Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT)

A Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) integrates emerging research from the areas of attachment theory, developmental neuroscience and arousal regulation.  This innovative therapy helps couples understand themselves, their partner, and the underlying dynamic within their relationship.

Attachment theory is the study of our innate need to connect and relate to others. Our earliest relationships shape how we see ourselves and others, and how we operate in relationships. 

Developmental neuroscience has scientifically shown that the development of the brain and nervous system is influenced by the type and quality of our connections with others, from the moment we are born.

Arousal regulation refers to the way in which our nervous system responds to stress. 

We learn how to relate to and interact with others based on the connections we experienced in our earliest relationships. The patterns established at that time form the psychological blueprint for how we think, feel and respond in different types of relationships throughout our lives.  

People whose early caregivers were attentive, sensitive and attuned to their emotional needs develop what is known as a 'secure' attachment style.  Being 'securely' attached assists us to feel relaxed and open in relationships, flexible in the way we interact with others, and able to respond in ways that are good for the relationship. People whose emotional needs were not consistently understood and supported (about 50% of us) can develop an 'insecure' attachment style, which makes it harder for them to feel safe, and trust that they will be supported in the relationship. 

Attachment theory has shown that, depending on our personal experience, we may be susceptible to particular emotional patterns or cues in intimate relationships.  When a particular type of relationship situation occurs we may find ourselves thinking, feeling or behaving in ways that have unintended consequences for our relationship. For example, we may automatically shut down or avoid certain situations, become defensive, or fight with our partner. 

These responses can happen without our being conscious of them, and despite our best intentions. 

Our early relationship experiences also affect the way in which our nervous system responds to stress. When we encounter something that echoes our early relationship experiences the nervous system's fight-fight response can be involuntarily activated, flooding the brain and body with neurotransmitters, and altering our arousal levels.  We cannot be open, present and sensitive toward one another when our nervous system is responding to a perceived threat (about which we might not be conscious) and our brain has gone 'off line'.  

PACT explores the ways in which partners instinctively respond in relationship, how they may inadvertently be triggering one another, and how each partner manages stress, conflict and the 'stuff' unique to their relationship. Couples are then supported to develop what Stan Tatkin, the creator of PACT, describes as an ‘owners manual’ which helps both people understand how to take care of themselves, their partner, and the relationship.

PACT helps couples create a securely functioning relationship, and to respond to one another skilfully.  The relationship then becomes a loving, vibrant place for growth, in which both partners can differentiate, integrate and thrive.