PACT Couples Work
The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy [PACT] is a powerful way of working that incorporates attachment theory, developmental neurobiology, and the biology of nervous system arousal regulation. In short, it's decades of scientific research boiled into an incredibly effective set of principles and tools to help you build healthy, lasting, resilient love into your relationship. This in an attachment-based approach which has grown out of the clinical work of Stan Tatkin, PsyD., who continues to train therapists and to develop this body of work. Maura and Andrew are both Level 2 PACT-trained, and have spent several years fine-tuning a deep understanding of this work in the laboratory of our own life as a couple and in our work with other couples. We are grateful to be able to incorporate PACT work in our couples sessions in the Sonoma County, California area.
As adults, we tend to recreate certain elements of our main childhood relationship(s) in our partnership. This attachment style includes characteristic defenses that become automatic, and interfere with connection in our adult relationships. This is especially clear (often painfully so) under distress. Here, we help you to crystallize your understanding of each other’s world from this point of view of attachment - the needs, fears, and resources that shape your relationship. From there, you can rework how your relationship functions - accounting for how you each learned relationship, and becoming experts in quickly addressing each partner's needs as a team. No matter what combination of relationship patterns you carry as a couple, you are capable of secure functioning relationship.
One of key elements of a secure functioning relationship is that of “relationship-first”. This is a fundamental shift in which partners act based on what is best for the relationship, not what is the short-run strategy for us as individuals. As this way of relating takes root, our individual needs will naturally be met when the relationship is functioning securely. This is the basis of trust. While this shift is relatively simple, it is not easy for most couples, especially when our society over-emphasizes individualism. In order to really thrive as individuals, though, we need our relationship to be a home in the world where we can be understood and tended to in the ways that work for us.
Neuroscience in a Nutshell
Advances in neuroscience offer ever-more sophisticated models of how our nervous systems function in relationship. Our PACT-informed couples work incorporates this research - from brain anatomy to the role of different neurotransmitters - to help couples reflect in practice our evolution as relational creatures. Resilient, fulfilling partnership is in your nature. We can work with you to develop ways of quickly addressing fight-or-flight responses in your relationship to avoid a lot of unnecessary damage. In practice, this may be as simple as shifting tone of voice or making use of well-timed physical contact. As you and your partner develop understanding of what helps you each function best, you are better able to support each other through challenge, and to invite the sense of connection and love you share.
PACT Couples Therapy Resources
Watch Stan's TEDx talk: Relationships are Hard, But Why?
Wired for Love (print) by Stan Tatkin - a book written for couples to work through together, and which walks you through PACT principles in accessible terms with real-world examples. A great compliment to couples therapy.
Your Brain on Love (audiobook) by Stan Tatkin - as engaging as it is helpful, both for couples and individuals looking to understand patterns in relationship. Also a great primer or companion to couples therapy.
Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin - PACT principles applied to dating, because it is never too early to build relationship on a foundation of health.