The Scoop: PACT Institute is the educational facet of PACT, or Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy. Dr. Stan Tatkin developed the PACT Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy and it remains a sought-after therapeutic approach for couples who face significant relationship challenges. PACT considers neuroscience, attachment theory, and the biology of human arousal to help couples find happiness in their relationships. PACT Institute trains therapists according to its core principles and provides resources to couples in search of a therapist who is certified in PACT.
At one point or another, most long-term couples reach a junction in their relationship where they need therapy. Whether it be failing communication, mismatched goals, or a dwindling sex life, all couples face challenges. Sometimes couples can work out small problems on their own, but other problems can signal a deeper issue that requires professional attention. Many people know from experience that intimate relationships have the unique ability to expose deep emotional and psychological wounds.
These wounds, whether inflicted in childhood, during adolescence, or in adulthood, can affect the way we navigate the world and our relationships. Past trauma can hurt present relationships and foster detrimental dynamics within growing in partnership.
PACT Institute presents a distinct approach to help couples tackle these wounds. Its methods combine neuroscience, attachment theory, and the biology of human arousal. PACT, or Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy, is a modality based on a set of principles that promote relationship fairness, mutuality, and safety.
Dr. Stan Tatkin developed PACT. Through PACT Institute, he has trained thousands of therapists around the world. Dr. Stan holds a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He told us about the PACT philosophy, the 7 Days to Better Fights program, and how couples can benefit from bringing more psychological awareness to their relationships.
“Relationships are a team sport,” Dr. Tatkin said. “Couples should see themselves as a team with a shared purpose, vision, and goals.”
Connecting Neuroscience, Attachment Theory, and Biology
Psychobiology is the basis for PACT. Psychobiology is a field of study that explores the biology of behaviors and mental and emotional states. It considers aspects of psychology, biology, neuroscience, and genetics. Psychobiology connects what we do to what happens in our bodies when we do those things.
Dr. Tatkin has investigated the interaction between the brain, physiological processes, and behavior manifestations. Psychobiology and PACT take human evolution and instincts into consideration by treating human behavioral and relational challenges as only natural. The team examines the biological processes within the body before, during, and after interpersonal interactions and conflict. By analyzing this information, PACT gives couples the tools to understand and resolve their relationship challenges.
The investigation of facial expressions is a major part of PACT’s study. Dr. Stan told us that microexpressions can say a lot about what’s going on in the brain. Microexpressions are barely noticeable expressions that signal how a person feels. These expressions are involuntary and happen even if a person is trying to conceal their emotions.
“It’s a developmental model, but we have studied microexpressions as they appear in couples. We study people over and over again, similar to infant studies done using frame analysis.” Dr. Tatkin said. “We look at couples interacting under stress, frame by frame, and we can learn a lot.”
Couples who undergo PACT treatments are usually recorded, and the therapist pays close attention to microexpressions, both on the face and throughout the body. Sessions can last anywhere from three to six hours long as couples work through the problems they face in their relationship.
7 Days to Better Fights is a Couple’s Best Tool
The crux of PACT is replacing insecure attachment behaviors, which signal stress in the nervous system and other systems throughout the body, with secure attachment behaviors. By gaining awareness of the triggers that lead to fights, couples can reflect on how their bodies react and learn how to respond from a place of understanding rather than fear.
“Fighting occurs because of how heart rates and blood pressures go up to a certain level,” Dr. Tatkin explained. “Our brain goes into fight or flight. Once we’re there, we’re not thinking the same way we were before.” Dr. Tatkin added that fighting couples tend to react automatically and reflexively while in this state.
A person in a fight-or-flight state tends to view themselves and their partner as separate psychological systems that are at odds with each other. Even something as minute as a lip twitch could signal to a person’s brain that they are in danger or under attack.
7 Days to Better Fights encourages couples to realize they are in this together, and even in fighting, they should be considering the other person. “When couples are under stress, they have to keep an eye on each other to make sure each is continually safe and secure,” Dr. Tatkin said.
PACT helps couples track their partner during fights and gives them tools to keep them in a place of safety and security.
Couples who are interested in the 7 Days to Better Fights program can sign up online. The program is simple and easy to complete. PACT sends one email per day throughout the seven days to impart a lesson on seven concrete skills that partners can use to manage conflict healthily.
After completing these lessons, couples will have actionable tools to navigate a disagreement. By undergoing simple exercises (which take less than an hour a day), couples will learn new techniques for conflict management that can make their fights more productive and less hurtful.
All couples fight. The intention behind 7 Days to Better Fighting isn’t to eliminate all fighting– after all, fighting is integral to relationships and how couples resolve issues. However, fights don’t have to be vicious, stressful, or relationship-ending. Couples can use a toolbox of psychological skills to resolve disagreements with compassion, understanding, and sincerity. That way, they can experience more happiness and intimacy in their relationships.
PACT Resources for Couples, Therapists, and Singles
Since PACT takes a therapeutic approach, PACT Institute has resources for couples and therapists. Couples can use the therapist directory to find PACT-trained therapists in their area. They can also schedule an appointment with Dr. Stan, who is based in Calabasas and offers telehealth services.
PACT Institute hosts the Wired for Love Couples Retreat to provide more assistance to couples. During this eight-session virtual retreat, Dr. Tatkin and his wife and PACT Institute co-founder Dr. Tracey Boldemann-Tatkin guide couples to create the fulfilling relationship they truly desire. They help couples establish a two-person system called the Couple Bubble, acknowledge their attachment styles, and learn how to fight well and repair quickly.
PACT has a blog to offer couples advice, and Dr. Tatkin has authored and co-authored many books about relationships. The blog posts explore what couples can do to better understand and strengthen their relationship. “Wired for Love” and “Wired for Dating” are two of Dr. Tatkin’s books where he delves into how an understanding of psychobiology can aid in dating and in partnerships. “In Each Other’s Care” is Dr. Tatkin’s newest book, and helps couples navigate common relationship struggles.
Therapists become PACT certified to deepen their understanding of couple relationships and gain new skills to help their clients. PACT Institute offers three levels of training and certification after completing all three levels. PACT integrates well with other therapeutic models and can help any therapist better understand and help the people they treat.
PACT Institute is an excellent resource for couples and therapists alike. PACT has a reputation for treating even the most challenging couples and has shown long-term success for the folks who use its techniques in their relationships. “Partners need to have a shared reason for existing as a couple,” Dr. Tatkin said. “It’s got to be based on our purpose, on protecting each other– in public and in private.”