How Creating a Shared Purpose Unites and Renews Couples

By Beth Newton, LCSW, LCAS
PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
https://newtoncounseling.com/


“Winter Is Coming”

“We Do Not Sow” 

“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

“Family, Duty, Honor” 

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you know that each ruling house has a sigil (magical symbol) and motto. The story takes place during a time of chaos with warring houses, harsh living conditions, and the threat of human extinction. The families inscribe their sigils and mottos on shields, flags, and stamps. From Season 1 through Season 7, the main characters repeat their mottos during times of stress, celebration, and danger.

Throughout history, the nations of the world have developed structures to transcend natural and man-made dangers. I am half Scottish from the Douglas clan. When my brothers were in high school and looking for a place of safety and belonging, they learned how to play the bagpipes and drums. Their membership in a bagpipe...

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Staging to Influence the Thermostat in Couple Therapy

By Melissa Ferrari

Dip. of C & C, Advanced Dip in Transactional Analysis (Psychotherapy)

Clinical Registrant PACFA

PACT Level 3 Candidate, PACT Ambassador

https://melissaferrari.com.au/


We all know that moment when we see a couple for the first time. Immediately, as a trained PACT therapist, you notice nuances in how the couple interacts. One partner’s shoulders slouch as they walk in. The other has their chest puffed out almost as if they are protecting themselves. In that moment, you know you would bounce right off of them if you dared to approach or get too close.

Tom and Sarah are a couple in their mid-forties with two adult children who had moved away from home in the last year. Before we even all sit down to talk, I think to myself, “These two have been dysregulated for some time, possibly even years.” I notice, as their couple therapist, that I feel a little sad and possibly even a little worried about them. What is going on with this couple? What has...

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Be Ready to Drop Your Darlings and Other Lessons from PACT

By Beth O’Brien, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist

PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador

www.bethobriencounseling.com


In PACT training, Dr. Stan Tatkin shared this gem: “Be prepared to drop your darlings.” Darlings are those valuable insights a counselor acquires as s/he sees the concerns of the couple unfold. My initial response to his suggestion was “Oh, no!”

As a couple’s therapist of over 20 years, I’ve had many darlings to insert into the therapeutic work. Dr. Tatkin’s gem became an important guideline, as it advocated for the couple therapist to be open, flexible, aware of timing, and able to assess the benefit of an intervention.

Who hasn’t had the experience of sharing a clinical observation that falls flat? Which counselor hasn’t had a perceived valuable comment result in the couple squinting their eyes, their facial expression indicating discord, their inner thoughts confusion?

Before sharing a darling, I had to...

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The PACT Institute: Growing with You in 2020 and Beyond

Dear PACT Community,

Happy 2020! Here at the PACT Institute we wanted to take this opportunity – as we enter a new decade – to share with you the vision we hold for the Institute in 2020 and beyond.

Our goal is to create a global and sustainable organization. In the last year, Stan, Tracey, the faculty, and our administrative team have worked hard to lay the foundation so that goal becomes a reality.

One of our biggest challenges at the Institute is meeting the increasing demand for training. As a businessperson – I admit – this is a problem I love having! We are meeting that challenge in a number of ways: a new website, new course offerings, and new ways to engage with the Institute.

At the heart of the Institute’s expansion efforts was updating to a new, more user-friendly website. The new site will be our gateway to even more training and educational opportunities in the future. Both the professional clinician and non-professional who is seeking...

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When Partners Write Internal "Movie Scripts” that Hurt the Relationship

Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt, PhD

Certified PACT Therapist, PACT Core Faculty

stahlschmidt-therapy.com 


A central function of the brain is to detect patterns. It must make sense of the data that bombards us from our ongoing internal and external experience.  An aspect of this function is to support the sense of continuity and cohesiveness of the self. One way to understand this is the brain’s bias for narrative.

