About Couples Therapy
As of 2022, I am a certified practitioner of PACT, the psychobiological approach to couple therapy created by Dr. Stan Tatkin, a professor, clinician, educator, author, and couple therapist. I began training with Stan in 2013, and continue to do so today.
PACT is an experiential therapy for couples that incorporates the latest research as it applies to couples from the fields of attachment theory, developmental neuroscience, and understanding our nervous system (also understood as arousal regulation). What we are finding is that even with a difficult attachment history, it is still possible for a couple to learn how to function in a way that builds a secure foundation.
What is a “secure” relationship foundation? A secure relationship, or a relationship one feels confident in, is when:
The partners decide to create a shared vision for their relationship, together.
They treat each other in the way they want to be treated, even under stress (i.e. when you’d rather behave in habitual and suboptimal ways) because they know that doing something other than this can create unnecessary wear and tear on the relationship.
They agree overtly as to how they are going to handle things like their feelings, conflict, stress, individual and shared challenges, family members, friends, parenting, kids, work, all the things that could possibly get in the way of them having a strong and vibrant connection over time.
They learn how to repair more effectively and efficiently with every argument.
They deal honestly, openly, and respectfully with their issues with each other, and support each other in finding shared and collaborative ways to deal with them.
They invest energy in each other’s interests.
They help each other become the best version of themselves.
They genuinely enjoy each other and prioritize each other and their relationship.
And they do all of this because they know their wellbeing and overall happiness in life depends on it.
These are just a few of the aspects of a secure long term partnership. Couples and families who are secure understand that they need to tend to their relationships every single day, and prioritize the wellbeing of those relationships above everything else. You can read here about the longest study ever conducted (that is still going) on what constitutes a well lived life, and see that the most important factor in well-being throughout life is directly related to the quality of our relationships.
This all may sound great, but of course practicing this is, well, a life long practice. We can get stuck or confused or lost along the way. Many of us didn’t grow up being mentored by a couple who was living this way. Many of us have a lot of adaptations we’ve acquired when it comes to intimacy, vulnerability, and collaboration. Some of us come into relationships with little to no experience with having successfully navigated the complexities of interdependency, and only know codependency or forced autonomy.
In other words, there is so much to learn about how to have satisfying, fulfilling, and meaningful mutual relationships–and so many benefits to doing so.
In couple’s therapy, we work together to help you create the kind of relationship that has you feeling loved, inspired, connected, and resourced to live the life you envision for yourself and with each other. For some couples, we work to get clear on whether you are up for creating a mutually beneficial relationship together, or not. Either way, plan to gain insight, grow, and develop from the therapy process.
I offer a free 30 minute consultation to make sure we are a good fit for working together, and you can reach out to schedule that via my email contact.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if my partner doesn’t want to come to therapy with me?
It is not uncommon for one partner to want therapy more than another, or one partner feels more motivated than another to work on the relationship. It can help to have a 30 minute consultation with me, so I can address each of your concerns and hopes about therapy and working on the relationship. Often, people have ideas about therapy that aren’t accurate, or based on prior negative experiences with therapy (sadly, this is not uncommon either). It can help for us all to talk these concerns through and see if we can find a new way to embark on this important work.
How long will we have to be in therapy?
It depends on what brings you here. Some couples benefit from just 3-4 sessions, and find they can integrate what they’ve learned well and move to an “as needed” basis after that. Some couples find they either need or want to come in every 2 weeks regularly for a year or more to get to where they want to be. And then there are some couples that are somewhere in between, coming in every 1 or 2 weeks to start, then once a month, then on an as needed basis. Everyone can come back in for tune ups. We create a schedule together based on your desired outcomes and my recommendations.
Does starting therapy mean our relationship is doomed?
It certainly doesn’t! A lot of people come to therapy just because they are interested in growth and development, and improving their already “good” relationship. Some people worry that if they go to therapy, something must be wrong with them, or it means they are failing at something it looks like everyone else knows how to do (which isn’t true, either). However, most of us have no mentors or models of long term relationships that inspire us and show us how to do it well. We come into partnership maybe knowing what we don’t want, but not necessarily knowing how to create what we DO want. Most of us would benefit from taking time to learn about how to create the kind of relationship that fulfills us and makes our lives better. Investing in therapy is way better than winging it or expecting yourselves to simply know how.
Is couple therapy as painful as I think its going to be?
Probably not. Most people feel so relieved once they are no longer holding their relationship struggles on their own. Most people also feel relieved when they finally have the support they need to start facing the issues or problems that have been plaguing them. Personally, I really value getting to the truth, and even if the truth is difficult, it is better than a fantasy or delusion. There are so many moments in therapy that are also heartwarming, hilarious, and intimate. We usually all laugh and cry in a given session. I love this work, and if it was just a suffer fest, I wouldn’t be here doing it!