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

Jason Brand, LCSW
PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador

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...

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Healing Trauma Relationally Through PACT

By Jeff Cohen, MFT

PACT Level III Therapist, PACT Ambassador

JeffCohenMFT.com

 

When Gayle and Paul came to see me, it was clear that Gayle felt Paul was the problem. Paul was taciturn to an unusual degree and could be quick to anger. For her part, Gayle presented as highly verbal, competent, and overtly friendly; adept at managing the tasks of their family and her career.

Though I didn’t know of Paul’s trauma when we first met — he lived in terror of upsetting a threatening stepmother and a physically punishing older brother — his manner and speech suggested that he moved through the world in a very protected stance.  

It might have been easy to view Paul as the one who needed help. He was extremely literal, arguing about the minutia of his upset with Gayle, and for a long time was unable to understand the concept of providing relief first in an argument. From a PACT perspective, when a willing partner is able to help settle the distressed...

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Love Notes from Piano Camp

By Susan Orenstein, Ph.D.

PACT Level 2 Therapist

PACT Ambassador

orensteinsolutions.com


Let me start at the beginning of our love story.

My freshman year at Brown University, a resident counselor introduced me to another student because we both had a love of piano. Growing up, when I played for others, they would politely wait until I finished and offer a general compliment. But when the student to whom I had just been introduced heard me play, instead of general platitudes, he offered constructive feedback. I remember being thrown for a loop but also impressed that he truly listened and was authentic in telling me what he thought. Our basis for trust began right there. A few years later we began dating, and for his senior piano recital, we played a duet, Debussy’s “Petite Suite.” That student is now my husband.

Fast forward 30 years.

As new empty-nesters, my husband and I set off for Vermont to attend Kinhaven’s Adult Piano Workshop. The participants,...

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Working with Families – PACT Style

 

By Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
PACT Co-Founder
http://thepactinstitute.com

Two main issues face the PACT family therapy process: Structure and Attendance.

Structure

A challenge within typical family therapy is the structure that holds some family members to their particular family roles. While viewing members within the system frame is valuable, especially when it comes to various roles different members play, it can also restrict the flow of information as some members expand and express while others contract and remain in the background. 

Using the PACT method to do family therapy may be more effective and convenient for both therapist and family. By dividing family members into pairs, the therapist can do “couple therapy” with various dyadic combinations, thereby freeing members from default role constraints and constrictions encountered when faced with the entire family system.

As long as invited members are of an appropriate age and maturity to participate...

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How Secure-Functioning Principles Help Parents Who Are Divorcing

By Edna Avraham, LMFT
PACT Ambassador, Level III Therapist
ednaavraham.com

The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) focuses on helping and coaching couples to “secure” each other in order to reduce threat, thrive, and grow closer. While they are designed for couples who want to deepen their connection, PACT principles can also apply to uncoupling or divorcing parents.

Some of the secure-functioning principles are:

  • Thinking in terms of WE, the two people in the couple
  • Making the relationship a priority over other relationships in your life
  • Being sensitive and considerate of each other’s known vulnerabilities, and being able to predict how the other member of the couple may perceive your actions
  • Being transparent and turning to each other for support and comfort.

Following these principles creates a secure foundation for each member of the couple to feel cared for, prioritized, loved, and considered.

Divorcing couples are often in a constant state of...

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Techniques to Help Distressed Couples Slow Down and Reconnect

By Debra Campbell, MS, LMFT
PACT Ambassador, Level 3
gocuris.com/debracampbell.html

When a couple comes to our office, they bring a dynamic in the relationship that pains them.  Neither partner sees the issue in the same way, and they don’t know how to solve it.  Often, they’ve argued about it repeatedly. Talking about it just starts the argument again.

The rate at which the disagreement escalates is an indicator of how many times they’ve argued the same issue.  We know they’re not dealing with anything new because the brain deals with novelty much more slowly than something we have habituated.  How, as therapists, can we help the couple slow down and experience something new?

In PACT Couples Therapy, we use proximity, micro-expression, and body language to achieve more constructive outcomes that have a lasting effect outside of session. Here’s a familiar scenario:

Last fall, Rebecca and Bob were running late to their therapy session....

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Do You Have Your Partner’s “Owner Manual”?

By Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC
PACT Level II Therapist
https://baltimorecounselor.com/ 

In your romantic relationship, paying attention to your partner’s responses and attitudes is especially prudent. Observing impressions and reactions can help you become more in tune with a partner’s likes and dislikes. I refer to this practice as “obtaining your partner’s ‘owner manual.’”

For example, if I say the word rollercoaster, most people have a strong response, whether positive or negative. If I then plan a trip to an amusement park with my partner – and I love amusement parks – that’s great for me, but did I think about my partner and his reaction?

What if my partner hates amusement parks? The above example could be a win-lose situation if one of us likes rollercoasters and one of us does not. Pro-relationship couples promote win-win situations. Therefore, I need to know more detailed information about my partner to increase...

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Repairing Distress through Vulnerability

By Jason Polk, LCSW, LAC 
PACT level II Therapist 
Denver, CO 
https://coloradorelationshiprecovery.com/

Repair is one of the most important things for couple s to master. If there was an incident or argument that caused one or both of you distress, repair moves you back into harmony, or at least to a neutral state where you’re both calm and are no longer lobbing hurtful words or actions at each other. 

Repair is the place where you reconnect as lovers, or at least as partners. In order to repair and reconnect, we have to give something for our partner to connect to. And what we can’t connect to is anger, blame, or self-pity. So, we need to pause and become aware of what’s underneath this protective armor and share that. This is called vulnerability. In PACT, it can be called taking care of our self.  

If you take the time to self-reflect on the feeling that your anger is protecting, through the lens of PACT, you’re...

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