Welcoming Baby Bomb
The following is an excerpt from Baby Bomb: A Relationship Survival Guide for New Parents, by Kara Hoppe and Stan Tatkin, now available for purchase here.
When Jude was only a few days old, Charlie and I were sitting all cozy on our couch on a winter afternoon, as we’d done many times before—me on my side, Charlie on his. Only now there was a third person, and his place was on me to nurse. Nursing didn’t come easily for Jude and me. It was challenging to learn how to direct his lips to my breast so he could get a good latch. I had to listen for the sound of him swallowing and watch for his little jaw moving, signs that he was nourishing himself. If I didn’t hear swallowing or see his jaw move, it was time to pull him off gently and retry for a better latch. Eventually I came to think of breastfeeding as one latch at a time, and I did that until we became nursing pros. But on this winter day, pros we were not, and nursing was...
Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
In the summer of 2020, the PACT Institute – and Tracey and I personally – made a commitment to improve our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts and to better serve systemically marginalized communities. We immediately started working with a DEI consultant to help us look critically at our organization and where we could do better.
My Personal Journey
My own understanding expanded significantly at the end of the first training this year. When someone asked about what I considered betrayal, I mentioned mismanagement of thirds and the reveal of information that, if previously known, would have changed everything. I gave examples of this and rattled off my usual list, including finding out your partner is not the gender they were assigned at birth.
I was initially shocked to find the chat room buzzing with accusations of my acting out transphobia. Me? Transphobic? No! People are misunderstanding my meaning. What?
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...
We’ve known for a long time about the many benefits of cultivating a sense of gratitude: more joy, less stress, better health.
So when anxiety started to bubble up earlier this year, it seemed like an especially good time to begin a more intentional practice of flexing those gratitude muscles. Since then, we’ve made a habit of writing down what we are grateful for each day.
Even though life has been stressful and unpredictable, we’ve found a lot to appreciate. To start, we are truly thankful for our PACT community. This year especially, we found that we’re all in this together.
Silver Linings in 2020
Yes, there have been silver linings.
When we moved suddenly to offer training online earlier this year instead of the in-person training we had planned, we were scrambling to figure things out. Not only did we quickly learn about the usefulness of online training, we learned how resilient and supportive and dedicated our PACT community really is.
You stuck with...
As PACT therapists, we are trained to be ready to move with our couple. The COVID-19 pandemic is an exceptional virus that has compelled health professionals around the world to adapt best practices and improvise. By using telehealth sessions, they continue to provide care during this unprecedented moment in history. In this article, we share our thoughts and suggestions about how you may consider moving with your clients and adapting your practice of PACT to serve your couples through telehealth.
By Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
Two main issues face the PACT family therapy process: Structure and Attendance.
A challenge within typical family therapy is the structure that holds some family members to their particular family roles. While viewing members within the system frame is valuable, especially when it comes to various roles different members play, it can also restrict the flow of information as some members expand and express while others contract and remain in the background.
Using the PACT method to do family therapy may be more effective and convenient for both therapist and family. By dividing family members into pairs, the therapist can do “couple therapy” with various dyadic combinations, thereby freeing members from default role constraints and constrictions encountered when faced with the entire family system.
As long as invited members are of an appropriate age and maturity to participate...
by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
As a couple therapist, I know how difficult people can be. Actually, as a person on this planet and a romantic partner to my wife, Tracey, I count myself as one of those difficult people. Indeed, in no way do I put myself above any of the other annoying people out there. Yet here I am, writing about how to be less of a pain in the ass. Well, while I know I can be difficult, I know how not to be too difficult. And the line between them is actually clearer than you might think. Here’s how not to cross it.
When I work with couples, our goal is for them to become secure functioning. Secure functioning partners are least difficult with and toward each other. That’s because they understand their purpose: To ensure each other's absolute, unequivocal sense of safety and security. Partners are equal stakeholders in this endeavor, therefore, they agree to make life easier for each other, not harder. That's one of the main principles of secure functioning...
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 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...