The Boomerang Effect

Uncategorized Feb 14, 2016

by Eva Van Prooyen, M.F.T., PACT faculty, Los Angeles, CA
Website: www.evavp.com
Email: [email protected]


Loving in a way that supports, energizes, and grows a long-term relationship means loving your partner the way he or she needs to be loved. Many well-intended people unconsciously get caught instead in the destructive loop of offering their partner the kind of support, care, attention, and love they themselves thrive on, only to be left feeling unseen, unsuccessful, misunderstood, and lonely, which often leads to defensiveness and fighting.

Aligned with a related PACT therapeutic goal—knowing who your partner is and how he or she operates—comes this question: Are you using that information to help your partner do a good job for you?

Successful couples arm themselves with detailed owner’s manuals that explain how each partner maneuvers through and makes sense of his or her world. Partners then put that unique and distinctive...

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On the Road to Secure Functioning

Uncategorized Dec 14, 2015

by Inga Gentile, LMFT (California), licensed psychologist (Norway)
PACT core faculty, Tromsø, Norway
Website: http://ingagentile.com


A couple’s relationship is especially vulnerable to crisis during key transition points in life, such as the birth of a baby, the formation of a first romantic relationship, adolescence, a chronic illness, and the frailty and illnesses of aging (Staton & Ooms, 2012). From a psychobiological perspective, relationships operating under insecure models of functioning are even more vulnerable to distress at these junctures. This is because insecure models, as one-person psychological systems, tend to promote behaviors and attitudes that are not pro-relationship, and therefore partners can perceive each other as insensitive and unfair. During highly vulnerable periods, partners need one another more than at other times, yet insecure partners are not able to be there for each other. Often partners come to therapy at these times either as...

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Psychodrama in Couple Therapy

by Stefan Neszpor, FRCPC, director of the Adelaide Couples Clinic and PACT Level II practitioner, Adelaide, Australia
Email: [email protected]


Most couples have a story about what is taking place in their relationship. However, the story often doesn’t match the reality of how they experience one another. I was reminded of this recently when I met a couple in their mid 30s, with two small children. With respect to PACT attachment styles of relating, he was an island and she was a wave. In simple terms, that meant he tended to distance himself, while she was more the clinging type.

They came to therapy because she had become infatuated with a man living next door who seemed more approachable to her. Indirectly, it seemed she was trying to signal to her partner that she wanted him to be more attentive.

In the initial therapy sessions, they were able to identify one of her early patterns whereby she had a deep desire for affection. This showed itself as anxiety. Her way out...

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Beyond the Ick Factor: Deeper Healing for Issues of Sexuality

Uncategorized Oct 13, 2015

by Karen Berry, Ph.D.
PACT faculty, Warwick, NY
Website: http://www.drkarenberry.com/
Email: [email protected]


Often when couples come to therapy seeking assistance with issues related to sexuality, the problem is not what it appears to be. They describe issues such as sexual dysfunction, discrepant desires, pain during intercourse, inability to maintain an erection, and/or profound loss of interest. But often what we might call the “ick factor” is what is actually driving their presenting problems. Thus it is essential to look more deeply in order to get to the real difficulty. When the real problem is successfully addressed, treatment is much more effective and true healing becomes possible.

For example, when one partner discloses difficulty tolerating the other’s body odor, taste, and/or touch, the tension in the therapy room grows palpably. Until I studied PACT and began to think in terms of psychobiology, this was a moment I dreaded as a...

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Therapist Self-Regulation, or Flying into a Hurricane

Uncategorized Sep 04, 2015

by Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt, Ph.D., PACT faculty, Berkeley, CA
Website: www.stahlschmidt-therapy.com
Email: [email protected]


Some couple therapists have referred to their work as flying a helicopter into a hurricane. Perhaps the metaphor is inflated, but couple therapy is certainly an enterprise that can create acute anxiety. Like a pilot, a therapist needs the skills and training that make it possible to stay calm and alert when the going feels treacherous and unexpected turbulence appears seemingly out of nowhere. Interestingly, some Air Force pilots, called “hurricane hunters,” are specially trained to fly into the eye of the hurricane to collect weather data. Maybe that is like what we are trained to do in PACT: instead of fearing and avoiding conflict, we are trained to fly into it with our capacities to collect data and navigate skillfully intact.

