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...
Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt, PhD
Certified PACT Therapist, PACT Core Faculty
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...
by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
Many partners ask me how to take care simultaneously of themselves and of their partner. In practical terms, this can be difficult to carry off. Similarly, some couple therapists find it difficult to convey the principle of simultaneous care to couples they treat. This blog shows you how to incorporate this principle into your practice and your relationship.
First, we have a neurobiological reality to circumnavigate. Human beings are largely driven by self-interests, particularly when overtired, overstressed, or under-resourced, and even more so when threatened. When partners engage in conflict, it is vital to understand the tendency to mistake even a loved one as adversarial, or worse, predatory. The predisposition to error in this direction is a feature of the human impulse to survive. The brain centers responsible for mistaking a friend for a foe are famously expeditious, indiscriminate, and ruthless. This primitive facet of the mind and body is...
by Mary Ackerman, MIC, BASS (Cllg); CARE Counselling Hong Kong, PACT Level II practitioner
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....
by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
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...
by Karen Berry, PhD, PACT faculty, New York, NY
Email: [email protected]
Bottom-up interventions are the bread and butter of PACT. These interventions can be simple to execute, yet powerful in their effect. For example, the therapist can ask partners to face one another, with the therapeutic intention of using eye gazing to reduce their allostatic load. Compared with habitual long, slow, top-down conversations, bottom-up interventions more readily empower the couple to use their neurological systems to affect change in the relationship.
All clinicians have seen how a couple can become reactive and operated out of conditioned responses from childhood. Their brains can register threat in nano seconds. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) moves at lightning speed in response to facial gestures, dangerous words and phrases, jerky gestures, tone and prosody, as well as general body language. PACT therapists watch moment-to-moment shifts of the ANS, implicit expressions...