The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) is a therapeutic structure utilized by therapists that empowers couples to heal, strengthen, and develop a secure functioning relationship. The goal of PACT is to develop principles and behaviors within the couple that are based on mutual care and protection so that both partners can manage their relationship with fairness, justice, and sensitivity. PACT utilizes movement, practice, and careful attention towards each partner to shift the way the couple functions on a foundational level. Couples therapy that is guided by PACT is experiential, interactive, and intensive, empowering couples to face any relational challenge with confidence, security, and a team mentality. PACT is rooted in evidence-based frameworks for psychotherapy, including attachment theory, neuroscience, and arousal regulation (managing the body’s response to stress).
Restoration Therapy (RT) is a therapeutic approach that focuses on how a couple may interact within their pain and their peace. It may seem as though each argument is different, but in reality, couples develop a cycle of pain that repeats underneath whatever the topic of each argument is. In other words, the content may be different in each argument, but the process remains the same. RT investigates the cycles of pain that couples often function within and teaches couples how to make conscious, attainable choices towards peace. RT coaches couples to repair violations of love and trust while also empowering each partner to take responsibility for their participation in the relationship. RT is informed by attachment theory, emotional regulation, and mindful practices, further equipping couples to develop a sense of identity and safety within their relationship.
Most commonly used as a trauma approach, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can also be a powerful tool in couples therapy. In love relationships, there are times when either one or both partners have experienced trauma that continues to color the way they interpret each other. EMDR can be utilized to clear emotional or physical charges that linger within the couple relationship as a result of this kind of pain. Often times, this is done with memories or experiences that felt unsafe, misaligned, or helpless for either partner. Guided by the therapist, the couple can experience real relief in relational experiences that otherwise feel stuck. EMDR can also be used to resource strength, sensitivity, connection, and empowerment in a couple, further shedding the harmful impact of trauma and setting up the future for safety, connection, and intimacy. This is an experiential, evidence-based approach that integrates the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model with elements of neuroscience in order to help the brain achieve the healing it is already looking for.
Some of the most sacred and vulnerable interactions that people can experience happen within relationship; unfortunately, the same can be said with regards to challenging and painful experiences. In moments of tension, uncertainty, trauma, and disconnection, what once was a connective vulnerability between partners can start to feel unsafe. Couples therapy can help to restore connection, establish safety, and repair mutual care within the couple relationship. In some cases, couples therapy can also help to clarify or determine whether staying within the couple is what both partners want. If you are in a couple relationship, whether you are married, dating, engaged, or identify your relationship in another way that feels more attuned, couples therapy may be helpful in addressing the presenting issues listed below.
Are you arguing with your partner more than you used to? Do you often feel unheard or unknown in your conversations together? Does your partner tell you that you don’t listen, but you feel like you’ve tried so hard to show up? Your couple relationship may be in need of adjusting communication. Communication is challenging to fine tune in couples relationships without any help. It’s easy to miss the mark, especially if we are in the midst of an argument or haven’t tried a different strategy to reach each other. Couples therapy can help you to develop the skills to listen, understand, reflect, validate, and respond in a way that respects both you and your partner. Yes, communication is one of the most common presenting issues in couples therapy, but for every common challenge there are real, attainable, evidence-based solutions.
Disconnection is a natural part of couple relationships. It happens throughout the couple lifespan and at various intensities. A variety of experiences can bring about disconnection in a couple, including life transitions, loss, disagreement, relational wounding, and mutual mismanagement of things outside the relationship. Couples therapy is structured to reconnect the couple through exploring and developing sensitivity towards each partner’s cues, histories, and needs. Partners can learn how to read each other, respond with love and care, and strengthen their couple relationship through the work of couples therapy.
