Is The Gottman Method Profitable for Therapists?

By Caralee Frederic, LCSW

I always knew I wanted to one day go into private practice, from the start of my career as a therapist. The independence, the opportunity for creativity, the chance to make my own schedule. When the time came to make that plunge from working in an agency setting to starting my practice, the anxiety reverberating inside of me sounded like “Will anyone come to see me?”

But, they did. From the first day in private practice, I have been consistently full. Of course, the first few years, when there was a lull in my schedule — holidays, summer, a slowing of referrals — the old panic would resurface: “Was this it? Would my practice just fizzle away?” At that point, I was still working with individuals, families and couples — whomever needed my assistance. 

But within a few short years, I had such a high demand for couples’ work, that I dared to start to create a niche of working exclusively with couples. And from that point on, I’ve always been full with a waiting list. Private pay only.

“How?” my colleagues ask me. 

Carving A Niche

First of all, it has to be because I love my work and I am passionate about helping couples turn suffering into connection. This passion is, in large part, directed and informed by my training and Certification as a Gottman Method therapist. The principles and skills I learned in my Gottman training have given me the confidence and the assuredness that what I am asking couples to do, works. Not just for some, but for anyone who will give it a chance.

Early in my career, couples were my hardest cases. I didn’t know which person to empathize with, which one to challenge and when. And the split between what was best for each person and the relationship was, at times, overwhelming, to say the least. So, when a colleague and friend invited me to go to a 3 day trainings with “some expert on marriage” I jumped at the chance.

After 3 days listening to Dr. John Gottman’s overview of his 40 years of research, watching videos of his work with couples and learning the basics of using the Gottman method, I left thinking, “I can do this!”

It made sense. It was straight forward. And there were so many interventions to try and directions to go, creativity was inherently built in. Plus, I’m a sucker for scientific backing. And there was so much science behind his methodology!


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Being Heard

To understand Gottman Method Couples Therapy, couples do not have to be highly educated. But they must be willing to try a new way of talking and listening. Many of my couples, like most people, are insightful, and thrive on the concrete guidance The Gottman Method provides. 

Structure. Safety. Clarity on how to replace old hurtful behaviors with new, initially awkward, but common sense words and actions. Through the thorough assessment process, couples are able to put to words their primary concerns and desires for change. It’s a crystalizing process. From the assessment process, I am able to highlight which areas need to be addressed first, based on the couples’ input, in order to see progress and to start to feel better in the relationship, sooner rather than later. 

“We’ve never talked like this before.” “I wish we had learned these tools 10, 15, 20 years ago.” “This is the first time I felt truly heard.” “Can we teach these skills to our children?”
These are the types of comments I hear every week.


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Ready And Able

Some of the critics of the Gottman method think it’s too behavioral and not focused enough on emotion. In my experience with it, that’s absolutely not the case at all. From the very first session, we are talking about emotions and creating a different experience for the couple to experience them together.

Most of my couples come to therapy in crisis, with very high levels of distress, needing more direction initially, not less. They want someone to say, “We know how to help you. We know what to do next. There is hope that this can change. All is not lost.”

And for the vast majority of my couples, this proves to be true. With time and the safety created by the structure of the method, my couples gradually take on more and more of the direction in therapy. They know what tool to use, what kind of conversation they need to have and they are ready for that nudge and encouragement I give them to “go deeper” with their emotions. As the work unfolds, they naturally need less and less of my help.

One way I know we’re getting close to the end of therapy is when I can sit back and watch the couple do all the work themselves from the skills they’ve learned to apply. And then I know they’ll take them home with them and use them there as well.


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Consumer Demand

Over the years, the types of couples calling for me have gone from “I’m looking for a couples’ therapist” to “I’m looking for a Gottman therapist. I want someone who is immersed it in. I only want to work with a certified Gottman therapist. My friend, therapist, family member told me you’re the one to work with because of your experience and certification in the Gottman method.”

Consumers are becoming more educated about The Gottman Method. They know what they want and they are looking for it specifically. I have raised my rates every couple of years, and probably could again without anyone blinking an eye. And I am a private pay company. No insurance to deal with.

A couple of years ago, one of my sons had a severe concussion. It would have taken 6 to 8 weeks to get him in to see a specialist through our medical system. I was outraged! How could it take 6 to 8 weeks to get in with an acute injury that was debilitating him on every level?

As I expressed my outrage and frustration to some friends, I heard myself say, “If they’re in that high of demand, they should hire more people!.” As the words left my mouth, a little lightbulb went on in my head. People were routinely waiting that long and longer to get in to see me. And that is when I started to consider expanding into a group practice, specializing in using The Gottman Method with couples in high distress.

I have hired one fantastic therapist, and I will continue to hire only the best therapists, until couples who call for help can get in that same week. All of my colleagues who are Certified Gottman therapists are as full as they want to be, and then some. Even after 17 years since I took Level 1, I continue to be amazed at the breadth and the depth of The Gottman Institute’s research and its discoveries, and how it informs my practice as a clinician, constantly challenging me to refine and improve my work.

If this is your vision of how you hope to practice one day, come and receive the training in The Gottman Method. I promise you won’t regret it!


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caralee Frederic is a Licensed Clinical Licensed Social Worker and Certified Gottman Therapist. She was the first therapist to made the Gottman-created weekend workshop, The Art and Science of Love, to couples in Colorado and Hawaii.
Caralee teaches the Gottman Level training courses for Gottman certification. 
In addition to her couples works, she has experience counseling sexual addiction recovery and trauma issues.