PACT Level 3 Candidate
Irish novelist Samuel Beckett once said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
When I graduated from Naropa University with my master’s in counseling, I was fortunate enough to have Buddhist teacher, author, and nun Pema Chödrön give the commencement speech. As a longtime fan of Pema, I was thrilled to be able to hear and see her (and bow to her as I received my diploma), but what stuck with me the most was not the star-struck nature of being in her presence, it was the lesson she provided in her speech. When trying to decide what to tell the auditorium full of graduating people, fresh-faced and new into the world of counseling and other fields, she thought about what skill we really needed that was not stressed enough: the fine art of failing.
“There is a lot of emphasis on succeeding,” Pema said, “and whether we buy the hype or not, we...
PACT Level 1
In Japanese, the phrase sottaku doji means “simultaneously pecking from inside and outside.” Zen Buddhism uses this as a metaphor for the relationship between teacher and student; the student is pecking from the inside, and the teacher from the outside at the shell of the student’s limited understanding and ability to perceive the true nature of reality.
With a deep bow to the wisdom of that lineage, I suggest we borrow this image to better understand the process of change and transformation in general. Does change occur from the outside in, using external behaviors to alter one’s internal state? Or, does it originate from the inside out, changing one’s mindset to support choosing new behaviors?
Just as in the pecking metaphor, the short answer is both; we need upgraded, more effective behaviors as well as internal meaning-making shifts. And, particularly in the case of successfully...
PACT Level 3 Candidate
Sexual trauma knows no discrimination. It can happen to anyone, at any age, and occurs across gender, race, religious affiliation, and socioeconomic status. The statistics vary from study to study, but of reported cases, most studies concur that one out of three women and one out of six men will experience some form of sexual abuse prior to the age of 18. More obvious examples of sexual trauma might include molestation, rape, and sexual harassment at work. However, some of the more covert examples include early exposure to sexually graphic content, sexual betrayal, sexual shaming as a child or adult, and repeated sexual objectification.
For most couples, sex is an integral and enjoyable experience. Sex can be a chance to have fun, destress, and reconnect. Survivors of sexual trauma may have a bifurcated relationship to sex. At times they may feel liberated with pleasure, connection, and embodiment....
PACT Level 3 Candidate
In an attempt to understand and treat clients, therapists often use terms, such as codependent, toxic, narcissistic. These words then find their way into pop culture and, like a bad game of telephone, can lose their intended meaning or become distorted.
I’ve had clients come in, claiming that their spouse was a narcissist when after a few sessions we were able to uncover that their spouse was simply under-skilled at communicating empathy.
In another instance, a partner described their mate as bipolar when they were kind and cheery most of the time but struggled to be able to calm themselves down when feeling disconnected from the partner during conflict.
I’ve found people can have a difficult time accurately assessing what behaviors are healthy and unhealthy in their romantic relationships. In our highly individualistic culture, one word gets a particularly bad rap: dependency.
When is dependency...
PACT Level 3 Candidate
Training in the PACT model sparks excitement for clinicians. It also presents a steep learning curve. Even seasoned therapists experience some uncertainty when learning such an active and complex approach. PACT challenges therapists to integrate multiple components and theories into a sophisticated model. The full integration, while quite satisfying, takes time, patience, and practice.
As with any new skill or approach, the process feels less daunting when therapists incorporate deliberate practice techniques into their learning. One of those techniques and a key element in PACT, videotaping sessions, aids clinicians in honing their PACT proficiencies. Reviewing recordings of sessions a few minutes per week facilitates learning and helps take a therapist’s work to new levels.
In this post I outline some of the advantages of the technique and share tools to help newcomers increase their comfort and confidence in...
by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
A study by Nagasawa and his colleagues in Japan (2009) some years ago involving dogs and their owners found that if a dog looked into its owner’s eyes by finding the gaze first, the owner’s oxytocin levels went up. (I suspect dopamine might also be increased). However, if the owner’s gaze found the dog’s eyes first, no increase in oxytocin resulted. This finding has continued to “dog” me as I thought about infant attachment studies and adult romantic relationships. What is it about a dog, a baby, or a lover finding our eyes that leads to an increase in dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, or other neurochemicals related to the reward system?
During early infancy, when the newborn’s gaze is largely undirected, the catching of the mother’s gaze by the infant leads to a dopaminergic rush—a reward that is evident in the mother’s subsequent inviting vocal tone and facial expression. This...
From the Science of Psychotherapy, January 2021
By Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
Most people will probably agree that 2020 has been an exceedingly difficult year: the world moving away from liberal democracy; a global pandemic that may continue well into 2022; global economic markets in crisis; nation-state superpowers waxing and waning; increasing threat of global warming; fear of cyberwars coming to fruition; the rise of what is now being called Big Social Data and social-media manipulation of the “truth”; the perfecting of deepfake technology; and the extinction of humankind through self-learning A.I. Yeah, what a year.
One could also argue that this is an extraordinary time to be alive. The challenges we face are like none other. Human beings have always predicted the end of the world as we know it. Yet each time over the millennia we seem to make it — either through human ingenuity, human...
PACT Level 3 Candidate
By any chance, are you feeling like a roommate instead of a partner in your relationship? Have you noticed that you and your partner don’t talk to each other when you are both at home except when it comes to discussing bills and logistics? More than a few people feel hurt when their partner does not even acknowledge them. They might complain that their partner doesn’t care about them and doesn’t want to spend any time together. If this sounds familiar, know that you can reconnect with your partner in simple, positive, authentic ways that can begin to repair and reignite your relationship.
Sometimes couples wonder what changed since the honeymoon phase of their relationship or might think they are not in love anymore. As a therapist, I find it helpful to explain that during the early phase of love, often referred to the honeymoon phase, you and your partner spend lots of time together and share new...
Debra Campbell, MS, LMFT, PACT 3 Candidate
“Learning how to communicate better with my partner” is a commonly stated goal of couples in therapy. While not inaccurate, learning how to communicate better is often oversimplified to mean using the right language. In PACT, we are concerned not only about what is said but also how it is said and whether that works for both partners.
Since partners are in each other’s care, we expect them to demonstrate self-awareness as well as expertise in their partner. We stage situations that expose the miscommunications, misappraisals, and misunderstandings that underly a couple’s most challenging interactions. By videotaping and reviewing the sessions, we create greater awareness around the interplay between verbal and nonverbal communication that underly their misunderstandings.
Human communication is highly flawed. We have an assumptive pattern-finding brain that predicts...
by Jacqui Christie, M.Psych
PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
Anyone who works with couples knows how tricky the particulars of partner dynamics can be. In fact, the more people in the room, the more energy gets brought into that room. The potential for that energy to become intense is high.
Have you felt the heat rise between two partners as you work with them? You would know then that if you’re not paying close attention, things can easily go haywire. During my early career, I saw mainly individual clients, though I worked with couples from time to time.
However, after most of my couple sessions, I felt unskilled in one way or another and a more than a little let down. Don’t get me wrong, the couples wanted to keep coming, so I knew I must have been doing something right, but I didn’t seem to have a strong direction or model to guide me.
Becoming a PACT Therapist
On a personal level, I was a longstanding fan of the Hendrix’s books,...