Trauma is defined as the lasting impact left on one’s brain, body, and emotions as a result of not experiencing what one was entitled to, or experiencing something that felt unsafe, dehumanizing, or powerless. As a result of being impacted by trauma, the human brain becomes hyper-alert of any potential threat, and it scans each environment and interaction for danger in order to be ready against any possible harm. Given the nature of couple relationships, the traumatized brain can start to respond to a partner or relationship as though it is dangerous, especially when there is conflict in the couple. This occurs because the brain picks up on cues of anything that is even remotely familiar to harmful experiences of the past, and it cannot tell the difference between what was then and what is now. When trauma exists in the context of love relationships, it can negatively impact the couple’s sense of safety, connection, and vulnerability. Whether the trauma was experienced individually, together, outside the couple, or within the couple, couples therapy can be helpful to reorient a sense of safety, security, connection, and agency with each other, to understand the impact of trauma on the relationship, and to develop sensitivity and agreements on how to support each other in moments of fear.
Infidelity is often felt as a deep betrayal of the safety in a couple relationship, whether the betrayal was sexual, emotional, financial, or anything otherwise. When it comes to recovering from infidelity in couples therapy, much of the focus is on repairing trust through openness, honesty, and consistent follow through of protecting the relationship. Rebuilding the relationship after infidelity can seem daunting, but recovery from infidelity is possible with support, accountability, and guidance.
Sex is often a topic of discussion in couples therapy. Whether your relationship is experiencing differing libedos, lack of sexual connection, reengaging in sex after a medical experience, or if your sexual relationship has been impacted by sexual trauma or purity culture, couples therapy is a great place to start building healthy sexual communication, exploring sexual options with your partner, and improving sexual-emotional sensitivity. Sexuality in relationships can feel challenging, intimidating, embarrassing, and shameful. In efforts of fostering a comfortable space for couples to discuss sex, our approach is curious, full of humor, and full of hope for couples to experience positive change in their sexual relationship. Serendipity Psychotherapy is an LGBTQIA+ affirming practice. Let’s talk about sex!
Couples therapy is not always about finding a way to keep the couple together; sometimes, the best thing for a couple is to separate or divorce. If you are exploring whether you and your partner should stay together, or if you are searching for a way to separate amicably, couples therapy can help you navigate this decision in a way that feels dignified and maintains the integrity of each partner.
Making a commitment to your partner through marriage is a big decision that requires all sorts of preparation, both logistically and relationally. Premarital counseling offers a guided process towards building a healthy marital foundation. Here are a few topics that are commonly discussed in premarital counseling: marital goals, relationship expectations, meaning of marriage, purpose of the marital relationship, vision for the relationship, principles of management, agreements, family planning or expansion, financial health, conflict resolution approaches, communication strategies, collaboration on home life, sexual attunement, family relationships, spirituality, cultural intersection, and anything else that is important to either partner. Premarital counseling offers a space to plan for, nurture, and practice healthy relationship skills. If you and your fiance would like to feel more confident, supported, and connected as you prepare to get married, premarital counseling is a wonderful way to keep the “Us” a priority as you plan to say “I do”!
If you are thinking about starting couples therapy for the first time, you probably have questions about what this process looks like. You are not alone! To ease your nerves, here is a little bit about what you can expect from couples therapy with Kathy: the first session is primarily focused on meeting your couples therapist and getting comfortable. Feeling like you can open up to your couples therapist and like they can truly help you with your relationship is crucial to the process of therapy. Kathy will make a genuine effort to get to know you and your partner by asking questions about each of you and the relationship. Your time, energy, resources, and trust are valuable, so Kathy will work with you to establish a vision for the time that you spend together in session. In a collaborative effort, you, your partner, and Kathy will be able to set a few goals for couples therapy together in a treatment plan. The following sessions are focused on history taking. This involves each partner sharing about their family of origin and exploring family patterns that have been passed down and shape the relationship. Couples therapy is a collaborative process, so Kathy will do her best to balance perspectives and efforts of each partner throughout the course of therapy. Each partner has representation in this process, and Kathy will act as a coach and guide towards the goals that you set for your relationship. This way, both partners are kept accountable for how they participate in the relationship without sessions being one-sided. Have more questions about couples therapy? Contact Kathy for a brief consultation!