Creating Relational Safety Under Survival Conditions, Part I

By Debra Campbell, MS, LMFT

PACT Level 3 Candidate, PACT Ambassador


Everything is the same, yet nothing is the same. The question of what constitutes acceptable exposure risk to COVID-19 is being debated around the globe. With new medical findings and recommendations emerging daily, how are couples to discern and agree on what constitutes acceptable risk for their families? 

Much like our current circumstances, couples often grapple with reconciling differing opinions, which can feel very unsafe. Enter PACT couples counseling – a style of couples therapy designed to create relational safety, even under the most stressful conditions. Safety issues often originate from a lack of shared principles and people’s inability to successfully put those principles into operation.

In PACT, we believe relationships must be just, fair, kind, mutual, and sensitive for partners to feel safe. While we all want to feel safe in our relationships, we often struggle to provide the very...

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How Creating a Shared Purpose Unites and Renews Couples

By Beth Newton, LCSW, LCAS
PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
https://newtoncounseling.com/


“Winter Is Coming”

“We Do Not Sow” 

“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

“Family, Duty, Honor” 

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you know that each ruling house has a sigil (magical symbol) and motto. The story takes place during a time of chaos with warring houses, harsh living conditions, and the threat of human extinction. The families inscribe their sigils and mottos on shields, flags, and stamps. From Season 1 through Season 7, the main characters repeat their mottos during times of stress, celebration, and danger.

Throughout history, the nations of the world have developed structures to transcend natural and man-made dangers. I am half Scottish from the Douglas clan. When my brothers were in high school and looking for a place of safety and belonging, they learned how to play the bagpipes and drums. Their membership in a bagpipe...

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Staying Connected Despite Your COVID-Cancelled Wedding

by Susan Stork, LCPC, NCC

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador

www.spacebetweencounselingservices.com/


Many once soon-to-be-married couples have had their wedding plans altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You booked your venue, hotel, caterer, and entertainment – and likely spent countless hours and copious amounts of money in the process. Now you’re faced with making a decision with only unfavorable options: do you cancel or postpone the wedding, or do you potentially risk the health of your beloved guests?

Perhaps you’re one of countless couples who have had to reschedule or cancel your dream ceremony and reception. Travel for out-of-town guests and honeymoon have turned into a distant fantasy. Even the closing of some courthouses has made it seem impossible to legally tie the knot.

It’s only natural for couples stuck in limbo to feel disappointed or cheated that the celebration of your union has been indefinitely pushed back on an uncertain timeline....

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What Is Allostatic Load?

By Susan Stork, LCPC, NCC

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador

www.spacebetweencounselingservices.com/


Due to the recent pandemic, stress is at an all-time high for many couples. According to Dr. Gabor Maté, “three factors that universally lead to stress are uncertainty, lack of information, and the loss of control.” Prolonged exposure to these stressors, generated from COVID-19 and other circumstances, can result in allostatic load. 

Allostatic load refers to the wear and tear on the body that accumulates when we are exposed to repeated or chronic stressors. These stressors can be internal, external, or both. While allostasis has been traditionally examined in individuals, it undoubtedly impacts couples.

According to Bruce S. McEwan, PhD, “Whereas allostasis refers to the process of adaptation to challenges, ‘allostatic load’ refers to the price the body pays for being forced to adapt to adverse psychosocial or physical situations,...

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Staging to Influence the Thermostat in Couple Therapy

By Melissa Ferrari

Dip. of C & C, Advanced Dip in Transactional Analysis (Psychotherapy)

Clinical Registrant PACFA

PACT Level 3 Candidate, PACT Ambassador

https://melissaferrari.com.au/


We all know that moment when we see a couple for the first time. Immediately, as a trained PACT therapist, you notice nuances in how the couple interacts. One partner’s shoulders slouch as they walk in. The other has their chest puffed out almost as if they are protecting themselves. In that moment, you know you would bounce right off of them if you dared to approach or get too close.

Tom and Sarah are a couple in their mid-forties with two adult children who had moved away from home in the last year. Before we even all sit down to talk, I think to myself, “These two have been dysregulated for some time, possibly even years.” I notice, as their couple therapist, that I feel a little sad and possibly even a little worried about them. What is going on with this couple? What has...

