Sometimes known as PACT therapy, Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy is a contemporary counselling method developed by Dr Stan Tatkin. At its core, PACT couples therapy combines attachment theory, developmental neuroscience and arousal regulation to effectively treat challenging issues among couples.
Like other forms of couple therapy, PACT integrates various aspects of current psychology.
This branch of science refers to the study of the human brain. In particular, neuroscience delves into the function and structure of the brain and nervous system. This complex field draws on related disciplines of cellular and molecular biology, anatomy, physiology, psychology and cognition to comprehensively map brain mechanics.
Attachment theory explains the psychology of human bonding as it relates to childhood experiences. Your sense of safety and security is closely linked to childhood relationship behaviours. These early emotional patterns otherwise known as attachment styles often carry over into adulthood including romantic relationships.
Biology of Human Arousal
For the purposes of PACT, arousal refers to your ability to manage energy, alertness, and willingness to engage. This state may change from one moment to the next and is closely monitored by the therapist.
PACT Session Overview
Couple counselling modalities vary considerably, and PACT counselling is no exception. Here’s what to expect from your next session with a certified PACT therapist:
Mood signifiers. Couples may display momentary changes in expressions, mood, body language and vocal pitch over the course of a session. PACT therapists pay close attention to these shifts and ask couples to do the same.
Fewer sessions. Compared to other forms of couple therapy, PACT requires fewer sessions in most cases.
Longer sessions. Many couple therapy sessions last 50 minutes compared to 3-6 hours for PACT. This extensive format allows for in-depth treatment and feedback.
Keeping record. If you agree, your therapist might tape your PACT session for reference. The idea is to provide couples with immediate feedback.
Role play. Your therapist may ask you and your partner to act out a relationship scenario to find better coping strategies.
Words of Wisdom
There’s no better way to understand PACT than by asking the founder himself. Here are a few of Dr Tatkin’s thoughts about his ground-breaking approach to couple counselling.
“We’re trying to catch people in the act of being themselves.”
The best way to solve relationship issues is by spotting them in real time. PACT is designed to pick up on signs and signals specific to each person or relationship. By integrating role play relevant to the couple, PACT therapists are better able to resolve problematic relationship behaviours.
“As a PACT therapist, we don’t believe what people say.”
People are unreliable storytellers; words and actions don’t always square. Whether because of social conditioning, early childhood patterns or personal motivations, a person may not always mean what they say. That’s why PACT prioritises something other than the relationship narrative.
“We’re looking at the animal that is the human.”
Our bodies reveal a great deal about how we’re feeling and what triggers us in daily interactions. Generally speaking, our physical and emotional tells are more reactionary than deliberate. PACT aims to break down couples’ communication based on primal wiring.
“We set fires and put ‘em out—we teach people how to get in and out of trouble.”
Learning how to navigate relationships is all about practice. No relationship is conflict-free, so problem resolution is the ultimate goal.
“Our relationships become automated. We become memory systems.”