The PACT Institute: Growing with You in 2020 and Beyond

Dear PACT Community,

Happy 2020! Here at the PACT Institute we wanted to take this opportunity – as we enter a new decade – to share with you the vision we hold for the Institute in 2020 and beyond.

Our goal is to create a global and sustainable organization. In the last year, Stan, Tracey, the faculty, and our administrative team have worked hard to lay the foundation so that goal becomes a reality.

One of our biggest challenges at the Institute is meeting the increasing demand for training. As a businessperson – I admit – this is a problem I love having! We are meeting that challenge in a number of ways: a new website, new course offerings, and new ways to engage with the Institute.

At the heart of the Institute’s expansion efforts was updating to a new, more user-friendly website. The new site will be our gateway to even more training and educational opportunities in the future. Both the professional clinician and non-professional who is seeking...

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Communication 101: Listen and Understand, Part 2

By Kara Hoppe, MA, LMFT

PACT Level 2 Therapist

karahoppe.com


Couples have a seemingly universal ask when they first reach out for therapy: each couple, no matter their specific struggle, is on the hunt for solid communication tools. This makes sense. Communication is a crucial part of how we connect with each other. We are wired for connection.

In my September blog post, I offered some deceptively simple tips on how partners can better communicate with each other by speaking clearly, kindly, and directly. I’m now back with part 2: effective tools to help us all tighten up our listening skills. 

We long to be heard, seen, and understood by the people closest to our hearts, but finding connection through communication can get a bit tricky.  Becoming a Jedi-level listener takes practice and intention. We need to learn to be present with our own discomfort.

Contrary to popular belief, being a good listener is a learned skill, not our natural tendency. We tend...

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When Partners Write Internal "Movie Scripts” that Hurt the Relationship

Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt, PhD

Certified PACT Therapist, PACT Core Faculty

stahlschmidt-therapy.com 


A central function of the brain is to detect patterns. It must make sense of the data that bombards us from our ongoing internal and external experience.  An aspect of this function is to support the sense of continuity and cohesiveness of the self. One way to understand this is the brain’s bias for narrative.

The brain does not function well without purpose, meaning, cohesion, and connectivity. It is busy trying to filter and assemble the data toward a cosmos. The brain cannot exist in chaos without severe repercussions for mental health and functioning in the larger world.

The magnitude of data that the brain is required to process makes it inevitable that significant omissions, mistakes, and distortion occur. These errors in pattern detection and assembly are filled by the left brain in its “narrator” function. The left-brain narrator function often works...

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Thinking About Polyamory? Is Consensual Nonmonogamy Healthy for Your Relationship?

By Carolyn Sharp, LICSW

PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador  

carolynsharp.com


 More and more couples who come into my office for therapy are interested in polyamory or consensual nonmonogamy. Some have been practicing it for years and believe it to be part of their values and their self-expression. Others believe it will bring sexual excitement and enhanced intimacy to their primary relationship. Regardless of where you are in your relationship, the decision to introduce other people into your committed relationship carries significant risk and challenge and should be done with a great deal of thought and care.

As a PACT therapist, my process is in helping couples build a secure-functioning relationship, and I have helped both monogamous and nonmonogamous couples build strength and health in their connection. However, it is only through a secure-functioning relationship where I have seen polyamory work well for the couple and each individual.

Why Is Polyamory...

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Mutual Injury: The Challenge of Symmetry

Patricia Hart, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador


We have all encountered that moment of impasse with our couples (and probably with our own relationships) when each partner feels like the injured party. The other is perceived as dangerous, and neither partner wants to or feels able to make a reparative move. Witnessing the struggle that ensues feels like watching a race to the bottom.

These moments remind me of my pothole theory of marriage:

The sun is shining, a soft breeze is in the air, and life is good. You and your partner walk down a winding road. Suddenly, a pothole appears. Before you can stop, you and your partner descend into a large dirty hole. How did it happen? Does it matter? The only important task is to help each other out as fast as possible so you can resume your enjoyment of the gorgeous day together.

If only life – and relationship – were so easy.

Couples locked in the grip of mutual recrimination are dysregulated....

