PACT Clinicians Share How They Avoid Burnout

for therapists Oct 10, 2023

In place of a blog article this month, we’re sharing a question that a PACT community member posted in the Google Group recently, along with several responses. Both the question and the responses were thoughtful and authentic, and we wanted our larger PACT community to have the benefit of reading them. 

The question of how to maintain enthusiasm for your work as a therapist and avoid burnout is an important one, and we hope some of these responses will resonate with you. 

Also, if you’re a PACT-trained therapist and you’re not yet a member of the PACT Google Group, request to join today! You’ll find valuable information and become part of a vibrant community of dedicated PACT therapists seeking to do their best work. 

Question: How Do PACT Couple Therapists Find Grounding and Maintain Enthusiasm for the Work?

I am a new therapist. I graduated last summer and got off the ground in a private group super quickly. All throughout my practicum and...

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How PACT Can Help You Reimagine Your Money Differences and Dilemmas

for couples Sep 13, 2023

By Ed Coambs, MBA, MA, MS, CFP®, LMFT, CFT-I™
PACT Level 2 Therapist

Why is couples therapy important for the two of you?

For me, it comes from seeing and experiencing the relational, psychological, and physical pain that comes up around money and relationships. 

Early in my marriage, money became an overwhelming source of pain, confusion, anxiety, and distress. Over the course of my life, I have watched and experienced profoundly painful things happen related to money in my family life with nowhere to turn to sort through what this would mean. 

  • An ex-wife suing her ex-husband multiple times to the point of bankruptcy
  • A sibling struggling to make ends meet while my life flourished financially 
  • As a child experiencing my mom’s criticisms of my father's spending on home improvement projects 

There is so much more to each of these story segments and yet they are all related and connected in complex ways to my sense of self, mind, brain, and body....

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Interdependence: Transcending Dependence and Independence in Couples

for therapists Sep 08, 2023

By Doris Montalvo Moll
Clinical Psychologist
PACT Level 3 Therapist

Purpose

This work stems from a concern of mine, an initially unarticulated feeling that I have had for some time. This feeling arose during both clinical and nonclinical situations in which I heard statements, such as "I am too dependent," "I have problems with my partner that should not affect me so much," "I do not intend to depend on anyone,” "You should not make your decisions thinking about someone else." I’ve usually heard women say these kinds of things.

Since I am a PACT therapist, my vision of the couple relationship has to do with the idea of interdependence, or mutual dependence. However this concept is complicated at a theoretical level. It has different meanings that are not always related to what we understand from the PACT perspective. In addition, interdependence is not a concept known or used by the general population. 

Therefore, the purpose I have in writing this paper is to explore...

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PACT Therapy: How It Works, Cost, and What to Expect

for couples Aug 15, 2023

By Krista Jordan, PhD
PACT Certified Candidate

PACT therapy is a highly dynamic form of couples therapy developed by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT. What distinguishes PACT therapy from all other forms of couples therapy to date is the integration of one of the newest areas of psychology and psychiatry — interpersonal neurobiology. This subfield focuses on the interaction of the brain and nervous system within and between humans.

Sessions are typically two to three hours long. While PACT therapy was developed originally to help couples in severe circumstances, it can be applied to almost any pairing. This includes parents and children, siblings, or even friends. If a couple (or pair) has very high levels of distress, sessions may need to be shorter (closer to an hour) but more frequent (instead of once a week, they may meet two to three times).

PACT & Attachment Theory

To develop PACT, Stan took important developments from interpersonal neurobiology and merged them with a...

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Evolving PACT Through Deepening Understanding of Personality Disorders

for therapists Aug 03, 2023

By Nicole McGuffin, PsyD, LPC, BCN
PACT Level 3 Therapist

There is confusion about personality disorders. According to the DSM-5 (APA, 2013) a list of pathological symptoms and traits categorize a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The DSM-5 narrowly classifies this group of people by grandiosity, needing admiration, having entitlement, and lacking empathy. These traits are critical in the understanding of NPD. However, this route struggles to capture issues of self and affect regulation including feeling inferior, low self-esteem, vulnerability and inferiority, emptiness, fearing boredom, emotional distress, affective reactivity, and rage (Caligor & Stern, 2020). 

Section III of the DSM-5 (2013) introduces The Alternative Model for Personality Disorders (AMPD). Its requirements include both personality functioning impairments and pathological trait elevation. It covers a broader range and is more inclusive of characteristic difficulties in identity,...

