Couples’ Therapy + Relationships | Using the PACT Model
In this video, Dr. Kate Balestrieri sits down with Dr. Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt to discuss the PACT model for couples therapy and relationships.
The Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT Model) is a type of therapy, designed by Dr. Stan Tatkin, where the understanding of the regulation between mind and body can help couples overcome many problems in their relationships.
In this video, Dr. Kate and Dr. Hans discuss the model, specifically where biology and each person’s personal history interacts, creating a deeper understanding of how couples interact in their everyday life.
Becoming experts on each other is crucial for overcoming all the challenges with a couple. The PACT model provides a deeper, and non-pathologizing structure from which to understand and acknowledge the deep triggers of the unconscious mind.
Dr. Kate and Dr. Hans discuss the PACT model as a modality for working with couples to understand the roles each of their bodies dysregulation and how it plays out in their goal of maintaining a healthy relationship. When using the PACT model, PACT-trained therapists analyze how couples regulate themselves and co-regulate with each other, when stressors are present and how to treat couples when they feel dysregulated.
Ideally, with using the PACT model, a couple will learn to co-regulate together, in a way that feels protective for both parties. Also in the video, Dr. Hans shares an informative visual slide on the functionality of the nervous system. The visual shows the split of the Peripheral Nervous System and Central Nervous System.
Dr. Hans goes into detail on the specific functions and purposes of the mentioned nervous systems, as well as the Autonomic, Sympathetic, and Parasympathetic Nervous System, as it relates to couples. Part of the work therapists do with PACT model therapy is to help patients and partners notice what is happening within their bodies, specifically their nervous systems.
Dr. Hans gives great examples how our nervous system picks up on little things our partners do that can activate parts of our nervous system. He offers an example of a couple arguing and the tone of voice changing in one of the partners. The other partner picks up on the new “negative” tone of their voice and becomes activated.
Dr. Hans and Dr. Kate (both PACT therapists) describe what is happening as the partner who is triggered is picking up on old memories that remind them that a “negative tone” in someone’s voice in unsafe so they now feel unsafe and not secure. The trigger activates old fears and wounds that were present in childhood or adolescents. This is also called fight, flight, and freeze mode. When this state is activated, it can become really difficult for one to regulate their emotions and communicate effectively with their partner.
The PACT model can be really beneficial for couples because when they work with a PACT therapist to understand and acknowledge their triggers and how their nervous system becomes activated, the therapist can teach to couple how to attune to each other’s needs in that moment. As Dr. Tatkin says, he wants couples to be “experts on each other.”
To learn more about the PACT model and how it can help relationships, visit The PACT Institute.
To get to know Dr. Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt better, you can visit his website.