When Partners Become Parents: Using Pact to Create a Birth Bubble

Patricia Williams, LCSW
Westchester, NY & Vermont
PACT Level 2
patriciawilliams.net

As a couple therapist, it has long been a passion of mine to help couples prepare for the birth of a child, not only prenatally but post birth, as well. There is substantial evidence that marital satisfaction declines when couples have children, and early interventions to counteract that are lacking (Cowan & Hetherington, 1991). In my experience, few couples are prepared for how pregnancy and the addition of a third (or subsequent children) will challenge their relationship and what they can do to make it an optimal experience as a foundation for themselves and their family. 

I love the term birth bubble. Jen Pifer, who works as a doula and is also well versed in the principles of PACT, used those words to describe what she strives for when assisting in...

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The Gift of Win-Wins for Couples Who are Parents

Kara Hoppe, MA, LMFT 
PACT Level 2 
Los Angeles, CA 
karahoppe.com 

I recently became a parent to a beautiful baby boy, and I can speak from my own experience when I say that the struggle of mothering and coupling is real. I now have a new appreciation for the complexity and depth of parenting and partnering. By bringing that experience to my work with couples who are parents, I have found that honing in and practicing win-wins are two of the many PACT skills key to supporting a couple as parents. 

Negotiating win-wins (i.e., where both partners win) can be a game changer for couples, especially couples with kids. It takes courage to ask for what we need as individuals and parents, and asking for what we need/want is fundamental to achieving a win-win. This process can lead to...

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Repairing Misattunement

Inga Gentile, MFT  
PACT faculty 
Bardu, Norway 
www.ingagentile.com 

In the PACT model, a priority is placed on experience over interpretation. This is in part because we target the more primitive, less plastic parts of the brain (which are experience driven) when staging interventions that lead to psychological development and behavioral change. Sometimes we stage those interventions, and at other times they occur spontaneously in something the couple themselves do. Either way, PACT therapists pay careful attention to moments that may uncover something previously unknown or to affect change.  

A young couple I saw, Dan and Laura, clearly loved each other very much and were both remarkably high achieving and accomplished in many ways. They also presented as depleted, exhausted, frustrated, and lonely. In other words, what we...

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How Secure Functioning Can Help Polyamorous  Couples

Clinton Power, Grad.Dip.Psych.Couns., Gestalt therapist
PACT Level II
Sydney, Australia
clintonpower.com.au
When a new couple present to your practice and reveal they are in a polyamorous relationship, you may find the concept of loving multiple people strange, risky, or even fundamentally fraught with problems. The good news is that PACT principles that apply to monogamous couples can be successfully applied to non-monogamous or polyamorous couples.

Non-monogamous couples have sex with other people but are not interested in pursuing dates, romance, or a relationship with their sexual partners. This is often described as an open relationship. In contrast, polyamorous couples hold the premise that one partner cannot meet all their needs and they want to explore having sex or a relationship with someone else. These couples don’t limit themselves to just one person when it comes...

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Remove Working With a Couple Who Have a Trauma History

Amanda Woolveridge, M.App.sci.
PACT Level II
Sydney, Australia
amandawoolveridgecounselling.com.au

John yanked open the curtains at 10:30 am. Light flooded the bedroom as he placed their one-year-old baby on Susanne, who looked bleary eyed and confused as she struggled to wake up. “He’s been asking for you,” John said, before he disappeared downstairs. In his role as house husband, he had decided that Susanne, who had reluctantly returned to full time work after 9 months at home, had slept in long enough for a weekend.

The day was not off to a good start for Susanne. She felt shocked into wakefulness, jarred by the sudden noise and light, confused by the instant demands of her little son, and completely abandoned by John. Because of her complex developmental childhood trauma history, all the alarm bells in her amygdala jangled simultaneously. The stage was set for her to have what John calls “one of her episodes.” She came thundering down the stairs to let...

