The Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy® or PACT, is the application of research in the following areas to improve interactions between couples:
- Neuroscience, the study of how our brain’s physiological reactions influence our relationships;
- Attachment Theory, our biological need for connection; and
- “The biology of human arousal” which underpins our ability and desire to engage in the moment.
Further learning about the PACT Couple Therapy model, developed by neuropsychologist, Stan Tatkin, PsyD. can be found in his book Wired for Love and the audio book Your Brain on Love (6-CDs or MP3 download).
The PACT therapist assists a couple in real-time attunement — the ability to notice and know what your partner needs. Helping the couple increase their capacity to act upon the needs of their partner sooner (and more frequently) is the desired outcome.
Some areas of your brain are wired to reduce threat and danger and seek security (through fighting or shutting down) while others are geared to establish mutuality and loving connection (through kind actions, touch or words).
PACT Couple Therapy promotes REPAIR of conflicts and disagreements through mutual agreement. When this happens, a couple forms a secure and safe relationship that can protect them during times of stress. Forming a unique safety net from life’s challenges and a “Couple Bubble” around them.
When a couple works to accurately respond to each, helping each other to feel supported and calm, each partner takes up the mission to develop quick adjustments from tension to comfort, hostility to understanding.
What happens in a PACT Couple Session?
As a couple, you are in each other’s care.
You’ll be learning how to pay closer attention to how your partner’s nervous system reacts when triggered.
That’s crucial for times of distress and upset.
Humans give automatic micro-expressions (facial cues) to express our need for comfort, validation, space and understanding.
As I watch how you interact, I’ll be encouraging you both to notice these subtle – yet perceptible – shifts in voice, body language, and facial expressions in each other.
Since a majority of communication is non-verbal, getting more skilled at recognizing your partner’s cues makes a huge impact for couples.
When each partner seizes the opportunity to support their partner in session, the learned behavior can be utilized outside the session.
I encourage you to slow down your interactions, to see what is happening (quicker) so you can support one another in more efficient and kinder interactions.
Once positive changes are reinforced, you begin to notice the POWER you have to positively influence your relationship.
External stress like work, money, kids, extended family, lack of time, outside commitments and life transitions are pressure points for couples.
Couples learn to better manage those stressors by understanding how to manage each other’s unique emotional reactions and biological energy shifts.
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.