Parenting During a Pandemic and Other Tough Times

 Kara Hoppe, MA, MFT

PACT Level 2

PACT Note to Parents: For guided practice and more skills to bring to your partnership, register for Kara’s Win-Win Parenting: Better Partners Make Better Parents, a new PACT workshop for couples, Saturdays online, April 23–May 21. 


When I read articles such as “Parenting in 2021? ‘Not Great, Bob!’” (Grose, 2021) and “Every Parent I know Wants to Walk into the Sea Now” (McCombs, 2022), I feel seen. Even “Parents are losing their minds. Time to watch ‘Encanto’ again” (Niazi, 2022) makes my soul laugh. As a pregnant person parenting a small boy during the pandemic and struggling to maintain my sanity — let alone balance — knowing I’m not alone is like having a warm cup of milk for my sleepless nights. 

Some days our son Jude is safe enough at preschool, and my husband Charlie and I are able to work, catch up on folding the laundry, do a little...

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Why Use Hypnosis with PACT Couples?

for therapists hypnosis Mar 02, 2022

Lilian Borges, LPC 

PACT Level 3 Therapist 


     The two things I am most passionate about are hypnosis and PACT. I have been teaching hypnosis for almost 30 years and, as I am deepening my understanding of PACT, I have been  exploring ways to integrate PACT and hypnosis. I’d like to share some recent experiences from my private practice in Arizona.

     Naturalistic trances are embedded in the PACT experiential approach and interventions. The eye-gazing technique is a naturalistic hypnotic approach. An externally focused trance shows the couple’s dynamics in real time without the confusing smokescreen of verbal language. The eye fixation that eye gazing develops is a light natural trance as opposed to a more formal trance induction.

     PACT uses experiential techniques as an intervention, and assessment tools to prove a hypothesis. The therapist can observe what’s happening and ask questions about...

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Building Capacity to Know and Be Known in PACT Therapy

for couples renee d doe Feb 17, 2022

Renee D. Doe, PhD, LMFT, LPC

PACT Level 1 Therapist


            The idea of secure functioning is a main focus of PACT therapy. This focus hones in on creating and maintaining a safe container, where both parties operate in a two-person attachment system free of deception, abusive behaviors, and any other injurious actions that interfere with healthy functioning and fairness within the relationship. At heart, this idea is what could be called salutogenic because it focuses on the capacity you have to construct a healthy life instead of making the management of risk and relational conflict the primary focus.

            The injuries that are brought into the relationship can and do impact the relationship. In moving toward the cultivation of secure functioning in relationships, PACT therapy also creates space for some of the challenges and difficulties that you may have had...

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Use Vocal Tones as a Container to Build Better Understanding

Alexandra Mitnick, LCSW

PACT Level 3 Therapist


Hmm. Oooh. Aaah. 

Writing a blogpost about the importance of using sounds as a technique or intervention within couples therapy is challenging. When I asked my colleagues for the best ways to describe these sounds, their replies varied: Motherese. Emotional prosody. Non-verbal bursts. These are all terms that describe non-linguistic sounds that rely on pitch, timbre, volume, stress patterns, and intonation to communicate emotion and attunement between client and therapist and, more importantly, between partners in a couple. Often, reverberations resemble those between mother and baby. The value of using these vocal tones to hold the couple within a container and move them closer toward secure functioning is potent and worth sharing.

The Importance of Vocal Tonalization     

The intention for the therapist in using sounds is two-fold. First, referencing Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP),...

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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....

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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...
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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...

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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...

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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...

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“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,...

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