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First Things First: The Primacy of Partnership in Blended Families

Jason Polk, LCSW, LAC
PACT Level II
Denver, CO
paramitacounseling.com

There is no magic bullet to maintaining and raising children within a blended family (a family with children from multiple relationships), and I am not an expert in the finer points of day-to-day interactions in a blended family. But while working with couples who have blended families, I have observed that they do better when they follow one basic principle: they hold each other as primary in the relationship—or we could say, as the king and queen of the household.

This may sound straightforward enough, but it is not always easy to put into practice, especially because overt and covert allegiances and alliances are often formed among each partner’s own children within the blended family. In therapy, parents often justify these allegiances and alliances by recounting the numerous difficulties they have been through with...

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Building Secure Functioning in the Face of Difference

Eda Arduman, Ma.
PACT Level II therapist
Istanbul, Turkey
edaarduman.com

Agreeing to disagree can be easier said than done. Some people believe that their beliefs and values constitute their character, and thus can’t be changed. But a relationship in which change is disallowed will not be successful in the long term. The process of understanding a partner—including the risk of having to change in unexpected ways—can be bewildering. For example, who takes the leadership role? Who follows? The couple must learn to negotiate their differences, as well as any resulting conflicts, while creating and maintaining secure functioning.

I work in Istanbul, a city that bridges two continents, and cross-cultural couples are common in my practice. I want to share one example. Roland is Belgian, and Didem is Turkish. They met while students at a university in London, and have been married for 13 years, with two children. She works as an executive, he as a consultant. They joint...

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The Devil is in the Details

Krista Jordan, Ph.D., ABPP
PACT Level III candidate
Austin, TX
www.kristajordan.com

“He doesn’t find me attractive,” she lamented, eyes cast downward toward his shoes.

My interest as this couple’s therapist was piqued: the woman before me could easily be mistaken for a model. I turned to him and said, “Tell her what you find attractive about her.”

After an uncomfortable pause, he offered, “I like her hair; it’s dark.”

I felt confused. What about her eyes? Lips? She looked even more dejected, focusing intently on the carpet. “What else?” I queried.

He seemed to be searching for a lost item. “Um, her back is really toned.”

I could see her collapsing further, the corners of her mouths starting to droop. “What about her face?”

He paused. “Um, I like her eyes. They’re kind.”

I began to wonder if we had stumbled upon a deficit. I turned to him and said, “Describe your...

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The Poetry of Couple Communication

Susan B. Saint-Rossy, LCSW
PACT Level III candidate
Ashburn, VA
www.relationship-therapist.com

Most couples who come to me identify their main problem as lack of or poor communication. Many times, couples believe that if they just learned to communicate properly, their relationship would be “fixed.” Thus, various therapeutic schools have come up with techniques (e.g., active listening, the use of “I” statements) to give order to a messy, complicated process. From the PACT perspective, these approaches can oversimplify a couple’s situation.

PACT recognizes that communication is complex, nonlinear, and multidimensional—much like poetry. Couples’ communication includes the symbolic language of words, micro-expressions, body language, tone of voice, and other elements. There is no one-to-one correlation between words and meaning, or...

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Using PACT in Individual Therapy: A Pro-Relationship Stance 

Margaret Martin, LCSW, SEP
PACT Level III candidate
Austin, TX
margaretmartinlcsw.com

When I started my career, I was a dyed-in-the-wool individual therapist, with little or no interest in couple therapy. My master’s program offered minimal education in couple therapy, and because I had no plans to pursue that, I assumed my training in couples’ work would end there. But then a friend convinced me that taking the PACT training would help me grow as an individual therapist. What began as a tepid dipping of my toes into the pool of couple therapy evolved into a dive into a deep, fulfilling sea. Not only do I love my work with couples, but my training as a couple therapist has enhanced my work with individuals.

The principles that make up the foundation of PACT apply to all kinds of relationships, not just romantic partnerships. Individual clients...

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