The brain does not function well without purpose, meaning, cohesion, and connectivity. It is busy trying to filter and assemble the data toward a cosmos. The brain cannot exist in chaos without severe repercussions for mental health and functioning in the larger world.

The magnitude of data that the brain is required to process makes it inevitable that significant omissions, mistakes, and distortion occur. These errors in pattern detection and assembly are filled by the left brain in its “narrator” function. The left-brain narrator function often works...

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Mutual Injury: The Challenge of Symmetry

Patricia Hart, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador


We have all encountered that moment of impasse with our couples (and probably with our own relationships) when each partner feels like the injured party. The other is perceived as dangerous, and neither partner wants to or feels able to make a reparative move. Witnessing the struggle that ensues feels like watching a race to the bottom.

These moments remind me of my pothole theory of marriage:

The sun is shining, a soft breeze is in the air, and life is good. You and your partner walk down a winding road. Suddenly, a pothole appears. Before you can stop, you and your partner descend into a large dirty hole. How did it happen? Does it matter? The only important task is to help each other out as fast as possible so you can resume your enjoyment of the gorgeous day together.

If only life – and relationship – were so easy.

Couples locked in the grip of mutual recrimination are dysregulated....

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Using PACT to Fight Fair

By Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S, CST

PACT Level 2 Therapist

www.triunetherapy.com


All couples fight. Therapists know this. Couples (most couples) know this. But in the moment, it feels like annihilation for a couple ill-prepared to stay attuned and remain committed to a secure-functioning endeavor. 

Disagreements and fights are healthy, and the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) model works with couples to help them preserve their relationship and fight in a manner respectful to one another and the bond they share. Tatkin (2018) notes the crux of disrupted efforts to remain coregulated and attuned during a fight are the brain’s

  • primitives;
  • negativity biases;
  • insecure attachment patterns.

Primitives

Regressions into fight, flight, or freeze can occur and, if left unrepaired, can become the status quo as partners unconsciously or consciously perceive threats to the sustainability of their relationship.

Insidious old habits related to self-protection...

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Communication 101: Speak and Be Heard, Part 1

By Kara Hoppe, MA, LMFT

PACT Level 2 Therapist

karahoppe.com


As a couple therapist, I’ve learned that relationships are like fingerprints: each one is unique. Even though each couple reaches out for couple therapy for a variety of reasons, they all, at some point during our initial consultation, ask for the same thing – communication tools. 

Communicating with your partner can be downright difficult. Some topics are hard to talk about so partners stay silent, which can create a sour divide in the partnership. Or, topics are so emotionally charged that each conversation becomes a boxing match. This combined with the modern jam-packed, full-tilt, boogie busy lifestyle that many of us occupy, it’s no wonder that couples are struggling with a capital S.

In this and my next PACT blog, I’ll be sharing communication tools you can use in your relationship right now. This post focuses on speaking. The goal is to speak directly, clearly, and kindly so...

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If Therapy Is Medicine, How Do We Prevent Overdose?

Allison Howe, LMHC

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
https://allisonhowelmhc.com

 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 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” (Merriam-Webster.com), then to me, PACT therapy is medicine.

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

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Healing Trauma Relationally Through PACT

By Jeff Cohen, MFT

PACT Level III Therapist, PACT Ambassador

JeffCohenMFT.com

 

When Gayle and Paul came to see me, it was clear that Gayle felt Paul was the problem. Paul was taciturn to an unusual degree and could be quick to anger. For her part, Gayle presented as highly verbal, competent, and overtly friendly; adept at managing the tasks of their family and her career.

Though I didn’t know of Paul’s trauma when we first met — he lived in terror of upsetting a threatening stepmother and a physically punishing older brother — his manner and speech suggested that he moved through the world in a very protected stance.  

It might have been easy to view Paul as the one who needed help. He was extremely literal, arguing about the minutia of his upset with Gayle, and for a long time was unable to understand the concept of providing relief first in an argument. From a PACT perspective, when a willing partner is able to help settle the distressed...

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