Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT)

The Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) is a therapy modality that helps couples grow their relationship and resolve conflict through an informed, mindful approach. PACT leverages the assumptions that all humans physically react to emotions and that these emotions generally stem from the ways that we view ourselves and others.

What is the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT)?

Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy is based on three psychological themes:

  • Neuroscience. This describes the brain’s chemistry, physical structures, and activation patterns. Depending on what we’re doing – and with whom we’re interacting – our brains become activated in different ways.
  • Attachment theory. This theory posits that our earliest relationships, those from our infancy, impact how we connect with others as adults. When we’re securely attached to our caretakers, which includes feeling safe and trusting that person, we open ourselves to healthy, balanced relationships later in life.
  • Human arousal. As humans with complex biology, our bodies react to the stimuli around us. Our bodies may react in ways that aren’t visible to the human eye, like an increase in heart rate or the release of the stress level cortisol.

Couples learn about these themes when they work with a PACT therapist and then apply them to their relationship. By noticing each other’s reactions and attachment patterns, couples develop an understanding of how they react and why they react the way they do in times of conflict. Couples then become experts on helping each other calm down in stressful situations, including during fights or disagreements. They also learn how to grow their bonds with each other by applying these themes.

What happens in a Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) session?

Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy sessions differ from traditional couples counseling sessions, so it’s important to learn what your treatment will look like by talking to your PACT therapist about what to expect. PACT sessions tend to last 3-6 hours and are intensive sessions facilitated by the trained PACT therapist. The PACT therapist may intentionally simulate difficult situations so the couple can identify each other’s reactions in-the-moment.

The PACT therapist will teach couples how to understand their biological reactions to the various situations presented in the extended session, including statements from their partners. This includes changes in facial expression, voice, and heart rate. Couples may talk about their early relationships with caregivers, leading to conversations about how they learned to relate to others. The goal is to explore each other’s psychology and physiology and harness reactions for the betterment of the relationship.

Because of the length of PACT sessions, couples tend to only meet with their PACT therapists a few times. This therapy modality is intensive, which is why it’s important to work with a therapist certified in facilitating PACT sessions. They will have received this credential through the PACT Institute.

What can Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) help with?

Couples that find themselves stuck in the same fight over-and-over again benefit from working with a PACT therapist. Couples who have conflict around cheating, jealousy, lying, lack of boundaries, or unhealthy communication patterns benefit from PACT. However, all couples might benefit from this therapy modality as the main goal of PACT is to promote a sense of a “couple bubble” where both members of the relationship feel safe and secure. PACT is also a beneficial treatment for couples who experience anxiety, panic attacks, or depression.

PACT therapists understand that conflict is a part of being in a relationship. However, learning how to resolve the conflicts in healthy ways leads to fulfilling, meaningful relationships.