John M. Gottman, PhD, is William Mifflin Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. World-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, Dr. Gottman has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. He is the author of over two dozen books, including Seven Principles to Making Marriage Work, The Heart of Parenting (with J. DeClaire), When Men Batter Women (with Neil Jacobson), Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, The Marriage Clinic, and The Science of Trust.
This book by John Gottman deals with nearly all aspects of marital therapy: myths and mistakes, assessment methods, and interventions. It is strictly research oriented, i.e. Gottman does not follow a special theoretical school such as psychodynamic of cognitive-behavioral marital therapy. His findings from the last 30 years include many diversions from classical marital therapy as well as some really surprising finding. Let me give you just one example: active listening, the core concept of many therapies is NOT fundamental for a good marriage. Actually, even happily married couples very rarely use active listening. This is not to say that active listening is harmful, it is just not necessary for developing and maintaining a happy relationship. Gottman offers his own version of clinically proven interventions, their respective assumptions and sections for dealing with problems. This book is aimed for therapists and counselors. They will find a wealth of information, especially a lot of assessment instruments. Every professional in the area of marital therapy should read this book. You will surely find many recommendations. After all, it's the clients' health you are serving. Gottman's interventions have proven to be greatly beneficial for couples: his clients divorce half as often as clients treated with traditional marriage therapy. That alone should be reason enough to actively use his methods. The interested lay person should read Gottman's book "The 7 principles for making marriage work" which explains his findings in easy to understand language. By and large, this book is an excellent example of a professional resource book!
This remarkable book advances the understanding of what works in marital and, I believe, family therapy. Early chapters review marital theories, and how they lived up to their assumptions when tested through well designed research. Gottman presents a very respectful attitude toward the marital couple and emphasizes the importance of honoring the goal of establishing and supporting the couple's self sufficiency. The chapter titled Buffering Children From Marital Conflict is an insightful introduction into how to help parents develop the tools to strenghten their children's resilience. As a person who has worked with at risk children and families for 17 years and has recently completed a masters degree in mental health counseling, I have read my share of family counseling books. From Satir to Whitaker to Lang to Minuchen(sp)... (you get the point). This is by far the best book on the subject!
At last there is an answer to the question I've been asking since beginning my studies in psychology--"Isn't there anything ELSE?" There are many schools of thought that reign in fiefdoms of psychology, including systems theory, behaviorism, Imago, and psychodynamic to name a few. Each is dogmatic, and when tested across research studies, all can benefit patients (despite zealous claims to the contrary by the priesthoods in each camp). However, until I read The Marriage Clinic, I was not aware that our field has shown such poor results in the area of marital therapy. While individual psychotherapy tends to work, Gottman sites research to show that marital therapy does not create lasting change. This is serious.
Our current state of the art in marital and family therapy tends include unsatisfying, unnatural, and even ridiculous, techniques for clinicians to use with people facing the problem of how to improve their marriage. Thank goodness for people like Gottman, who actually collect data to inform decisions, and use common sense and humanity to understand and apply those findings. I see Gottman as our field's greatest living visionary, whose research and relationship building techniques will hopefully spread to parent-child relationships and IO psychology as well.
As to this book specifically, don't get it unless you are a clinician. If you are looking to help your own marriage, I suggest The Seven Principals of Making Marriage Work, which is very user friendly. The Marriage Clinic is quite technical in parts, and can be dense, however it is a very fun read. Gottman's personality and humor come through loud and clear. I found myself laughing out loud at times. I confess I enjoy how he exposes the senselessness of so much of the techniques we currently utilize, and backs it up with meticulous research. This book begins with a solid lit review, a discussion of Gottman's basic ideology and rationale, and then goes into the nuts and bolts of how to apply his ideas.
Even if you are not a marital therapist, it will change the way you look at relationships. He teaches a new vocabulary for describing what you are observing in relationships that I find exceptionally helpful. I would recommend this to anyone conducting psychotherapy, as it will improve your ability to make inferences about your patient's relationships. I also enjoyed the case vignettes very much. If you like Gottman, I highly recommend his books on parenting as well.
I am a clinical psychologist who bought this book to update my skills for working with couples. The heart of the book is that Gottman believes that the "old" way of working on empathic listening between couple's should not be the goal of therapy. He says that it is too hard for couples to listen to each other when they are being attacked and criticized. It put's them on the defensive. I was intrigued by this hypothesis, but it is still possible to work on listening as non-defensively as possible. However, his point is well taken that we also need to build intimacy and connection as a primary goal of couple's work. I also liked his notion that some things will not change in any relationship. These points of bad fit or mis-match can be transmuted into a situation where couple's have more acceptance and humor around issues that are not likely to change. I still think there is no substitute for evaluating each couple on an individual basis. Any research based or technique driven prescription is likely to fall short of a skilled therapist tailoring the work to that individual couple. Overall, a helpful book - but has limitations!
Smart, useful tool for the Counselor's toolbox. Everyone married couple should read Gottman's work. There is so much in this book to guide students, counselors and couples to communicate in the most healthful ways.