What Is PACT?

PACT, or a Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy, is an exciting, dynamic approach to healing that has been shown to help individuals, couples and families foster meaning and connection in their relationships. Developed by Dr. Stan Tatkin, PACT combines neurobiology, attachment theory and arousal regulation (the ability to manage your energy level and alertness from moment to moment) to help couples recognize each other’s unspoken needs and come together to work through relationship challenges. 

Who Can PACT Help?

There are many reasons you may not feel heard, understood and valued in your relationship, but that doesn’t mean you or your partner isn’t trying. Many couples believe the conflict or disconnect in their relationship is caused by a particular disagreement or set of challenges, such as financial difficulty and/or parenting decisions. Others feel that something is holding them back or causing conflict, but aren’t sure what it is or how to keep it from derailing the relationship. You and your partner may be committed, but feel confused about why you keep pushing each other away or hurting each other. It may be that you have spent your career developing communication skills and conflict resolution strategies, but still have a hard time communicating with the people closest to you.

Much like an app that is always running in the background, subconscious doubts, fears and unresolved issues can leave us feeling drained without knowing why. We aren’t always aware of how our past experiences and relationship history influence the way we think and behave in relationships. And, we often give off subconscious physical cues, such as a change in tone or looking away, when we are anxious, upset or dissatisfied.

The good news is that through PACT, there is a path to understanding and healing. By learning to recognize physical cues and emotional triggers in yourself and your partner, you can share your needs and listen to each other with compassion, understanding and sensitivity. PACT has been shown to help couples and families experience healing and deepen connection where other approaches have failed, and often in fewer sessions. You and your partner or family members can develop new skills and gain the awareness you need to resolve conflicts and foster healthy communication in your relationship, first with the help of a therapist and then on your own. You can learn skills that you can use for a lifetime to work through a variety of serious and/or long-standing issues as they arise, including addiction, infidelity, grief and trauma.

How Does PACT Work?

Our thoughts, emotions and behaviors in adult relationships are influenced by a variety of emotional and biological factors. Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT)— the foundation for the work I do, whether I am helping individuals, couples or families—can help you understand the basics of how your early attachments to caregivers affect your relationships today. It can also help you realize how you express your needs through subconscious physical cues. This work is not about changing your behavior, but, rather, it’s about fostering connection, empathy and compassion as you develop a better understanding of yourself and your partner. Instead of spending our time addressing specific marital problems, which often exacerbates conflict, I provide a friendly and engaging environment where you and your partner can learn to recognize each other’s needs and come together to find your own solutions.

My goal is not to enforce a change on the way you share your opinions or needs with your partner. Rather, drawing from PACT, I can help you understand your body’s reactions and the wants and needs that aren’t being spoken, but show through your expression, tone or body language. By learning how to recognize and build awareness around your own and your partner’s unspoken needs and where they stem from, you can address the cause of conflict or disagreement with patience and empathy instead of talking around it or repeating the same arguments.

In individual, couples or family therapy sessions, you can gain access to powerful neurobiology and neuropsychology research in an accessible, engaging way that you can apply in your own life. There is a strong structure to PACT so you’ll always know what we are working on and why. But, we can also enjoy flexibility and adapt and revise our approach together to fit your unique needs and therapy goals, and I can add other approaches, such as somatic therapy, mindfulness and EMDR into sessions as needed. I create an engaging experience in a safe, supportive setting so you can learn how to recognize your loved one’s needs, manage your responses and work through challenges with empathy and understanding. Conflict is a part of being in a relationship, but when you release tension and approach challenges as a team, you can find solutions and feel closer. 

Using PACT, you can learn to…

  • Understand how the brain works, providing a physiological basis for understanding how you and others act and react within relationships. In a nutshell, some areas of your brain are wired to reduce threats and danger and seek security, while others are geared to establish mutuality and loving connection.
  • Recognize how early relationships create a blueprint that informs the sense of safety and security you bring to adult relationships. Insecurities that have been carried through life can wreak havoc for a couple if these issues are not resolved.
  • Manage your energy, alertness and readiness to engage from moment-to-moment to respond to disagreements and conflict with patience and empathy when you are ready.

While PACT can be highly effective, I understand that couples or family therapy isn’t right for everyone. Individual therapy for one or both people in relationship may be more familiar. But, there is power in healing together as a couple or family, especially as most trauma happens in relationship.  Instead of wondering how you can support your child, partner or family member in their separate individual therapy, you can create a therapy strategy which begins with the couple and ripples out to the rest of the family. 

Meet Suzanne Forrester

I have been helping adults, children, couples and families in Longmont and Boulder experience healing and deepen connection in relationships for over 20 years. In addition to extensive professional experience and advanced PACT training under founder, Stan Tatkin, I have completed advanced training in trauma therapy, including EMDR. My central focus is to help clients better understand how their behaviors, feelings and early experiences impact their relationships and find effective solutions and paths to healing that are in alignment with their unique needs, values, personalities and therapy goals. I believe in working collaboratively, and know that together we can uncover a path to a more peaceful, satisfying life and relationships.

I also bring nearly 30 years of personal and professional experience practicing and teaching yoga, mindfulness and other techniques shown to support physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. By incorporating somatic (body-based) therapy approaches when appropriate, you can recognize when you feel stressed or “off” and find relief before feelings of distress impact other areas of your life.

If you are ready to work toward understanding your needs and the needs of your partner or family members, or if you have questions about PACT, I invite you to contact me at (303) 859-7410 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.