Interdependence: Transcending Dependence and Independence in Couples

for therapists Sep 08, 2023

By Doris Montalvo Moll
Clinical Psychologist
PACT Level 3 Therapist


This work stems from a concern of mine, an initially unarticulated feeling that I have had for some time. This feeling arose during both clinical and nonclinical situations in which I heard statements, such as "I am too dependent," "I have problems with my partner that should not affect me so much," "I do not intend to depend on anyone,” "You should not make your decisions thinking about someone else." I’ve usually heard women say these kinds of things.

Since I am a PACT therapist, my vision of the couple relationship has to do with the idea of interdependence, or mutual dependence. However this concept is complicated at a theoretical level. It has different meanings that are not always related to what we understand from the PACT perspective. In addition, interdependence is not a concept known or used by the general population. 

Therefore, the purpose I have in writing this paper is to explore...

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Evolving PACT Through Deepening Understanding of Personality Disorders

for therapists Aug 03, 2023

By Nicole McGuffin, PsyD, LPC, BCN
PACT Level 3 Therapist

There is confusion about personality disorders. According to the DSM-5 (APA, 2013) a list of pathological symptoms and traits categorize a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The DSM-5 narrowly classifies this group of people by grandiosity, needing admiration, having entitlement, and lacking empathy. These traits are critical in the understanding of NPD. However, this route struggles to capture issues of self and affect regulation including feeling inferior, low self-esteem, vulnerability and inferiority, emptiness, fearing boredom, emotional distress, affective reactivity, and rage (Caligor & Stern, 2020). 

Section III of the DSM-5 (2013) introduces The Alternative Model for Personality Disorders (AMPD). Its requirements include both personality functioning impairments and pathological trait elevation. It covers a broader range and is more inclusive of characteristic difficulties in identity,...

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How Individual Therapists Can Accidentally Harm Relationships

for therapists Jul 10, 2023

By: Jess Cleeves, MAT, LCSW

PACT Level 2

It’s inevitable. If you see individual clients, you will work with someone who is struggling in their primary partnership. While we’re prepared to support an individual’s healing process, we have a profession-wide blind spot; few of us are trained to ethically and effectively support individuals whose clinical concerns are partnership-related. In fact, our superpowers in treating individuals may end up acting as the couple’s kryptonite. 


Relationships Show Up in Individual Therapy

Our training and daily interactions as individual therapists constantly hone our abilities to empathize and validate our clients. We commit to believing that our clients’ experiences are, indeed, their experiences. While we also push our clients to evaluate their experiences toward their own growth and transformation, doing so when the client’s focus is their romantic relationship poses a particular challenge; we can...

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The Therapeutic Use of Horses as Adjunctive Experience to PACT Couple Therapy: Exploring Couples’ Capacity for Collaboration and Attunement

for therapists Jun 07, 2023

by Catherine Seidel, LMFT
PACT Level 3 Therapist

This paper presents the application of PACT couple therapy principles to a guided couple experience with horses. Four couples were given the same instructions and tasks in two-hour equine-assisted sessions. Several PACT exercises were applied verbatim. Observations and insights gained from the exercises were then applied to the couples’ interaction with the horse. For brevity I will describe a portion of the work with two couples.

Because horse brains have no prefrontal cortex, their behavioral responses reflect their level of interest or disinterest, stress, or attraction to human verbal and nonverbal behavior. Without the human capacity for executive function, a horse’s brain “allocates space to perception, fear, rapid movement and associative learning” (Jones 2020a).

Horses are prey animals that depend on flight as primary means for survival. When humans work with horses, the horse provides an...

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Integration of PACT Couples Therapy with Psychedelic Assisted Therapy: Facilitating Secure-Functioning Relationship

for therapists May 08, 2023

By Olga M. Vera, PhD

PACT Level 3 Therapist

As PACT therapists, we play a significant role in supporting our couples toward secure-functioning relationships. We can also play an essential role in contributing to the growth of psychology, psychedelics, and work with couples. This paper is my observations and insights as a PACT therapist from my work with couples who decided to use MDMA to strengthen their relationship. Many of my clients wanted to see if MDMA could help them identify the barriers that were not allowing them to create a secure-functioning relationship. 

MDMA has been described as the love drug, the heart opener, or the truth pill by various people in the psychedelic community. People who have taken MDMA recreationally reported a sense of openness and connection toward others. Some have described that it gives them the willingness to discuss the topics that scare them, helping them drop defenses and fear. 

