If you hear your couples therapist say gently: “What would it be like to tell him/her that? Right now?” you know it is an emotionally-focused couples therapy intervention.

You can watch Sue Johnson, Ph.D. working with a real couple here.

If you would like to work with a clinician who’s major focus is emotionally focused couples therapy, just ask.  We have several on our team.

Learn More about Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Why Use Other Types of Models?

Evidence-based models clearly have a place in any qualified Couples Therapists Toolkit. However, many severely problematic couples aren’t helped by evidence-based models, as they may not be “overly represented” in the sample that the researcher selects for research.

It makes sense.

If you can exclude those couples that have low motivation for treatment, or who have consulted an attorney, or filed for divorce, you are likely to get better research “results.”

For this reason, many of our clinicians have chosen to train with The Bader/Pearson Model of Couples Therapy, called The Developmental Model. This approach works with the absolute toughest of cases. It is a clinically effective (vs. research based) model of couples therapy and provides excellent and useful strategies.

All clinicians are exposed to the Developmental Model as part of their Network Affiliative status. Dr. McMahon, and Nancy St. John have been granted the right to teach this method to clinicians.

Drs. Ellyn Bader & Pete Pearson - Founders of the Developmental Model talking about their own marriage

…We say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve” conflict, because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Understand that there is a critical difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.”

Happiness doesn’t just happen. It takes knowing what to do differently.

You and your partner deserve to be happy with one another.

We want to help.


Give Daniel a call  (yes, just click.  They work...)