Choose a Win-Win Resolution with Your Partner

lindsey walker Nov 13, 2016

By Lindsey Walker, LMFT
PACT Level II practitioner
Seattle, WA
http://www.lindseywalker.com


You’re lying in bed, curled to one side, your blankets pulled up tight and cozy. It’s cool and quiet, and the night has long fallen around you. “Ah, sweet slumber,” you think, “just moments away.” But wait, what’s this? Your mind is racing as if you’ve just had your morning cup, and your heart is fluttering to match. You’re far from slowing down, yet a little voice inside keeps trying to convince you it is time for bed and you’ll be drifting off to sleep in no time.

If only you and your partner hadn’t just had that fight.

Mere inches away, the love of your life is also pretending to sleep. What a fantastic game of charades you find yourselves in—each keeping up your act while guessing if the other is actually sleeping or is just lying there and waiting. You both want the other to reach out, say something, do something,...

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Security at Home and in the World

ellen boeder Nov 13, 2016

By Ellen Boeder, MA, LPC
PACT Level II practitioner
Boulder, CO
http://www.ellenboeder.com


When I witness a couple move from fear and blame into trust and genuine care, I am inspired to feel hope for humanity. Protecting our loved ones and providing real relief to each other are qualities our entire world needs right now. And this starts in romantic partnerships. The primary relationships within our own homes are powerful resources that can provide needed comfort and safety in a difficult, uncertain, and challenging world.

A couple who willingly embark on improving the security in their relationship will learn how much is possible when they have truly cultivated a secure-functioning relationship. They work in the present moment to discover who each of them is as an individual; practice new ways of being in relationship that may feel vulnerable but that strengthen their connection; and challenge themselves to do the work of creating a mutual, safe, and just two-person system. They will...

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The Beauty of Secure Functioning

michelle rae Oct 16, 2016

By Michelle Rae, M.S.W., RSW
PACT Level II practitioner
Oakville, Ontario
http://www.raecounselling.com


Can you imagine living in a world where every person—adult and child alike—started and ended his or her day feeling loved and connected to another? In a culture that values independence, autonomy, and self-reliance, and that views vulnerability and interdependence as weaknesses, knowing how to operate as a two-person system (one that promotes taking care of me and you at the same time) can feel like an incredibly foreign idea. Yet, research tells us that children who are securely attached have the confidence to explore their world. They know that their caregivers have their backs and will be there to catch them should they stumble or fall, no matter what. The same is true in adult romantic relationships. The need for secure attachment is not something we outgrow.

Part of what drew me to PACT was a desire to improve my own marriage. The more I studied PACT, the more I...

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Does the Bite Fit the Wound?: Exploring Some PACT Maxims

for therapists rick hupp Sep 12, 2016

By Rick Hupp, LMFT
PACT Level II practitioner
West Hills, CA
www.responsiverelating.com


When I was a boy, I had a loyal and loving friendship with our family dog, a Labrador retriever mix named Domingo. He was our docile family mascot, and he had a wonderful ability to influence us in a playful manner, whether it was to get us to throw a ball for him, sneak him a snack under the dinner table, or give him a thorough scratching behind the ears. He was mostly by my side, even when sleeping, as my parents had made a special padded nook for him next to my bed.

One morning I awoke to the sounds of him growling. As I looked over to see what the matter was, I realized he was fast asleep but having a bad dream. Whatever was threatening to him in that dream was causing him to respond with an aggressive, defensive stance—rare for his generally happy-go-lucky demeanor. Thinking I was going to offer comfort by waking him from his doggie nightmare, I leaned out to gently pet him. Much to my...

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Working with Traumatized Couples Using PACT

By Rachel Holland, DClinPsych,
PACT core faculty
Buckinghamshire, UK
[email protected]


Dan and Jane have been married for thirty years and have three sons. They came into therapy following a challenging time in their lives after they faced a number of health, family, and work problems in quick succession. Jane had also suffered a recent traumatic event and was struggling with posttraumatic hyperarousal. She was sensitive to noise and crowds and felt that nowhere was safe anymore. Both Dan and Jane were distressed and looked exhausted in response to these events. Their relationship had become adversarial and verbally aggressive, and they felt like they were “on eggshells” with each other. Both were seeing individual therapists for support, as well as seeking couple therapy.

