Lead With Relief: It's Not Logical, It's Biological

for couples jess cleeves Jan 14, 2022

by Jess Cleeves, MAT, CSW

PACT Level 2 Therapist


I'm sure this hasn't happened to you (wink), so I'll speak from experience. Before my partner and I discovered PACT, we'd have conflict, just like we do now. Before PACT, one of us would raise an issue with the goodhearted goal of finding a solution. Unlike now, instead of having a calm, decisive conversation, we would find ourselves going around and around, getting more and more agitated. The more we went around, the more I would cry, the more they would shut down - and the farther from a solution we would get.

The more we argued this way, the farther from each other we got. 

We knew we loved each other, but we didn't know how to lead with relief. We were fighting from a logical perspective. The part of the brain that rules relationships, however, isn't logical — it’s biological.

By trying to logic our way through our biology, we accidentally sent threat messages to the mammalian parts of each other's brains....

Continue Reading...

How Do You Know If a Couple Is Secure Functioning?

Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT

PACT Founder


In PACT, we expect couples to be secure functioning. But even secure-functioning couples have problems. You will see secure-functioning couples in your office.

How do you know if the couple in your office is secure functioning?

  1. They come in with a therapeutic alliance — fully collaborative, cooperative, on task — and they stay that way.
  2. They (mostly) come in with a collaborative narrative and talk fluidly about one thing, usually without disagreeing with each other or continually getting into conflict.
  3. They show no problems going face to face or with eye contact.
  4. They protect each other in front of you, the therapist. They do not throw each other under the bus.
  5. They will ask each other permission before saying something.
  6. They are able to talk clearly and honestly without any sense of deception. They seem to be as they are. They are serious about working on their relationship and not on each other.
  7. They benefit quickly from each...
Continue Reading...

Dealing with the Unavoidable Extended Family 

Jon Taylor, LCSW, CSAT, CMAT

PACT Level 2 


“Who is your real family, me or them?”

Figuring out how to deal with your and your partner’s extended families can be difficult. It’s one of the major sources of disagreement between partners. Both partners can have deep feelings and a strong individual preference for handling family personalities and issues, but alignment rarely happens without deliberate work because successfully blending two lives from two different family cultures can be among the most challenging tasks that couples face.

Several factors go into how often and how intensely couples face difficulties related to extended families. Some people never feel liked or accepted by their partner’s family. Every interaction is a showdown. When families live geographically close, one or both partners can feel intruded upon by frequent requests for family time.

Other individuals come from passively hostile families, in which most things look OK on...

Continue Reading...

Vipassana and PACT: Complementary Paths of Secure Functioning  

 by Cynthia Ropek MA, LPC

PACT Level 3


Vipassana meditation is an ancient mindfulness tradition, which focuses on insight into the causes of suffering and the path to freedom. The Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy® (PACT) is a multifaceted therapeutic methodology for working with couples, which integrates mindfulness as an essential skill. As a Vipassana meditation practitioner and a PACT therapist, I have grown to appreciate a natural resonance between these two disciplines that goes beyond mindfulness. They both point to similar ways of being in relationship that promote health and well-being and decrease suffering.

I’d like to share some of the natural alignments that the Vipassana tradition has with PACT and my explorations of using some of the time-tested teachings and practices of Vipassana to support myself as a PACT couple’s therapist.

Distinct Relationships with What Is

Simply stated, Vipassana meditation is a practice for being with the...

Continue Reading...

PACT Therapy with Disorganized Couples

Amanda Moates, PhD

PACT Level 2 Therapist


Insecurely attached partners, those who operate from a one-person psychological system, tend to place “pro-self values over relationship and defend against interdependency and mutuality,” as Stan Tatkin writes in the October 2020 issue of Science of Psychotherapy.

In other words, when feeling backed against the wall, these partners will instinctively move to protect the self at the expense of their relationship, not realizing their well-being is linked. In these scenarios, both partners lose.

With an organized insecure couple, the capacity to create a therapeutic alliance with the couple therapist exists when all parties understand their roles and the purpose of the work. The therapist may notice they feel part of a team. Disorganized partners have not achieved this developmental milestone and instead operate at a much lower level. They may come to therapy seeking to work on or change their partner instead of working on the...

Continue Reading...

