The PACT approach to couples therapy goes beyond talking about problems. It's an interactive, experiential approach designed to help partners create an authentic and compassionate bond.

PACT Approach

Why I Love PACT

by Couples Therapist, Susan Orenstein, PhD

For a couple, a secure relationship pact is committing to sensitivity and fairness. It is a get-each-other’s-back-no-matter-what agreement. 

And it’s a beautiful thing.

That’s why the PACT, or Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy, pioneered by renowned psychologist and relationship therapist Stan Tatkin, is so appropriately named.

The PACT approach to couples counseling combines the latest research with a whole-hearted desire to see you securely and deeply connected to the one you love. 

I’ve committed my professional career to helping couples improve their relationship and have loved integrating many excellent approaches (including pioneers of family therapy and marital research Minuchin, Satir, Gottman). I discovered PACT a few years ago and have been part of an intensive training team. I have to say I’m “in love” with the model. It encapsulates what I believe and what I know about love, from my own amazing marriage of 29 years and my experiences with couples on my couch since 1998. This therapy is about loving action. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s honest, and it’s real.

PACT is Grounded in Research:

  • PACT considers the human brain.

Through neuroscience, PACT investigates the way certain parts of your brain are geared toward security, like-mindedness, and loving connection.

  • PACT addresses attachment theory.

Examining your level of attachment to caregivers early in life shapes your understanding of security in adult relationships.

  • PACT factors in human arousal.

This area of research looks at how you and your partner can motivate, soothe, and inspire each other rather than succumb to unchecked moods and emotions in the moment.

At its core, PACT is based on mutuality.

Mutuality is the idea that at the end of the relationship day, both partners win. In other words, the agreements between you and your partner are good for both of you. 

PACT skills are meant to help you:

    • Gain your partner’s attention (without nagging or threats)
    • Connect on a deep level with your partner.
    • Make you feel wanted, understood and secure.
    • Know how to navigate conflict without avoidance or fear.

It’s the “show me you love me therapy” required for a secure relationship.

PACT helps you show, rather than tell, your partner how you feel.

Together, you do the work of learning each other’s signals and body language too. 

You actively help each other feel loved.

Tatkin, the founder of this theory asserts the idea that couples function best when they create a “couple bubble.” It’s a “we” identity that works for both of them.

How The Couple Bubble works:

  • You set mutually created boundaries. You shield yourselves from the things that can harm your relationship in the outside world. You develop a relationship mission statement. Together, you stand for something
  • You’re a unit. You rely on, influence, and take care of each other.
  • You establish secure relationship functioning.

You purposefully build a sense of security, including rules of engagement such as:

  1. We’re available for each other.
  2. We confide in each other and support one another.
  3. We don’t belittle or embarrass each other in public.

Deep trust, comfort, and the ability to resolve conflict satisfyingly is created.

PACT is An Evolving Model of Couples Therapy

I love this approach because Stan Tatkin continues to integrate new research and new strategies into the PACT counseling model. It’s an evolving work that will continue as you and your partner evolve together. It helps create the secure relationship of your dreams.

How Couples Counseling Works Using the PACT Approach

Initial Phase:

In the first few counseling sessions we discuss your personal and family history, identify your relationship concerns, and set goals to improve your relationship.

Results: You will have a much better understanding of each other’s needs as well as conflict management and attachment styles.

The Work Phase:

In this phase you and your partner will decide what agreements (pacts) you will make for your relationship. You will also decide on “the rules you will play by” to keep your relationship fair and fulfilling.

Results: You will be better able to “read” each other and respond to each other in ways that fulfill each other’s needs.

The Follow-up Phase:

We have sessions less frequently to monitor your progress and help you sort out areas where you still may be having difficulty or occasionally get stuck.

Results: The progress you have made in therapy will be strengthened. Your confidence will increase and your new ways of being together will feel natural.



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