PACT Level 2 Therapist
You’ve been betrayed. Or maybe you did the betraying. Either way, your relationship is on life support, and you’re wondering if the only answer is to say goodbye and pull the plug.
Maybe. Maybe the cut is too deep, the hurt too great, the brokenness too extensive.
But maybe a relationship can survive the trauma of betrayal, and even thrive afterward. I believe this because I see it every week in my office.
Betrayal’s Many Faces
Take Mark and Rachel. After 16 years of marriage, Rachel discovered that Mark had been with more than a dozen other women, two being long-term emotional and sexual affairs. Rachel was devastated to learn that her perfect, fairytale story was a figment of her imagination based on partial truth of her actual reality.
Or consider Liz and Dave, a young couple in their early 20s. They’d been together since they were 16, and Liz found herself pregnant. Now, two children and a...
Yvonne Oke, LMFT
PACT Level 2
One of my favorite things about the PACT model is the ability to be creative. As a marriage and family therapist, I have the opportunity to work with not only romantic dyads but also dyads that consist of family members, friends, and coworkers. As I began to learn about the PACT model, I wondered what secure functioning would look like in dyads of other structures. My use of some of the PACT principles and interventions in other dyads proved helpful in allowing my clients to create relationships that felt safe and secure.
Of course, secure functioning looks different in relationships that are not romantic. The expectation to meet the needs of others is not the same as those of our most important relationship. However, I have found that every relationship has a set of rules and expectations for how to stay connected, and PACT can help people identify what those rules need to be.
As we all know, people can...
PACT Level 1 in Training
“I’m asking you to leave.”
I can barely move my lips — they’re all tremble. This is what happens when you live in a cage. Everything atrophies, even the delicate flesh of your mouth. The rusty cell door stands ajar without your knowing it. The key is in your back pocket, and you sit there for years. It’s old witchery — the kind that tricks you into believing days have passed when, in fact, it’s been eons. Like Echo calling out for Narcissus, your voice bounces back to you in infinitum; half of you diminished, and the other half screaming holy hell.
Sometimes in life, we must choose between two torments.
Extricating oneself from a relationship can be excruciating. We are bound to those we’ve loved. Our hearts attach for a myriad of reasons, some mysterious and elusive, others pragmatic. Our cells awaken when we perceive a kindred soul — the first time we hear our...
PACT Level 1 Therapist
There is an elephant in the room. It is big, it is smelly, it is old, and it doesn’t seem to want to go away. Money won’t move it. Ignoring it doesn’t change it. Some choose to dress it with niceties to make it appear more tolerable, but its harm still remains.
This elephant takes many shapes, making it hard for some to recognize when it’s right in your way. It can be subtle, overt, passive, abrupt, implicit, covert, and even micro. Until we are able to address the elephant in all its forms directly by name, it will continue to fester and transform, creating havoc in all spaces, even in those as esteemed as the therapy space.
Its name is racism, and some would say it is as old as humanity. It is the foundational economic structure for the United States and many other parts of the world. Although structures such as American slavery and Jim Crow laws are no longer in existence, the residual impact and trauma of...
PACT Level 2 Therapist
The best piece of parenting advice I ever heard had nothing to do with sleep, solid foods, or baby wearing. In fact, it had nothing to do directly with my baby. It was simple yet radical wisdom from a trusted source: my mentor and Baby Bomb coauthor Stan Tatkin. Stan taught me, with the science to back it up, to always put my relationship with my husband first. No matter what.
He told me to do this as a student, as a therapist, and as a new mom. And let me tell you, I never needed that advice more than when I was in the throes of early motherhood. Except maybe during this past year of the pandemic. In times of crisis, we all need our partnerships to hold us steady and provide us with a secure base from which we can grow, be creative, and problem solve.
This is so, so, so important that Stan and I wrote a whole book about it: Baby Bomb: A Relationship Survival Guide for New Parents (New Harbinger, 2021).
PACT Level 3 Candidate
Irish novelist Samuel Beckett once said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
When I graduated from Naropa University with my master’s in counseling, I was fortunate enough to have Buddhist teacher, author, and nun Pema Chödrön give the commencement speech. As a longtime fan of Pema, I was thrilled to be able to hear and see her (and bow to her as I received my diploma), but what stuck with me the most was not the star-struck nature of being in her presence, it was the lesson she provided in her speech. When trying to decide what to tell the auditorium full of graduating people, fresh-faced and new into the world of counseling and other fields, she thought about what skill we really needed that was not stressed enough: the fine art of failing.
“There is a lot of emphasis on succeeding,” Pema said, “and whether we buy the hype or not, we...
PACT Level 1
In Japanese, the phrase sottaku doji means “simultaneously pecking from inside and outside.” Zen Buddhism uses this as a metaphor for the relationship between teacher and student; the student is pecking from the inside, and the teacher from the outside at the shell of the student’s limited understanding and ability to perceive the true nature of reality.
With a deep bow to the wisdom of that lineage, I suggest we borrow this image to better understand the process of change and transformation in general. Does change occur from the outside in, using external behaviors to alter one’s internal state? Or, does it originate from the inside out, changing one’s mindset to support choosing new behaviors?
Just as in the pecking metaphor, the short answer is both; we need upgraded, more effective behaviors as well as internal meaning-making shifts. And, particularly in the case of successfully...
PACT Level 3 Candidate
Sexual trauma knows no discrimination. It can happen to anyone, at any age, and occurs across gender, race, religious affiliation, and socioeconomic status. The statistics vary from study to study, but of reported cases, most studies concur that one out of three women and one out of six men will experience some form of sexual abuse prior to the age of 18. More obvious examples of sexual trauma might include molestation, rape, and sexual harassment at work. However, some of the more covert examples include early exposure to sexually graphic content, sexual betrayal, sexual shaming as a child or adult, and repeated sexual objectification.
For most couples, sex is an integral and enjoyable experience. Sex can be a chance to have fun, destress, and reconnect. Survivors of sexual trauma may have a bifurcated relationship to sex. At times they may feel liberated with pleasure, connection, and embodiment....
PACT Level 3 Candidate
In an attempt to understand and treat clients, therapists often use terms, such as codependent, toxic, narcissistic. These words then find their way into pop culture and, like a bad game of telephone, can lose their intended meaning or become distorted.
I’ve had clients come in, claiming that their spouse was a narcissist when after a few sessions we were able to uncover that their spouse was simply under-skilled at communicating empathy.
In another instance, a partner described their mate as bipolar when they were kind and cheery most of the time but struggled to be able to calm themselves down when feeling disconnected from the partner during conflict.
I’ve found people can have a difficult time accurately assessing what behaviors are healthy and unhealthy in their romantic relationships. In our highly individualistic culture, one word gets a particularly bad rap: dependency.
When is dependency...
PACT Level 3 Candidate
Training in the PACT model sparks excitement for clinicians. It also presents a steep learning curve. Even seasoned therapists experience some uncertainty when learning such an active and complex approach. PACT challenges therapists to integrate multiple components and theories into a sophisticated model. The full integration, while quite satisfying, takes time, patience, and practice.
As with any new skill or approach, the process feels less daunting when therapists incorporate deliberate practice techniques into their learning. One of those techniques and a key element in PACT, videotaping sessions, aids clinicians in honing their PACT proficiencies. Reviewing recordings of sessions a few minutes per week facilitates learning and helps take a therapist’s work to new levels.
In this post I outline some of the advantages of the technique and share tools to help newcomers increase their comfort and confidence in...