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Mic Drop! Listen In as Stan Speaks Out

for couples Jul 17, 2023

PACT Founder Stan Tatkin has had a busy year promoting the principles and rewards of secure-functioning relationships. 

As a clinician, author, and frequent podcast guest, Stan pours his energy and expertise into caring for the smallest union of human primates — couples. In his latest book and over the airwaves, he dissects the common couple conflicts he has seen partners repeat throughout his career. 

Stan compels us to stop, just stop, look each other in the eye, and find common ground. Of course, relationships can and should be positive and fun-loving, but Stan cautions that for love relationships to last, partners must mutually abide by the key organizational principles that they create to avoid a chronic loop of arguments. 

In these podcasts Stan rinses, washes, and repeats the formula for genuine connection in secure-functioning relationships. He reminds us that as human primates, we constantly misunderstand each other and thus are prone to quick, negative...

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How Individual Therapists Can Accidentally Harm Relationships

for therapists Jul 10, 2023

By: Jess Cleeves, MAT, LCSW

PACT Level 2

It’s inevitable. If you see individual clients, you will work with someone who is struggling in their primary partnership. While we’re prepared to support an individual’s healing process, we have a profession-wide blind spot; few of us are trained to ethically and effectively support individuals whose clinical concerns are partnership-related. In fact, our superpowers in treating individuals may end up acting as the couple’s kryptonite. 

 

Relationships Show Up in Individual Therapy

Our training and daily interactions as individual therapists constantly hone our abilities to empathize and validate our clients. We commit to believing that our clients’ experiences are, indeed, their experiences. While we also push our clients to evaluate their experiences toward their own growth and transformation, doing so when the client’s focus is their romantic relationship poses a particular challenge; we can...

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One Simple Ritual to Strengthen Communication Between Partners

By Falon Hooks, MA, t-LMFT
PACT Level 2 Therapist

If you are coming into my office for couples therapy, I can guess that one central concern is communication. Whether it is too infrequent, too intense, or too uncomfortable of a topic, many of you will sit lips pursed, hoping the unspoken moment will pass. 

Those micro-moments of anxiety and disconnection add up quickly. Before you realize it, you cannot remember the last time you sat facing your partner to chat and, more importantly, connect. 

When I consider how communication between partners must work, I immediately turn to secure-functioning principles of honesty and transparency. Just say what is true.

How many times have you felt a shift in your partner’s mood and the moment you inquire, they brush it off? Their replies range from a grunt to “Nothing” to “I don’t want to talk right now.” 

Alarm bells start to sound, you clam up, and you are quite certain trouble is looming. You...

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The Therapeutic Use of Horses as Adjunctive Experience to PACT Couple Therapy: Exploring Couples’ Capacity for Collaboration and Attunement

for therapists Jun 07, 2023

by Catherine Seidel, LMFT
PACT Level 3 Therapist

This paper presents the application of PACT couple therapy principles to a guided couple experience with horses. Four couples were given the same instructions and tasks in two-hour equine-assisted sessions. Several PACT exercises were applied verbatim. Observations and insights gained from the exercises were then applied to the couples’ interaction with the horse. For brevity I will describe a portion of the work with two couples.

Because horse brains have no prefrontal cortex, their behavioral responses reflect their level of interest or disinterest, stress, or attraction to human verbal and nonverbal behavior. Without the human capacity for executive function, a horse’s brain “allocates space to perception, fear, rapid movement and associative learning” (Jones 2020a).

Horses are prey animals that depend on flight as primary means for survival. When humans work with horses, the horse provides an...

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The One and Only Fridge Magnet a Relationship Needs

Uncategorized May 15, 2023

By Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt, PhD
PACT Senior Core Faculty

As couple therapists, my colleagues and I have no shortage of advice on ways to help your relationship. There are 7 rules, 10 steps, 9 secrets and 5 truths, all designed to help you to have a happier relationship with your partner. If a set of rules or steps to follow were effective relationship medicine then we as couple therapists could seek early retirement. Unfortunately, our logical mind is not in charge of our romantic relationships.

When we are upset and angry, stuck in emotional gridlock and mutual misunderstandings, we do not care about complex rules. Our emotions, our physiological and nervous systems are in turmoil. We often become so dysregulated that our worst selves come to the fore and we do not have access to rules of engagement.

It would be futile to remind your partner in the middle of a heated argument, “Remember rule 8: Don’t be reactive!” Especially during intense emotions, access to our...

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