**GUEST BLOG ALERT** Couples Therapy: What to Expect

Today’s guest blog post comes to us from Susan Orenstein, Ph.D. of Orenstein Solutions in Cary, North Carolina. Dr. Orenstein is a licensed psychologist and couples therapist who will be discussing PACT (the PsychoBiological Approach to Couples Therapy) today. Orenstein Solutions has been providing counseling solutions for families in the Triangle since 2005.


By licensed psychologist and couples therapist, Susan Orenstein, Ph.D.

When I consider my work with couples throughout the Triangle, I’m often reminded of a memorable high school physics project. My class was challenged to drop a raw egg from a second-story stairwell without cracking it. My partner and I crafted a parachute to cradle the egg, which we wrapped in quite the cushion of Bubble Wrap. To our surprise, the egg landed on the concrete floor without a scratch! 

Bubble Wrap is a shipping staple- it safeguards our packages from the dangers of delivery. If only we could envelop our children, newly licensed teenagers, best friends and/or significant others in the soft shield to ensure their protection... 

 As it turns out, you can wrap a figurative "bubble" around your relationship. Creating this “couple bubble” is the cornerstone of PACT (the PsychoBiological Approach to Couples Therapy). Pioneered by Stan Tatkin, a renowned relationship psychologist, the PACT model offers a refreshing and holistic approach to helping partners connect and protect each other. 

Since discovering PACT several years ago, I’ve dedicated myself to extensive trainings with Stan Tatkin himself, and have passionately integrated exciting PACT principles into my practice.

What I love most about PACT is that it’s so much more than traditional “couch” therapy. In fact, one of the first adjustments I made to my office after my first training was the addition of rolling chairs. For couples to create a bubble or cocoon around their commitment, they need to turn towards each other, not me. As simple as it seems, rolling chairs allow movement and therefore a more dynamic, engaging therapeutic experience.

PACT also pushes couples beyond pointing out problems in their relationship. It encourages couples to re-enact difficult conversations or situations in the presence of a trained professional who can gently guide the interaction and offer feedback in “real-time.” 

The PACT approach can sometimes feel like dancing lessons; couples learn how to navigate missteps and next-steps not only through improved verbal communication, but by building an understanding of each other’s non-verbal cues. When couples become experts on who their partner is and why, they are more equipped to predict each other's next move, adjusting to him or her in supportive, sensitive ways. 

Of course, throughout therapy, it’s common for couples to stumble as they find their grove and get in sync. But when couples learn how to waltz through life as a unit, wrapped not only in each other’s arms but in a “bubble” of security and support, it’s a beautiful thing. 

Dr. Orenstein received her doctoral degree in psychology from Temple University, and has pursued advanced training in marital therapy, sex therapy and psychodrama.  She has trained in Gottman’s Scientifically-Based Marital Therapy and Stan Tatkin’s PACT Model (Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy), Levels 1 and 2.   Her specialty areas include: Couples Counseling, Affair Recovery, Coping with Divorce, Blended Families, Relationship Issues, Anxiety and Depression, Sexual Health.

If you’re interested in learning more about how I use PACT in my practice, visit www.orensteinsolutions.com or call us at 919.428.2766 ext. 0 to schedule a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation.