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Psychological healing in the heart of south Austin.

Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy

Stan Tatkin, PsyD, developed the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy, or PACT, to help couples move from discord to create secure functioning relationships. The model builds upon the understanding that our first relationships in life, those with our primary caregivers, create the blueprint for all the relationships that follow. The care and nurturing we receive from birth and throughout our childhood influences our relationships with others throughout our lives.

The PACT model provides a markedly different approach to relationship therapy. PACT therapists use experiential methods to explore couples' relationship dynamics in the session. Rather than having partners rehash old arguments, therapists assist couples in recreating troubling interactions and work through them in real time during the session. During a session, the therapist pays close attention to changes in partners' faces, bodies, and voices and teaches the couple to do the same. Partners gain the ability to quickly read when the other feels safe and secure or at risk and under threat. Partners then learn to respond to each other in ways that increase the sense of security in each other. This increased knowledge enables partners to address difficult issues with a lower degree of emotional distress, and the ability to repair the distress more rapidly.

Couples learn to manage conflicts in new and healthier ways, while better understanding the impact of their early life experiences on their relationship and interpersonal interactions. PACT sessions usually last longer than typical couple sessions, but may also be scheduled less frequently. PACT therapy moves quickly and couples frequently see progress within the first few sessions. The model often requires fewer sessions than other models.

Margaret Martin, LCSW, SEP trained with Stan Tatkin for five years. Although many therapists in Austin trained in the PACT model, only a few adhere to the techniques considered by Tatkin to be hallmarks of the model. Margaret considers herself a “PACT purist.” This means that although other approaches may influence her work with couples, she sticks to the fundamentals of the PACT model. Margaret is one of a handful of therapists to take part in Tatkin's Level III coursework and to meet criteria for Level III Candidacy in the PACT Institute’s certification program.

Margaret works with high conflict couples, as well as those who just need a "tweak." She especially enjoys working with couples with whom one or both individuals in the relationship have a history of trauma, and where there has been a betrayal, including infidelity, out of control sexual behavior, or substance abuse. She weaves aspects of Somatic Experiencing and Emotional Transformation Therapy into her work with couples, particularly when trauma plays a role in the relationship. She provides individual and group consultation to therapists training in the PACT model. She also conducts presentations and facilitates groups for individuals and couples who want to incorporate the PACT principles into their lives and relationships. More information about the PACT model is available here. You can read a post Margaret wrote for Stan's blog here.

Windsong therapist trained in PACT therapy:
Margaret Martin, LCSW, SEP