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The Big Win - What Divorcing Parents (and Their Kids) Want  

 

By Aurisha Smolarski, MA, LMFT 

PACT Level 2 Therapist
www.aurishasmolarski.com


 The marriage and relationship have ended, and you wish you could just say goodbye to each other and move on. But . . . you have kids. 

Relating to each other as divorced parents can be as much, or possibly even more, of a challenge than the marriage had been. Feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, longing, and relief may taint your perspective. But whether you experience an amicable or contentious separation, a continuing relationship as parents is necessary. You two are still responsible to each other for the care of your children. 

“Wait, what? I still have to be in a relationship with this person?”

Just because you no longer share a bed or life goals, you are still operating inside a social contract that demands a commitment to the co-parenting partnership moving forward.  

Fortunately, there is no reason why people who can’t be married can’t...

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Using PACT to Fight Fair

By Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S, CST

PACT Level 2 Therapist

www.triunetherapy.com


All couples fight. Therapists know this. Couples (most couples) know this. But in the moment, it feels like annihilation for a couple ill-prepared to stay attuned and remain committed to a secure-functioning endeavor. 

Disagreements and fights are healthy, and the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) model works with couples to help them preserve their relationship and fight in a manner respectful to one another and the bond they share. Tatkin (2018) notes the crux of disrupted efforts to remain coregulated and attuned during a fight are the brain’s

  • primitives;
  • negativity biases;
  • insecure attachment patterns.

Primitives

Regressions into fight, flight, or freeze can occur and, if left unrepaired, can become the status quo as partners unconsciously or consciously perceive threats to the sustainability of their relationship.

Insidious old habits related to self-protection...

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Communication 101: Speak and Be Heard, Part 1

By Kara Hoppe, MA, LMFT

PACT Level 2 Therapist

karahoppe.com


As a couple therapist, I’ve learned that relationships are like fingerprints: each one is unique. Even though each couple reaches out for couple therapy for a variety of reasons, they all, at some point during our initial consultation, ask for the same thing – communication tools. 

Communicating with your partner can be downright difficult. Some topics are hard to talk about so partners stay silent, which can create a sour divide in the partnership. Or, topics are so emotionally charged that each conversation becomes a boxing match. This combined with the modern jam-packed, full-tilt, boogie busy lifestyle that many of us occupy, it’s no wonder that couples are struggling with a capital S.

In this and my next PACT blog, I’ll be sharing communication tools you can use in your relationship right now. This post focuses on speaking. The goal is to speak directly, clearly, and kindly so...

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If Therapy Is Medicine, How Do We Prevent Overdose?

Allison Howe, LMHC

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
https://allisonhowelmhc.com

 Couples come to our office in distress. They want to feel better. For me, PACT therapy provides medicine for the couple. PACT is an approach designed to alleviate the symptoms that come from an insecure, unfair, insensitive relationship that isn’t operating in a way that works for both partners.

If we define therapy as “medicine,” we need to understand its constitution. What are its active ingredients? How is dosage determined? What does an overdose look like?

Have you ever overdosed a couple? I have. I know what that looks like, and I now know to avoid it.

Therapy as Medicine

If medicine is “the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease” (Merriam-Webster.com), then to me, PACT therapy is medicine.

PACT has the potency – not as a chemical substance but as a medicinal approach – that...

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With Love from Big Sur: Building the Couple Bubble

By Jason Brand,
LCSW PACT Ambassador, Level 2
jasonbrand.com

On a rainy Sunday afternoon in May, we wrapped up the Wired for Love Couples Retreat at Esalen in Big Sur, California. I assisted Stan Tatkin and Tracey Boldemann-Tatkin with 30 couples who came to find out how PACT can strengthen their relationship. This scenario illustrates how couples learn to shift their focus from self-protecting to strengthening their couple bubble. The couple bubble is a mutually constructed and maintained eco-system that provides protection from an often challenging outside world. 

Friday Evening: Shelter from the Storm

After taking the winding turns of Highway 1 that opened onto the expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Annie and Sam put down their bags and went to Esalen’s natural hot springs. This was their first couples retreat and, on the drive, both admitted to being more than a little nervous. The baths relaxed their bodies. Their minds still raced with the stresses at home and...

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