Couples Therapy

What is couples therapy?

The Mayo Clinic defines “marriage counseling” as a type of psychotherapy that “helps couples of all types recognize and resolve conflicts and improve their relationships”. While this is true, we know that couples therapy is much more complicated than that. Each of us enters into a relationship (romantic or otherwise) with our own stories and our own history. What our past experiences were can profoundly influence our relationships, even without our knowledge. Couples therapy aims to uncover some of those old patterns and work to create new, healthier patterns.

What is premarital therapy?

Premarital therapy or premarital counseling can help a couple work on conflict resolution and create a stronger bond before they enter into marriage. Premarital therapy can help you identify areas where there may be conflict currently or in the future, so that you’re prepared to deal with that conflict in a healthy way. In addition to identifying and working on problems and potential conflict, this type of therapy can also help to identify strengths within the relationship so you can nurture those strengths before walking down the aisle. I like to think of premarital therapy as an opportunity to strengthen a bond so that you are as healthy as possible before embarking on this new and exciting part of your life!

What is PACT therapy?

PACT (Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy) is a therapeutic modality that utilizes developmental neuroscience, arousal regulation, and attachment theory to inform the therapeutic process. It is an evidence-based modality that strives for secure attachment within couples. Couples often get caught in cycles of fighting that activate our primitive behaviors of fight, flight, and freeze. Couples therapy helps to identify how we are triggered (and how we are triggering each other) in relationships, and how we can relieve some of these reactive states in each other. For more information, visit

What does a PACT session look like?

Your experience during a PACT session may differ somewhat from what you would experience in other forms of couple therapy. Key features of this approach include
  • Your therapist will focus on moment-to-moment shifts in your face, body, and voice, and ask you to pay close attention to these as a couple.
  • Your therapist will create experiences similar to those troubling your relationship and help you work through them in real time during the session.
  • PACT tends to require fewer sessions than do other forms of couple therapy.
  • PACT sessions often exceed the 50-min hour and may last as long as 3–6 hours. Longer times allow for the in-depth work of PACT.
  • Your therapist may videotape sessions to provide immediate feedback to you.
Watch an overview of PACT couples therapy

PACT Sizzle from Stan Tatkin on Vimeo.

PACT Counseling Session Re-enactments with Actors from Stan Tatkin on Vimeo.

Why talk to someone?

When our primitive brains are triggered to fight, flight or freeze it can be difficult (if not impossible) to have a rational conversation. A therapist can help a couple “lean in” to each other when we are feeling this way in order to support each other and work toward secure functioning. A therapist is a neutral party who sees the couple as the client – not each individual as the client. The goal of couples therapy with a PACT therapist is to get the couple to a place of secure functioning.

Is what I’m feeling normal?

Our interactions with others are heavily influenced by our early relationships with our caregivers. Our primal brains learn from these early experiences what a relationship looks like, and how we react within one. Everything you feel within your relationship is normal – maybe not healthy, but certainly normal! Couples therapy can help you move toward a more healthy relationship.

Why Jessica?

Jessica has a Master’s degree from Pepperdine University in Marriage and Family Therapy. She also has a Bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University in Human Development and Family Studies. She is a registered psychotherapist in the state of Colorado, is Level 1 Gottman trained (by the Gottmans themselves is San Diego, California), and is a PACT Level 1 clinician. In addition to her schooling and trainings, Jessica is a compassionate individual who is continuously surprised, moved, and influenced by her clients.

What populations do I work with?

In my work with couples, I work with those who are looking to enhance their relationship, those who are looking to repair a broken relationship, those who are hoping to stay together, and those who are deciding whether or not they want to be together. I also provide pre-marital therapy to help couples enter into marriage with a strong foundation. Additionally, I work with parents who are trying to co-parent in a healthy way after a separation or divorce.

What other resources are available to me?

PACT Institute Gottman Institute
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