3 Things Couple Therapy Can’t Do and What It Can

 By Annie Chen, LMFT (https://www.changeinsight.net)

PACT Level 2 Therapist


The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) centers around a set of principles that are grounded in relationship fairness, mutuality, and safety, what we call secure functioning. Everything I do as a PACT couple therapist is guided by these principles. Time and time again I’ve seen that it’s an effective model for sustaining two people’s needs in a relationship. Secure-functioning principles are also versatile; they can be applied to nearly every type of issue and problem that couples encounter.

I’m often awe-struck at the work that couples do in my office. It makes the difference between joy and misery; between wanting to stay together and wanting to end the relationship.

But like all good models, couple therapy has limits to what it can accomplish. I’d like to identify some caveats and limitations to using this method so that therapy seekers can align...

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The Use of PACT Principles in Non-Romantic Dyads

Yvonne Oke, LMFT

PACT Level 2

https://www.mymoderntherapy.com/yvonne-oke


One of my favorite things about the PACT model is the ability to be creative. As a marriage and family therapist, I have the opportunity to work with not only romantic dyads but also dyads that consist of family members, friends, and coworkers. As I began to learn about the PACT model, I wondered what secure functioning would look like in dyads of other structures. My use of some of the PACT principles and interventions in other dyads proved helpful in allowing my clients to create relationships that felt safe and secure.

Of course, secure functioning looks different in relationships that are not romantic. The expectation to meet the needs of others is not the same as those of our most important relationship. However, I have found that every relationship has a set of rules and expectations for how to stay connected, and PACT can help people identify what those rules need to be.

As we all know, people can...

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Kids Need Parents to Put Their Couple Relationship First

Kara Hoppe, MA, LMFT

PACT Level 2 Therapist


The best piece of parenting advice I ever heard had nothing to do with sleep, solid foods, or baby wearing. In fact, it had nothing to do directly with my baby. It was simple yet radical wisdom from a trusted source: my mentor and Baby Bomb coauthor Stan Tatkin. Stan taught me, with the science to back it up, to always put my relationship with my husband first. No matter what.

He told me to do this as a student, as a therapist, and as a new mom. And let me tell you, I never needed that advice more than when I was in the throes of early motherhood. Except maybe during this past year of the pandemic. In times of crisis, we all need our partnerships to hold us steady and provide us with a secure base from which we can grow, be creative, and problem solve. 

This is so, so, so important that Stan and I wrote a whole book about it: Baby Bomb: A Relationship Survival Guide for New Parents (New Harbinger, 2021).

The Honeymoon

All...

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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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Staying Connected Despite Your COVID-Cancelled Wedding

by Susan Stork, LCPC, NCC

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador

www.spacebetweencounselingservices.com/


Many once soon-to-be-married couples have had their wedding plans altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You booked your venue, hotel, caterer, and entertainment – and likely spent countless hours and copious amounts of money in the process. Now you’re faced with making a decision with only unfavorable options: do you cancel or postpone the wedding, or do you potentially risk the health of your beloved guests?

Perhaps you’re one of countless couples who have had to reschedule or cancel your dream ceremony and reception. Travel for out-of-town guests and honeymoon have turned into a distant fantasy. Even the closing of some courthouses has made it seem impossible to legally tie the knot.

It’s only natural for couples stuck in limbo to feel disappointed or cheated that the celebration of your union has been indefinitely pushed back on an uncertain timeline....

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Beyond the Valentine Chocolates and Roses: Creating a Long-Lasting Relationship

Clinton Power

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
clintonpower.com.au


Some people want chocolates and roses for Valentine's Day, but it's not the small (or big) romantic gestures on special occasions that lead to relationship success. To go from an initial date to a long-term relationship you need to look for qualities in a potential mate that make you feel safe and open with that other person. What you may not know is that these traits can lead you in the direction of developing a secure-functioning relationship.

What is a secure-functioning relationship?

A term coined by PACT co-founder Dr. Stan Tatkin, a secure-functioning relationship is an interpersonal system based on principles of true mutuality, collaboration, justice, fairness, and sensitivity. You and your partner are taking on the world together. You protect each other from the threats of the external, the outside world, and from the internal, each other. A secure functioning relationship acknowledges and celebrates...

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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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The Big Win - What Divorcing Parents (and Their Kids) Want  

 

By Aurisha Smolarski, MA, LMFT 

PACT Level 2 Therapist
www.aurishasmolarski.com


 The marriage and relationship have ended, and you wish you could just say goodbye to each other and move on. But . . . you have kids. 

Relating to each other as divorced parents can be as much, or possibly even more, of a challenge than the marriage had been. Feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, longing, and relief may taint your perspective. But whether you experience an amicable or contentious separation, a continuing relationship as parents is necessary. You two are still responsible to each other for the care of your children. 

“Wait, what? I still have to be in a relationship with this person?”

Just because you no longer share a bed or life goals, you are still operating inside a social contract that demands a commitment to the co-parenting partnership moving forward.  

Fortunately, there is no reason why people who can’t be married can’t...

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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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How Secure-Functioning Principles Help Parents Who Are Divorcing

By Edna Avraham, LMFT
PACT Ambassador, Level III Therapist
ednaavraham.com

The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) focuses on helping and coaching couples to “secure” each other in order to reduce threat, thrive, and grow closer. While they are designed for couples who want to deepen their connection, PACT principles can also apply to uncoupling or divorcing parents.

Some of the secure-functioning principles are:

  • Thinking in terms of WE, the two people in the couple
  • Making the relationship a priority over other relationships in your life
  • Being sensitive and considerate of each other’s known vulnerabilities, and being able to predict how the other member of the couple may perceive your actions
  • Being transparent and turning to each other for support and comfort.

Following these principles creates a secure foundation for each member of the couple to feel cared for, prioritized, loved, and considered.

Divorcing couples are often in a constant state of...

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