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.

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. That's what strengthens the bond.

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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 and work toward advanced training in that model. Many have advanced training in one or both, and others have expertise in 2, 3, 4, or 5 methods of helping couples.

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, science-based therapy.  Interventions 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 was developed out of this research to help couples:

  • Break through and resolve conflicts when you feel stuck
  • Increase respect, affection, and closeness
  • Generate greater understanding between both of you
  • Keep your conflict discussions calm and productive.

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.
  • Managing Conflict: We say "manage" 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.

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.

About Dr. John Gottman

DR. JOHN GOTTMAN’S FORTY YEARS OF BREAKTHROUGH RESEARCH ON MARRIAGE AND PARENTING HAVE EARNED HIM NUMEROUS MAJOR AWARDS, INCLUDING:

  • Four National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Awards
  • The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Distinguished Research Scientist Award
  • The American Family Therapy Academy Award for Most Distinguished Contributor to Family Systems Research
  • The American Psychological Association Division of Family Psychology, Presidential Citation for Outstanding Lifetime Research Contribution
  • The National Council of Family Relations, 1994 Burgess Award for Outstanding Career in Theory and Research

Learn more about the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy.

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


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"

"…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.”

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

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. A guided conversation with clinically-proven skills can heal these broken bonds.

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. 

About Dr. Sue Johnson

evidence-based couples therapy effectiveness

Sue Johnson is founding Director of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy and Distinguished Research Professor at Alliant University in San Diego, California, as well as Professor Emeritus, Clinical Psychology, at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Like Dr. Gottman, Dr. Johnson has received a multitude of awards acknowledging her development of EFT and her significant contribution to the field of couple and family therapy and adult attachment.

Sue has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor recognizing outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to Canada. In 2016, she was named Psychologist of the Year by APA, and has been honored by AAMFT for her Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Couple and Family Therapy. For those who want to learn more, here is a link to the scores of clinical papers attesting to the 75-90% effectiveness of Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy:

In 2013,  the now famous "Summit" was held featuring Drs. John & Julie Gottman and Dr. Sue Johnson.

This two-day conference was packed with couples therapists as these three giants discussed interventions, theory, and practical application. Many of our team members eagerly attended.

These thought-leaders sat on two couches around a coffee table and had a conversation as if we were all in one huge living room. They explored the differences and similarities in their theories. Most of the time they highly complimentary, and even reverent. But sometimes they were respectfully passionate about the nuances and differences in their approaches.


Clinically-based Models

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.”

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

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.

Happiness doesn’t just happen. It takes know-how to do things differently.

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

We want to help.

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COUPLES THERAPY INC.
Healing Relationships Worldwide

Cindy Tervalon, M.Ed. Intake Coordinator

Want to learn  more about Couples Therapy Inc.? Schedule a time to speak to our trained Intake Coordinator, Cindy, in your time zone with the scheduler below. She will listen to you, ask you questions and help you to decide if this is right for you. Learn more about how science-based couples counseling can help your relationship anywhere in the world. It's our specialty!