Effective Conflict Resolution: The Body-Mind Approach in Gottman Couples Therapy
By Tara Rullo, LCSW
Turning conflict into Connection
Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship, be it a new relationship or a long-standing partnership. How couples navigate these conflicts plays a pivotal role in determining the health and longevity of the relationship. Gottman couples therapy is a groundbreaking approach to couples therapy that focuses on effective conflict resolution and is distinguished by its holistic “body-mind” approach to helping couples turn conflict into connection.
Why is a Body-Mind approach important in couples therapy?
At the heart of Gottman Couples Therapy lies the understanding that the body and mind are interconnected. Emotions, thoughts, and physiological/somatic responses are all woven together in the fabric of our moment to moment experience. We’re all familiar with the experience of being in conflict with our partners: our hearts race, our breath quickens, and our voices become strained. In this state stress hormones are being released and our bodies are preparing for danger. We become unable to communicate clearly and our mental capacity decreases.
Here’s how Gottman therapy embodies a body-mind approach to conflict resolution:
• Emotional Awareness: Central to the Gottman method is the idea that emotions play a crucial role in relationship conflicts. Emotions are not merely mental states; they have a profound impact on the body. When individuals experience intense emotions during conflicts, their bodies react with physiological responses like increased heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormone release. Gottman trained therapists help couples become more aware of their emotional states and the bodily sensations associated with them. This awareness is the first step in addressing conflict constructively.
• Managing Physiological Arousal “Flooding”: High levels of physiological arousal can interfere with effective communication during conflicts. When people become “flooded” with stress or negative emotions, their cognitive abilities can be impaired, making it difficult to listen, empathize, or find solutions. Gottman therapy teaches couples techniques to recognize and manage flooding with tools such as deep breathing and relaxation exercises, allowing them to stay grounded and present during conflicts.
• Non-Verbal Communication: A lot of what we communicate to one another is non-verbal. We speak with our words but also with our body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. In therapy, couples can learn how to decode and respond to non-verbal cues effectively. By understanding and managing their non-verbal communication, couples can greatly reduce misunderstandings and defensiveness during conflicts.
• Empathy and Connection: Building emotional intimacy and connection is a core goal of Gottman therapy. Couples are encouraged to practice empathy, active listening, and understanding each other’s perspectives. This not only enhances emotional well-being but also positively impacts the body’s stress response.
• Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques are often integrated into Gottman therapy. Mindfulness allows us to stay present in the moment, observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment, and make more conscious choices. Mindfulness can reduce reactivity and foster a sense of emotional balance.
If you and your partner are ready to learn more about Gottman therapy’s body-mind approach to conflict resolution, reach out to us today! You increase connection, resolve conflicts successfully, and ultimately cultivate a happier and more fulfilling relationship!