PACT: Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy

The Art and Science of Relationship

Despite relationship being so natural, it tends to be an area of human experience that is equally challenging, puzzling, and painful as it is rewarding, transformative, and blissful. Why?

Answers can be found in contemporary neuroscience, close observation, and deep introspection.

We are biologically wired for relationship.

All too often, couples get stuck in cycles of fighting, withdrawal, and shutdown (“fight, flight & freeze”), without understanding the primitive biological and personally historic underpinnings that color the experience. When couples are caught in these dysregulating cycles, the loving connection once enjoyed in the relationship begins to wither. When this repeats in an ongoing way, our lover begins to seem more like an enemy than someone with whom we have been deeply in love. Add to this the stresses of careers, child rearing, and an over-scheduled life, and we inadvertently end up battling, in power struggles, or fleeing towards safety rather than utilizing the relationship’s full potential for intimacy, nourishment and connection.

As very sophisticated mammals, we are wired neurologically with an ability to recognize patterns, and to generalize from past experiences to anticipate future events.  This system of automatic appraisal, preparation, and response has been invaluable for helping humans to avoid the ancient threats of predation. Although most of us no longer live in a world where we need to worry about being eaten by predators, this system of threat detection and response continues to be part of our brain architecture.  A drawback to this hard-wired system of protection, is when our automatic appraisals of impending threats are inaccurate, or when our behavioral response is ineffective for the  current situation.  This automatic sequence often becomes reinforced through the consequences that follow an ineffective response, thereby confirming the original bias that evaluated the situation as threatening.

My work with couples involves an experiential study of the habitual patterns that lead you away from connection and trigger the primitive strategies of self protection. These strategies are very effective in keeping us alive when we encounter a mortal threat, but they wreak havoc on a relationship. The reason for this is that these states are not pro-social, they are fast reflexes that are organized around the task of survival, not love and relationship.

I will help  you to understand why you trigger each other in the ways that you do, and how you can help each other to relax these reactive states into true intimacy.  A secure-functioning relationship naturally carries a lower stress load so that you can thrive as a couple.

I specialize in a method of couple therapy called PACT, and I am one of nine therapists in the United States to be selected as Core Faculty of the PACT Institute. Learn more: Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy.

Read my blog entry about PACT.

“For one human being to love another;
that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks,
the ultimate, the last test and proof,
the work for which all other work is but preparation”

– Rainer Maria Rilke