“Happy Wife, Happy Life”… Right?

By Mark Mouro

PACT Level 1 


I don’t know about you, but when I was a young man growing up and trying to navigate the treacherous world of relationships, one adage stuck with me more than any other: “Happy wife, happy life.” Remember that one? Some of you may live by that motto. And while you may see some benefit, the saying also has its downside. Let’s look at how it, along with similar clichés, has the potential to adversely affect your relationship.

As a marriage and family therapist, I specialize in working with couples. Most of my couples happen to have young children, too. Often both partners are busy and stressed. They rarely make time to be with each other. As a result, part of my work becomes helping them identify and positively express their needs.

I’ve lost count now on the number of times the men in heterosexual relationships say they want whatever makes their wife happy. I like to call this the path of least resistance.

So then,...

Continue Reading...

Melodic Moments and Cymbal Crashes

Daniel Scrafford, LCSW

PACT Level 2 Therapist


It was always delightful to listen to my dad, a professor of music, talk about his passion for music. His face would light up, his voice would boom, and I was mesmerized. At those times, I felt as if he was handing down the most treasured lessons of his field to the next generation. One of those lessons that found particular resonance in my life and work was his enthusiastic explanation of how to change the melody of a song. 

One way to change the melody, he said, is to create subtle shifts that the audience scarcely notices at first. But then, gradually, the melody evolves into something completely different. The second way to change the melody, he explained, is to punctuate the score with a thunderous cymbal crash. That unequivocally announces to the audience that a big change is to follow. His imitation of the cymbal crash always startled me and made me laugh out loud. I loved that cymbal crash. 

When I first started...

Continue Reading...

3 Things Couple Therapy Can’t Do and What It Can

 By Annie Chen, LMFT (https://www.changeinsight.net)

PACT Level 2 Therapist


The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) centers around a set of principles that are grounded in relationship fairness, mutuality, and safety, what we call secure functioning. Everything I do as a PACT couple therapist is guided by these principles. Time and time again I’ve seen that it’s an effective model for sustaining two people’s needs in a relationship. Secure-functioning principles are also versatile; they can be applied to nearly every type of issue and problem that couples encounter.

I’m often awe-struck at the work that couples do in my office. It makes the difference between joy and misery; between wanting to stay together and wanting to end the relationship.

But like all good models, couple therapy has limits to what it can accomplish. I’d like to identify some caveats and limitations to using this method so that therapy seekers can align...

Continue Reading...

Turn-Ons and Shut-Downs: Exploring Sexuality with PACT

Caroline Russell Smith, LCSW-R

PACT Level 2 Therapist


I was voted “Most Likely to Become the Next Dr. Ruth” in my high school yearbook, but not until 16 years into my career as an individual therapist did I finally complete sex therapy certification. I had virtually no experience with couples therapy (let alone the PACT approach), but I would soon know a lot about sex! What could possibly go wrong?

I nailed my framed certified sex therapist diploma to the wall and got to work. The first three couples who sought my services were kind, collaborative souls, more reticent than fiery, whose secure functioning gifted me a false sense of clinical competence. Psychoeducation did the heavy lifting, and the couples happily headed off into the sunset with improved sexual functioning. 

My fourth couple continued chatting with each other on their way to my office from the waiting area, hardly acknowledging me, then sat on my couch (no PACT set-up then) and stared at me in stony...

Continue Reading...

Welcoming Baby Bomb

Welcoming Baby Bomb

The following is an excerpt from Baby Bomb: A Relationship Survival Guide for New Parents, by Kara Hoppe and Stan Tatkin, now available for purchase here. 

When Jude was only a few days old, Charlie and I were sitting all cozy on our couch on a winter afternoon, as we’d done many times before—me on my side, Charlie on his. Only now there was a third person, and his place was on me to nurse. Nursing didn’t come easily for Jude and me. It was challenging to learn how to direct his lips to my breast so he could get a good latch. I had to listen for the sound of him swallowing and watch for his little jaw moving, signs that he was nourishing himself. If I didn’t hear swallowing or see his jaw move, it was time to pull him off gently and retry for a better latch. Eventually I came to think of breastfeeding as one latch at a time, and I did that until we became nursing pros. But on this winter day, pros we were not, and nursing was...

Continue Reading...
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Close

50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.