Background: blue dandelion. Foreground Text, Serendipity Psychotherapy
4 min read

What is PACT Couple Therapy?

Couple therapy. picture taken from behind couple seeing therapist in middle.
Written by
Kathy Anderson, MS, LAMFT
Published on
December 2023

Did you know that a 79-year-long study through Harvard showed that, more than anything else, close relationships are what keep people happy throughout their lives (Mineo, 2017)? As it turns out, healthy, close relationships are the cornerstone of a fulfilling life. However, with so many things competing for a person’s attention nowadays, it's not surprising that couples might have a hard time structuring their relationship in a way that works for them. This is where PACT Couple Therapy comes in.

Elderly couple walking down a road facing away.

What is PACT Couple Therapy?

The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy, or PACT, is a therapy framework that helps couples build a close relationship based on fairness, justice, sensitivity, and collaboration. PACT is based on the idea that relationships are a biologically-based survival need (Tatkin, 2012). This approach to relationships helps couples to understand and use the way that their brains and nervous systems are wired toward creating a deeper, more secure bond.

Can PACT Couple Therapy help your relationship?

PACT Couple Therapy can help your relationship in a variety of ways. Here are a few of the most important:

  1. Improved Communication: Communication is a struggle for many couples and is often what brings them to therapy in the first place. PACT can help you and your partner learn how to communicate more efficiently by developing new skills that support clear expression and careful listening. PACT also has an emphasis on emotion regulation, which can support communication by reducing reactivity and de-escalating in the midst of conflict.
  2. Increased Connection: One of the strongest elements of PACT is how it supports creating a deeper sense of connection. You and your partner can learn how to tune in to each other's needs, build or repair trust, and create a more secure emotional bond. PACT facilitates this at the level of the nervous system through practical exercises and strategies.
  3. Better conflict management: Couples who go through PACT therapy learn how to manage conflict swiftly and with minimal damage. Both partners learn how to navigate trouble with relief, how to repair hurt feelings quickly, and how to find solutions that are good for both partners.
Two women in relationship touching foreheads and smiling.

History of PACT Couple Therapy

Dr. Stan Tatkin developed PACT after years of working with groups, individuals, and couples in focus areas of personality disorders, addiction, and trauma. He began to explore applying relationship science to couple therapy through curiosity about his own experience. Informed by attachment theory, developmental neuroscience, and arousal regulation, Stan realized that the key to forming successful relationships was to help couples understand that they are “in each other’s care” (2023). This led him to develop the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT).

The goal of PACT Couple Therapy:

The central goal of PACT is to guide couples toward secure functioning. What is that? It’s a relational posture and a practice that is based on these key principles:

  1. Fairness: The relationship is symmetrical, meaning that both partners benefit or lose out on a mutual basis. The needs, desires, opinions, and fears of both partners are balanced, and neither partner’s boundaries, rights, or expectations are prioritized over the other’s.  
  2. Justice: Justice involves the fair allocation of resources, responsibilities, and decision-making power to both partners. Both partners have an equal voice when it comes to influencing and participating in the relationship.
  3. Sensitivity: Both partners are tuned into each other’s emotional and relational needs. Both partners are responsive to each other, know each other’s cues and signals, and know how to respond with empathy.
  4. Mutual Collaboration: This is active cooperation between partners. Mutual collaboration involves a joint effort to solve problems and achieve shared goals in a way that benefits both partners.

Secure functioning shifts couples from thinking only for themselves to prioritizing the relationship. Why? Because both partners benefit from a healthy relationship!

Secure functioning is a relational dynamic that promotes safety and care for both partners and by both partners.

What makes PACT different than other couple therapies?

PACT is informed by three research-based domains:

  1. Attachment Theory: This helps couples to identify how their early relationships with parents or caregivers have shaped the way they behave in their adult intimate relationships.
  2. Arousal Regulation: This guides couples in regulating physical and emotional responses to stress and conflict.
  3. Developmental Neuroscience: This assists in understanding how each partner's brain and nervous system influence their relationship and interactions with each other.

No other couple therapy (to date) has as heavy of a focus on nervous system regulation or brain functioning as PACT does. This emphasis guides the therapy to promote lasting change on an emotional, structural, and neurobiological level. Couples who learn how to shift in these ways – their relationship is forever changed for the better.

PACT Couple Therapy is a unique approach to couples therapy that guides couples toward functioning securely in their relationship.

This approach emphasizes the importance of creating a sense of safety and healthy dependability in relationships and uses a range of interventions to help couples improve their communication, increase their connection, and enhance their intimacy. PACT Couple Therapy can be particularly effective for couples in high-conflict relationships, helping them establish mutual respect, enhance communication, and increase empathy, making it a powerful tool for couples who are committed to creating a stronger, more secure relationship.


Mineo, L. (2017). Good genes are nice, but joy is better. The Harvard Gazette, 11.

Tatkin, S. (2012). Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a. New Harbinger Publications.

Tatkin, S. (2023). In Each Other’s Care: A Guide to the Most Common Relationship Conflicts and How to Work Through Them. Sounds True.


Latest Blog Posts

Couple arguing while facing away form each other in frustration.
7 min read

This Will Transform the Way You and Your Partner Argue

I want to teach you one strategy that you probably haven’t heard from very many places. Keep reading to transform the way you and your partner fight – for the better.
Lesbian coupe sitting together outside with trees in background
7 min read

Let’s Move Toward Security: Functioning Securely in Couple Relationships

Secure Functioning is a relational stance that enables couples to care for each other in a way that has both partners feeling protected, loved, accepted, and supported at all times.
Couple sitting next to each other against blue wall talking.
7 min read

Ten Ways Trauma Can Affect Your Marriage

Trauma, whether from past experiences, recent events, outside the relationship or within it, can significantly impact the quality of marriage for both partners.
Couple on couch with woman facing towards camera away form man behind her on couch. Man reaching out to her shoulder.
7 min read

Should I Stay With My Partner? How Discernment Therapy Can Help You Decide

Discernment Therapy provides a unique opportunity for couples to navigate the complexities of relationship uncertainty or ambivalence.
Laptop on table, woman sitting at table on video call.
7 min read

Is Virtual EMDR as Effective as In-person EMDR?

Virtual EMDR therapy offers a promising and accessible option for folks seeking effective trauma treatment and emotional healing.
Couple therapy. picture taken from behind couple seeing therapist in middle.
7 min read

What is PACT Couple Therapy?

The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy, or PACT, is a therapy framework that helps couples build a close relationship based on fairness, justice, sensitivity, and collaboration.
two people holding hands against a grey background.
7 min read

How Does Your Attachment Style Impact Emotion Regulation?

Couples who understand how their attachment styles impact their relationship can develop healthier strategies for a closer, more secure bond.

Let's Connect!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.