Besides this hurricane-related skill set, a couple therapist needs the ability to hang out in uncertainties,...

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Fighting About Hot Topics: "Do What I Want!"

Uncategorized Aug 05, 2015

by Annette Kreuz Smolinski
Licensed clinical psychologist (Spain), Dipl. Psych. ( Germany),
Trainer and supervisor in couple and family therapy, PACT Level II practitioner
Website: www.ctff-fasedos.com


The annoying truth is that all couples fight. Conflicts are an absolutely normal phenomenon in human systems, and couples are not an exception to this rule. It is unrealistic to think you could avoid having arguments from time to time.

When you face issues such as the education of your child, the sharing of household chores, finances, sexual relations, and your relationships with relatives, some of your partner’s opinions and preferences will inevitably differ from your own. He or she will not just do what you want. However, when it comes to hot topics, you need compromise and acceptance.

The good news is that conflict avoidance is more dangerous to your relationship than is properly handled conflict, or “fighting fair.” The bad news is that if you fight...

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The Red and Blue of Marriage

Uncategorized Jul 13, 2015

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com


A study by Harvard University researchers that looked at data for more than five million families, and that was recently featured in The New York Times, found that where you live in the United States greatly influences your chances of getting married. The study parsed the data according to political affiliation (blue versus red counties and states), as well as population density (big town versus small town). In a nutshell, if you were brought up in or even have moved to a liberal-thinking, densely populated, metropolitan area, such as New York City or Washington DC, you are less likely to marry than if you lived in a small town, in the deep South, or generally anywhere in a red state.

We also know from Pew Research Center findings that 80% of Conservatives think society benefits when people consider marriage their priority, while 77% of Liberals think other priorities are more beneficial. We only have to think of same-sex marriage,...

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Working Through Betrayal ā€“ Regret to Redemption

Uncategorized Jun 09, 2015

by Eva Van Prooyen, M.F.T., PACT faculty, Los Angeles CA
www.evavp.com


When a betrayal has been discovered in their relationship, couples come to therapy feeling lost, disoriented, confused, and angry. They may even wonder if there is hope. Infidelity strips away happiness and threatens emotional security. It can come in a variety of ways, including contempt, neglect, indifference, violence, lying, and affairs. Information is discovered that forces the deceived partner to reevaluate history. Partners are left asking: Who am I? Who were we? Who are we?

Couples can come through painful infidelity, but only if the perpetrator shows regret, if there is transparency, and if both partners want to get back into the relationship. Under these conditions, a skilled PACT therapist can set up an architecture to work through betrayals.

The first phase is to address the fact that the victim has experienced a trauma that can never be undone, and that it has to run its course.

The...

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Applying the Three PACT Domains

by Mary Ackerman, MIC, BASS (Cllg); CARE Counselling Hong Kong, PACT Level II practitioner
Website: carecounsellinghk.com

Philippe and Grace, who have been married for twelve years, are clients in my clinical practice in Hong Kong. He is French Swiss and works in finance, and she is Korean American and works as an auctioneer. They have three daughters. They sought therapy after Grace found out that Philippe had been paying for prostitutes on his overseas travel. He admitted to fathering a child in the Philippines.

When I asked why they had come to therapy, both said, “To save our marriage.”

As I worked with them, I found it helpful to observe the influence of the three domains of PACT: attachment theory, arousal regulation, and neuroscience. An overwhelming sense of anger and fear ran through each session, and these domains helped me understand this challenging couple so I could develop an effective treatment approach.

First, their attachment styles were key....

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Our Automatic Brain: Everything New Will Soon Be Old

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com

Our brains are remarkable organs. They take in and use massive amounts of information from inside and outside our bodies and allow us to go through about 90% of our day automatically. We can get from point A to point B while checking our emails, talking to others in the subway, drinking coffee, or doing any number of tasks simultaneously. Our brains are on automation, running our lives, making decisions, and doing what needs to be done, with little thought required. Our automatic brains are cheap to run and extremely fast and efficient. That’s a very good thing when you consider how much that ability would cost if we had to use the very expensive novelty-oriented parts of our brain. If we couldn’t rely on automation, we’d never be able to accomplish much of anything.

The automatic brain is made up of old memories, some of which are explicit, but most of which are implicit, or outside our awareness. This is called procedural...

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