Know Your Partner: How Do They Really Work?

Uncategorized Jun 18, 2024

Excerpted from the second edition of Wired for Love

By Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
PACT Developer 

Who are we as relationship partners? How do we move toward and away from (literally and figuratively) those we depend on? It always amazes me that couples can be together for fifteen, twenty, even thirty years and the partners still feel they don’t know each other. In so many ways, they don’t know what makes each other tick. 

Becoming acquainted with our primitives and ambassadors helps us answer these questions to some extent. But not everyone responds the same way in a relationship. The balance of power within and between the primitive and ambassador camps differs from person to person. Not everyone’s ambassadors, for example, can rein in their primitives equally fast. In fact, due to the variance between your brains, you and your partner may experience different interactions between your primitives and ambassadors. 

So, we each come to the table oriented...

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If Therapy Is Medicine, How Do We Prevent Overdose?

for therapists May 13, 2024

By Allison Howe, LMHC
PACT Certified Clinician, PACT Faculty

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 how 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” (, then to me, PACT therapy is medicine.

PACT has the potency – not as a chemical substance but as a medicinal approach – that restores and preserves the...

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"Iโ€™m Not Your Mother"

for couples Feb 19, 2024

By Joy A. Dryer, PhD
PACT Certified Clinician, PACT Faculty

“And I’m not your mother!”

“No. You’re much sexier.” Eddie reaches for Eve’s hand. She pulls it back.

Eve shakes her brown curls ‘no’ and gazes past him at the floor. “Your mother bought one cupcake with a stupid candle for your birthdays. She made no big deal of Thanksgiving or other holidays. She was so different from my mother, who made me feel special when she celebrated events important to me.” She then looks directly at Eddie.

Eddie juts his chin forward, “You know that my mom’s parents couldn’t afford gifts so they let birthdays, even Christmas, slide. Also, well, you know, my mom believed in tough love. My parents didn’t spoil us."

Eve stamps her foot. “That’s an f-ing excuse! Making kids feel special doesn’t mean you spoil them!”

Eddie shifts in his chair. “I don’t see what this has to...

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Using Countertransference to Deepen the Therapeutic Alliance

for therapists Feb 12, 2024

By Daniel Scrafford
PACT Level 3 Therapist

In my early professional years, I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?

— Carl R. Rogers

Carl Rogers’ quote describes how he saw the therapeutic alliance in individual therapy. A therapist needs to develop an alliance with clients to ensure a successful outcome in therapy (Stubbe, 2019). Rogers’ brilliance is reflected in his theory, his techniques, and his ability to emotionally resonate with the client. In relationship therapy, the therapeutic alliance is made up of several facets. Both partners must believe the therapist is competent, the therapist is an expert in addressing their problem area, and the therapist has the capacity to empathize and resonate with the client’s emotional field. 

This paper will explore how therapists can use their...

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PACT Executive Director Looks Back, Looks Ahead!

Uncategorized Jan 22, 2024

Dear PACT Community,

Happy 2024! As we enter the new year, I’m excited to take this opportunity to look back and reflect on what the PACT Institute has accomplished and to let you know about this year’s plans for continuous growth and improvement – ours and yours!

Looking Back: We’ve Learned and Grown Together

  • PACT Level 3. We offered the new and improved PACT Level 3 training for advanced PACT clinicians, and forty clinicians completed the rigorous training, enabling them to develop a more complete command of advanced PACT skills. We’re proud of all of our Level 3 graduates!
  • PACT Certification. We created a pathway for PACT certification. Two separate cohorts, a total of twenty-two clinicians, were invited to attend and achieved this highest level of PACT training, conferring the distinct title of PACT Certified Therapist. 
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). We’ve included DEI training as a required component for successful completion...
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It Takes Two to Kayak

for couples Jan 12, 2024

By Angela Aiello, Ph.D. LMFT
PACT Level 2 Therapist

It’s cliché, but it was really turning into the vacation from hell:

“Oh, for f***’s sake, you’re not maneuvering in the right direction.”
“Me? It’s you! You’re the one who steered us into the muck! Try to move the oars like this!”
“I’m trying, but you’re not letting me….”