Many of my couples experimenting with...

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Shared Purpose, Shared Vision, and Shared Principles of Governance

for therapists Apr 10, 2023

Excerpted from In Each Other's Care: A Guide to the Most Common Relationship Conflicts and How to Work Through Them by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, LMFT (Sounds True, 2023)

My friends, most love relationships do not last exceptionally long. There are a good many reasons for this. Let’s start at the very top with a lack of shared purpose, vision, and principles of governance. The following material refers only to human unions among freethinking, independent adults in a conditions-based volunteered venture. It does not apply to dictatorships, master-slave arrangements, or parent-child relationships.

Shared Purpose

Shared purpose is your foundational “together” statement; the oath you create together and live by each day. Without a shared purpose between united humans, there is nothing to hold people together over time, particularly hard times. Review these examples with your partner. As you read this book, work together to create a shared purpose for your...

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Meet the First PACT Certified Therapists

for therapists Mar 07, 2023

This month, we’re celebrating the first group to have earned the distinct title of PACT Certified Therapist by completing the highest level of PACT training. 

You may see them teaching classes, offering consultation, or sharing PACT research projects.

We asked them what the Certification process was like for them, what advice they have for clinicians new to working with couples, and (just for fun!) if they could have one superpower, what it would be. Learn a little more about each of them.


Eda Arduman, MA,
Clinical Psychologist

Istanbul, Turkey

"Going through the PACT Certification program was healing and supportive and sharpened my skills as a therapist and teacher."

Advice for new couples therapists? “Consider becoming a couples therapist as a lifelong journey that will impact your personal as well as professional life…. To truly help couples heal, move away from cookie-cutter approaches and step into the energy of the couple dynamic. The safest way...

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Keep Knee to Knee While Mutual Eye-Gazing

for therapists joy dryer Nov 09, 2022

By Joy A Dryer, PhD

PACT Level 3 Therapist

“I’m still not comfortable,” says Sam, jiggling his foot.

Sam and Sandra came to couples therapy because they can’t communicate. I start them in each session with a typical Psychobiologic Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) [1] mutual eye-gazing exercise [2]. They have just settled into their rolling chairs. I ask that they sit comfortably with their knees touching.

I tell couples to breathe deeply, focus attention on the other's face, and notice every detail. Try not to talk or touch. Sam lasts about 15 seconds and then says, “I don’t like this staring thing.”

I sit on my rolling chair between them, a few feet away. My standard poodle, Hobbes, sits statue-still next to my chair. He looks up into my eyes. I look into his.

Sandra catches our exchange. She returns her gaze to Sam’s. Her eyes well up with tears.

Sam’s eyebrows rise with a question, then collapse into a knitted frown. ...

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When a Couple Desires More Intimacy

By Karen Berry, PhD

PACT Certified Therapist

As a senior PACT clinician and sex therapist, I routinely use the PACT paradigm to work directly with couples wanting more from their sex lives. I utilize the solid container of a secure-functioning relationship where both are committed to the work of co-regulation and responsibility to help their person, yet I’ve found I need to add some additional components to get robust outcomes. I want to share the essentials that I keep in mind, that ground my case construction, so I can steer solidly in my chair.

The first component is that I prefer to talk with people about their sensuality rather than “sex.”   Sexuality is just too narrow and, more importantly, it brings to mind sexual performance. Clients frequently express concerns about whether their sex organs are functioning correctly, whether or not they are orgasming or orgasming hard enough, if they are having enough sex or the right kind of sex, and if they...

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How to Use IFS Parts with PACT

Dayna Mullen, MSc, R. Psych

PACT Level 2 Therapist

As a seasoned PACT therapist, I have used this model for over a decade to transform couple relationships. I’m intensely passionate and loyal to PACT and never thought I would even glance in the direction of another model.  Internal Family Systems (IFS) is the method that eventually piqued my interest and has been able to compliment PACT with some very inspiring outcomes.

I recall a conversation with my best friend, a fellow PACT therapist, about how many roles we have to maintain: wife, mother, therapist, self. We got into a great huddle talking about our roles and how many times we feel controlled by them, as though our nervous systems are hijacked, and we are made to act as if we are nine years old again. We started to play around with language and realized that by simply speaking from parts, i.e., “A younger part of me feels abandoned when you invite other people over without asking me...

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