My initial ideas about this couple included issues related to allostatic load (i.e., the cumulative burden on the nervous system from multiple chronic stressors; McEwen & Seeman,...

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Opportunity Through Affect

by Jeff Pincus, LCSW, and Rachel Cahn, LPC
PACT faculty members
Emails: [email protected], [email protected]


Most people would agree that relationships, especially love relationships, are incredibly complex. Most honest psychotherapists would add that couple therapy itself can be extremely complicated, and that it isn’t always clear how best to intervene with a couple who are distrustful, disconnected, and in the midst of pain. With so many moving parts, what should the effective PACT therapist focus on? The answer is affect, and helping the couple attend to each other’s affect by tolerating it and responding appropriately. Affect regulation theory offers a succinct lens through which to view how skilled PACT therapists can be most effective in helping a couple move toward a secure-functioning relationship.

What is affect?

According to psychologist Daniel Hill, affect is “the somatic representation of the state of the...

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The PACT Therapeutic Stance

by Melissa Ferrari – Dip. of Couns.& Comm/Adv. Dip in Transactional Analysis
PACFA Clinically Registered  Psychotherapist & Couple Therapist
PACT LEVEL III Practitioner
Sydney, Australia

I love being a couple therapist, and after 18 years, I am pretty confident I know what I’m doing—mostly. What I love about the work is the sense of honor I feel when a couple engage me in their process and I can help them create a better relationship. Each and every time I embark on that journey, I commit to it fully and I give it my all. It is such a privilege.

As you can imagine, I’ve learned many skills and worked with a range of modalities. Some of these have stayed with me, but many have been left behind. Not only is it my professional responsibility to stay on top of what’s new in clinical practice and what the clinical evidence tells us about what works and what doesn’t, but for me it’s also important to keep...

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Restoring Love with the Scaffold of Securer Functioning

eda arduman May 14, 2016

by Eda Arduman, Ma., clinical psychologist couple therapist
Level 2 PACT therapist
Istanbul Bilgi University clinical supervisor instructor
Clinical Psychology MFT Master Program


It has been said that intimate relationships are not for the faint hearted, yet research shows us time and time again that the pleasure and reliability of relationships provide us with the resiliency to overcome the challenges life often presents. Some of the hurdles life throws are external (e.g., an economic crisis or severe illness of a loved one or divorce of parents) and others are internal (e.g., states of ambivalence, self-sabotage, and depression). Sometimes an external event spurs an internal reaction that interrupts movement; the braking mechanism acts as a counterforce to expansion and results in contraction.

The PACT therapist works with couples in severe conflict who are responding at a pace at which their minds cannot keep up with their words. The couple are trying to say things to each other,...

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Mentor Couples

allison howe for couples Apr 12, 2016

by Allison Howe, LMHC
PACT Level II practitioner
Saratoga Springs, NY
Email: [email protected]


Do you and your partner have any mentor couples in your lives? A number of couples in my practice report that they don’t have a mentor couple in their social or support network. Yet mentor couples are important because they model the principles of secure functioning. They protect each other in our presence, and we can see and learn from the fair and sensitive ways in which they interact.

Years ago, my husband and I met such a couple, Rhonda and Pat, and they advised us to not become “married singles.” We didn’t fully know what they meant, although now we do. Married singles are partners who are married but spend little time together. They operate mainly as a one-person system. PACT therapists believe couples can design their marriage in any way they see fit. If the design works for both individuals, the marriage can flourish. My husband and I saw that spending...

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Working with Challenging Couples

Uncategorized Mar 13, 2016

by Elaine G. Tuccio, LCSW, PACT faculty, Austin, TX
Email: [email protected]


Challenging couples are difficult to work with if all the therapist knows to do is referee the flow of conversation and inappropriate behaviors. PACT-trained therapists, on the other hand, have numerous therapeutic tools that can be used to move these couples toward secure functioning.

For example, the PACT therapist sees acting out in session as an opportunity for staging an intervention toward secure functioning. Our training teaches us that it is usually best to sit back and observe, as if tracking the plot in a suspenseful detective novel. Underneath the precarious nature of challenging partners’ harmful defensive behaviors a relationship is waiting to be saved. Despite appearances, couples bring lots of resources, such as healthy drives and capacities that may be hidden under years of erroneous narratives about themselves, their significant other, and the world at large. The PACT...

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