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  • Writer's pictureAmy Bishop, MS, MFT

Attending your first therapy session & how it's like training with the experts

Updated: Nov 16, 2018

pictured: Amy with Dr. Stan Tatkin, creator of PACT Therapy

Over the past month, I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to study under Dr. Stan Tatkin, creator of The Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT).

In the name of transparency, it was quite anxiety-provoking to meet Stan for the first time. I had read his writings, listened to his audiobooks, and studied his theory to couple’s therapy, but to actually MEET him felt intimidating. What would he think of me? Would he think I’m good enough? Would I completely freeze? Would this training be worth the money?

I was shocked how quickly I settled into learning along Stan. He was quirky and funny and personable. He made each person feel acknowledged and a part of the community. It was clear how much passion he has about sharing his work and ensuring that we understood how to do PACT well. He was humble about his personal and professional mistakes in life, and in doing so, made it safe to make mistakes too. In many ways, he was like a good parent, encompassing both warmth and support as he guided us toward better skills and understanding.

Within the process of PACT-II training, it also dawned on me that meeting Stan for the first time is reflective of clients' experience of coming to therapy for the first time: While you’re hopeful it will be helpful, you are also nervous, and perhaps skeptical. Will the therapist think I’m crazy or doomed? Will he or she like me? Will I be comfortable enough to open up to a stranger? Will this be worth my time and money?

It is not lost on me that beginning therapy is difficult. As such, I am intentional in making my office a place to take risks, to learn more, and to feel comfortable, just as I felt training with Stan. I show my authentic silly, serious, curious self to my clients so you can also feel safe being authentically you-- whether you come by yourself or with a partner. In the proximity of a therapist who holds your (or the relationship’s) well-being as a priority, it is easier to be vulnerable and open to change. It is always so lovely to watch my clients develop, step out of their current patterns and comfort zones, and then reap the consequential rewards.

I’m grateful that I took the risk to jump whole-heartedly into PACT training, and I am energized watching the changes it makes in my therapy with individuals and families, as well as the couples it was designed for. Whether it’s with me or another therapist, I think you too will be pleased with the changes that can be made within the safety of a warm, authentic, and inspired therapist.


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