PACT Couple Therapy
PACT Couple Therapy is an attachment-focused model developed by neuropsychologist, Dr. Stan Tatkin, MFT. His best-selling books Wired for Love, Wired for Dating, and Your Brain on Love (6-CD/MP3, Sounds True recording) focus on how primitive parts of our brain are more wired for protection than connection. So it makes sense that relationships are often fraught with struggle and missed connection if our brain is wired for defense.
The PACT therapist assists in real-time attunement — a fancy word for saying, “the ability to notice and know what your partner needs.” The ability to act upon those needs sooner and more frequently is the desired outcome. Conflicts and disagreements get repaired sooner. When this happens, a couple forms a secure and safe relationship that can protect them during times of stress.
When a couple works to accurately respond to each – helping each other to feel supported and calm – the less a couple can tolerate distress. When each partner takes up the call to develop quick adjustments from tension to comfort, they successfully form the “Couple Bubble.”
What happens in a PACT Couple Session?
The couple is supported equally. You’ll learn how to pay closer attention to how your partner’s nervous system work when triggered. That’s crucial for times of distress and upset. Humans give automatic facial cues to express our need for comfort, validation, space, and understanding. My job is help both partners recognize those subtle cues because they can be easily missed or ignored. When each partner seizes the opportunity to support their partner in session, the learned behavior can be utilized outside the session.
I encourage both partners to see what is happening (quicker) so they can support one another. Once positive changes are reinforced, the couple begins to notice the POWER they have to positively influence their relationship. As a couple, you are in each others care. That is the focus. External stress like work, money, kids, extended family, lack of time, outside commitments and life transitions are always going to be stressful. But they can be better managed when both partners know how to put the relationship first.
Susan is telling her partner how he could have been more supportive at the dinner party the night before. Her voice is raised and her eyes are very large while she speaks. As I look at Mark, he is fidgeting and turning away from Susan. She starts to talk louder and faster so I say, “he can’t hear you anymore.” Susan stops, puzzled. Mark is nodding his head agreeing with what I just said. Susan says to me, “how did you know that?” I say, “did you notice how he was growing anxious and fidgety?”
The lesson is simple, if Susan really wants Mark to hear her, she’s going to A) need to be aware of how he starts to check out and B) need to tone down her delivery, adjusting her voice so he can remain calm and receptive. In the above example, neither Susan or Mark are at fault. Much of how we communicate feedback and react to critique are based in the primitive, quick part of our mind (90% of those reactions are automatic and from our childhood upbringing).
How does PACT Therapy differ from other couple therapy?
The PACT model is built on cutting edge brain science: the deepest areas of the brain are the source of where present moment problems arise from. Belief and meaning about our safety with others (originally formed from our caretakers) is coded, carried and stored to help protect us from threat (and death). This blueprint for how we react to perceived threat is more pronounced within our closest love relationship because it is the closest parallel to our initial parental relationship. And since our parents could not provide all the protection and care we needed, we try desperately to get it from our partner.
PACT couple therapy helps to uncover those automatic reactions to threat in real time so the couple can practice new ways to respond to each other so the threat becomes lessened instead of increased. The information learned in PACT Therapy can then be utilized with other parts of our lives like noticing the reactive stance of children and coworkers. We become less upset at our partner’s behavior and more attuned to helping them shift their response. Behavior patterns that existed long before your partner arrived in your life begin to shift through awareness and support.
What does a typical session look like?
We meet for 2 – 2.5 hours in the initial session. And decide from there the frequency and length of each session (either 90 minutes or two-hours). Weekly sessions or bi-weekly sessions are recommended.
I also offer half and whole day intensives for couples traveling or visiting Boulder.
Who is PACT for?
PACT Therapy works well with all couples! At any stage of the relationship. The goal of PACT is to help people (re)engage in loving secure-functioning relationships.
“Working with Celeste did wonders for our relationship. We made more progress and had more revelations about what kept us stuck in just 6 sessions — than our previous year of therapy.”
- Understand what triggers you (and your partner)
- Acurately read your partner and them help them
- Your success is dependent on taking risks and accepting help
- Making choices that invite humor, honesty and humility
- Quickly stop habitual conflicts and experience them as growth
- The ability to be playful and discovery-orientated
- Become in-tune with each other emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually and sexually