Protecting Your Relationship from Racism

By Annie Chen, LMFT

PACT Level 2 Therapist


As society shines a light on the injustice and racism that persists within its ranks in the last few months, it's time to take a look at what you can do about racism within the context of committed partnership.

Does societal racism negatively affect your relationship? It very well might, especially if one or both of you identify as Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color (BIPOC). In this article, I use racism as a catch-all term for any number of denigrating and/or defeating insults toward BIPOC, including but not limited to racial slurs, scapegoatingsystemic discriminationcultural appropriation, colorismmicroaggressionsimplicit bias, and structural inequality

Not knowing when you could be subjected to a negative or fatal experience because of your race creates chronic stress and hypervigilance. It's the mind and body's way of being prepared for something bad. Living under racist conditions...

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Metaphors Become Reality: Helping to Secure Relationships Under Threat

By Edna Avraham, LMFT

PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador

www.ednaavraham.com


“We are in the fox hole together.”

“We are rowing the same boat.”

“Don’t poke holes in the couple bubble.

These metaphors represent some of the secure-functioning principles we use with our couples in the PACT approach. They represent collaborating and working as a team, prioritizing the relationship over self, being aware of the other’s emotional state, and being there to support them. 

As PACT therapists, we normally talk about the threats between partners — and use metaphors as visual tools to help couples through real issues. With the pandemic in full force, our couples are now dealing with both real physical and emotional threats. Their economic situation, the lack of extended family support or childcare, and every day stresses put their nervous systems way out of their window of tolerance. We are most likely seeing these clients at...

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Collaboration in the Co-Parenting Partnership

By Aurisha Smolarski, MA, LMFT 

PACT Level 2 Therapist
www.aurishasmolarski.com


 No one said parenting was easy, let alone co-parenting with an ex.

Learning how to co-parent is complicated. It’s a partnership full of emotional undertones and adjustments. Being divorced or separated and having to juggle the co-parenting realities adds layers of coordination and factors to consider.  

Personal and romantic priorities shift, as do the feelings and perceptions about your parenting partner. One thing remains unchanged: a responsibility to ensure that each of your children feels safe and can thrive within the changes and new situations they encounter. 

Experiencing divorce and living in two homes are difficult enough for a child, but it’s the way in which the parents handle their divorce and work together on behalf of the child that creates long-term impact.

A break in the family structure can be incredibly destabilizing for a child. The transition...

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An Exercise to Help Navigate the Effects of Sexual Trauma

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

PACT Level 3 Candidate, PACT Ambassador


For a sexual trauma survivor, the idea or act of being sexual with their partner can be ripe with hopes, pleasure, fears, frustrations, and shame. For the partner of a sexual trauma survivor, sex can be just as daunting; fear over what to say, what to do or not do when their partner feels triggered. Couples can become paralyzed or at war over difficulties in communicating their needs around sex. This is where a PACT therapist can be of invaluable assistance.

Consider Marco and Elana*. Elana endured sexual abuse at the hands of a family member when she was approximately six. The secondary trauma of invalidation and alienation following her eventual outcry left her hesitant to discuss the experience as an adult with any partners, even her long-time partner, Marco. She was in therapy for a long time and, for the most part, experienced few flashbacks or intrusive thoughts about the abuse  as an...

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Cultivating Your Couple Bubble

By Margaret Martin, LCSW

PACT Level 3 Candidate, PACT Ambassador

margaretmartinlcsw.com


In a healthy romantic relationship partners create safety and security with each other. Partners have each other’s backs and the folks around them see that they have each other’s backs. In PACT we refer to this as the couple bubble. We support couples in building a secure functioning relationship and in developing a couple bubble that supports secure functioning.

A couple’s mutual agreements, shared vision of relationship, and the way they navigate life together form the foundation of the couple bubble. Although the couple bubble evolves over time, in a healthy relationship the development begins early. Even in a budding romance partners create the genesis for their bubble when they quickly repair a hurt and take each other´s distress seriously.

The roles and expectations partners have for each other change as they move from a dating relationship to a more committed...

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Getting to the Truth Through Cross-Tracking

By Eda Arduman, Ma.

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador


The PACT therapist uses cross-tracking — a technique of inquiry as well as an intervention — along with other techniques to understand couple functioning. The therapist is aiming to get information about one partner by directing the question to their partner instead. 

This method allows the therapist to understand how collaborative the couple is as well as how much insight they have regarding each other. The therapist casts the question (regarding Partner B) to Partner A and follows by observing B’s somatic response. The somatic response gives an idea of what the person’s true response is in real time. Then by following up, the therapist can ask B if that is true or not. One can learn a lot about the couple. 

Acquiring Accurate Information

Cross-tracking allows us to acquire accurate information in an indirect way. Asking a person a direct question can be less useful because the person...

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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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