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Nurturing Your Relationship During “Stay at Home” Orders

By Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC

PACT Level 2 Therapist
https://www.baltimorecounselor.com 


During these unprecedented times, we are stuck in our homes for an undetermined amount of time with our partners, spending more hours with them than ever before. We might have always wished for extra time with a partner, but I’m guessing no one imagined it would be spent under “stay at home” orders due to a global pandemic.

Recently I’ve been asking couples, “How can you make the most of this time and benefit from it as a couple?”

Of course, you can watch Netflix and hunker down for the next 4, 8, or 16 weeks, but as a therapist and a person who wants to keep learning and growing, I feel like this situation provides couples with a unique opportunity for growth and connection. If not now, then when?

Know that you can weather this storm as a couple and even come out stronger from it. With structure and agreements in place – and hopefully some humor...

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Love in the Time of the Coronavirus: PACT and Telehealth

Gabrielle Usatynski, LPC
PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
 
Carolyn Sharp, LICSW
PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador  
 
Beth O’Brien, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist
PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
 
Jason Brand, LCSW
PACT Level 2, PACT Ambassador
 
Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
PACT Founder, Core Faculty Member

As PACT therapists, we are trained to be ready to move with our couple. The COVID-19 pandemic is an exceptional virus that has compelled health professionals around the world to adapt best practices and improvise. By using telehealth sessions, they continue to provide care during this unprecedented moment in history. In this article, we share our thoughts and suggestions about how you may consider moving with your clients and adapting your practice of PACT to serve your couples through telehealth.

This introductory...

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Be Ready to Drop Your Darlings and Other Lessons from PACT

By Beth O’Brien, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist

PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador

www.bethobriencounseling.com


In PACT training, Dr. Stan Tatkin shared this gem: “Be prepared to drop your darlings.” Darlings are those valuable insights a counselor acquires as s/he sees the concerns of the couple unfold. My initial response to his suggestion was “Oh, no!”

As a couple’s therapist of over 20 years, I’ve had many darlings to insert into the therapeutic work. Dr. Tatkin’s gem became an important guideline, as it advocated for the couple therapist to be open, flexible, aware of timing, and able to assess the benefit of an intervention.

Who hasn’t had the experience of sharing a clinical observation that falls flat? Which counselor hasn’t had a perceived valuable comment result in the couple squinting their eyes, their facial expression indicating discord, their inner thoughts confusion?

Before sharing a darling, I had to...

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Beyond the Valentine Chocolates and Roses: Creating a Long-Lasting Relationship

Clinton Power

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
clintonpower.com.au


Some people want chocolates and roses for Valentine's Day, but it's not the small (or big) romantic gestures on special occasions that lead to relationship success. To go from an initial date to a long-term relationship you need to look for qualities in a potential mate that make you feel safe and open with that other person. What you may not know is that these traits can lead you in the direction of developing a secure-functioning relationship.

What is a secure-functioning relationship?

A term coined by PACT co-founder Dr. Stan Tatkin, a secure-functioning relationship is an interpersonal system based on principles of true mutuality, collaboration, justice, fairness, and sensitivity. You and your partner are taking on the world together. You protect each other from the threats of the external, the outside world, and from the internal, each other. A secure functioning relationship acknowledges and celebrates...

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Relationship Resolutions: A New Spark for the New Year

By Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC

PACT Level 2 Therapist
https://www.baltimorecounselor.com


Every new year brings new and renewed resolutions and commitments to our work, school, family, and self. We are excited by the thought of what this year can bring. Frequently, we wonder about what new possibilities and opportunities will arise in 2020. As we reflect on our lives, we reflect on our relationships, too.

Some people begin the new year with a new attitude of hope: “Today’s a new day. I am not letting the past hold us back. This year we don’t need to keep repeating all of the old patterns. This year we don’t need to keep waiting for something to change; something can change.”  The new year begins to reignite long-held hopes and dreams. When people talk about new resolutions and new beginnings, they start believing that this is the year when things can and will be different.

Other people have wishes to meet the “one” this year or a desire...

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