We were literally stuck in the mud, batting back and forth harsh and unfriendly tones and escalating stage-whispers that would rival any Greek tragedy. My husband and I ran aground — and we were barely out of the boat slip. This normally would be a fun embarrassment, but this was about the tenth thing to go wrong on our much-anticipated and needed trip to Hawaii.

“Oh jeez, the kayaks are lining up behind us. This is horrible! This—
“But you don’t know what you’re doing!”
“Look at the sky!!!...

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Help! My Partner Won't Do Couple Therapy

for couples Dec 13, 2023

William Ryan, PhD
PACT Level 3 Therapist

Sarah and Dylan have been married sixteen years and have two children together. Over the last four years, Sarah has been increasingly dissatisfied in the marriage. She has repeatedly asked Dylan to do couple therapy with her. Dylan consistently responded by rolling his eyes, dismissing Sarah's concerns, and making it abundantly clear he felt pressured by her requests. Consequently, it got more difficult for Sarah to talk to Dylan about her dissatisfaction. She began to feel lonelier and more unpartnered in her marriage.

Every time Sarah brought up couple therapy, Dylan responded, “We’re fine. We don’t need it. If we have a problem, we can handle it ourselves." In this widespread dynamic, one partner pleads to get professional help for the relationship while the other balks at the idea.

Why do partners dispute the need for couple therapy? There are a multitude of reasons. Often the partner has adopted cultural prohibitions...

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Congratulations, New PACT Certified Therapists!

for therapists Dec 04, 2023

This month, we’re celebrating a new cohort to have earned the distinct title of PACT Certified Therapist. These therapists completed the highest level of PACT training this year, and you may see them teaching classes, offering consultation, or sharing PACT research projects.

We asked them why they wanted to become PACT Certified, what the process was like for them, if they have any advice for others considering certification, and a couple of questions just for fun! Learn a little more about each of them.

Jason Brand, LCSW

Berkeley, California

“The main reason that I decided to become PACT Certified is because of the PACT community. PACT really is my therapy-home, and I love getting opportunities to spend time with my colleagues and friends. The work of being a therapist is so private, and the work we do with couples is pretty specific, so I will jump at any chance to sit down with a group of people who really understand the PACT model.”

“I have put in lots of...

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Plan for Less Stressful Holidays This Year

for couples Nov 14, 2023

Ah, the holiday season — a time of celebration, togetherness, and making cherished memories with loved ones. AND a time filled with unique challenges, sometimes unrealistic expectations, and potential stressors that can strain even secure-functioning relationships.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, couples find themselves in conflict as they navigate complex family dynamics and try to balance time and resources. 

Here PACT certified therapists explain why the holidays can be such a stressful time and offer practical strategies for you and your partner not only to survive the holidays but to find joy and connection in the midst of the chaos.


What are some of the pressures couples face that are unique to the holidays?

The holidays are like other special events like a birthday or anniversary, but they go on for several days or more. So, instead of a few hours, couples are figuring out how to spend several days or longer in a way that feels festive and good to...

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Gratitude, Not Platitudes

for therapists Nov 10, 2023

As PACT founder Stan Tatkin says, โ€œA daily gratitude practice is a happiness practice.โ€

And the cultivation of gratitude in your own life can serve as a potent tool to enhance your clients' emotional well-being โ€” and your own.

More than just a platitude, gratitude has the transformative ability to rewire our brains, foster our resilience, and instill in each of us a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment.

We asked some PACT faculty members how they cultivate gratitude in their own lives. They generously shared their insights about the field and a few about themselves. Enjoy! And thank you for being a part of the PACT community.

Eda Arduman, MA, Clinical Psychologist, PACT Faculty
Q. Whatโ€™s one thing that made you smile recently?

A. We had been unsuccessfully trying to schedule time with some dear friends. Then last Saturday night, my husband and I decided to get some ice cream, and at 10pm we came across our friends in the middle of Principe Street in Lisbon. We all walked toward each...

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