Stan Tatkin on a Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy
Dr. Tatkin discusses the goals and methods of a psychobiological approach to couples therapy, including its foundations in attachment theory and developmental neurobiology, and its emphasis on arousal regulation as a dyadic interaction.
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A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy
|Ruth Wetherford:||So, Stan, let's talk about psychobiological couples therapy.|
|Stan Tatkin:||Right. It's actually a psychobiological approach to couples therapy.|
|RW:||What is that approach all about?|
|ST:||When we're talking about psychobiology, we're talking, really, about the brain and the body. And we're looking at five domains—the first being attachment. And by attachment I mean infant attachment as well as adult attachment.|
The second domain is arousal regulation. We focus on preparatory, or anticipatory, systems that work alongside the attachment system, and that are embedded in procedural memory. These anticipatory systems prepare us for moving toward and away from others, based on history and experience. And this is read through the body —through the face, the eyes, the pupils, the voice or prosody of the voice, skin color, temperature, movement, posture, and so on.
The third domain is neurobiological development. We take a deficit-based approach, not a conflict-based approach, meaning that we don't really focus on conflict. We don't focus on what most people —couples, at least —bring into therapy as a presenting problem: money, sex, mess, kids, and time. That is what most everybody complains about.
Rather, we look at the couple's ability to be a co-regulatory team--to be able to manage each other, particularly during distress.Rather, we look at the couple's ability to be a co-regulatory team--to be able to manage each other, particularly during distress. How good are they during stress? Everybody has conflicts, as John Gottman says. Every couple has conflict. We're looking to see how a couple handles conflict and whether they handle it in a secure functioning manner or in an insecure functioning manner.
The fourth domain is therapeutic enactment. We work with procedural memory. We work with the body, with a bottom-up approach. In other words, rather than use interpretation, we stage experiences so that couples have an enactment, or certain state of mind, state of body, online to work with. So it's really experience before interpretation.
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Copyright © 2011, Psychotherapy.net, LLC.
Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, is a clinician, researcher, teacher, and developer of A Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy®. He is an assistant clinical professor at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine. His new book, co-authored with Marion Solomon, is Love and War in Intimate Relationships: Connection, Disconnection, and Mutual Regulation in Couple Therapy. Dr. Tatkin's next book, Neurobiology of Love: An Insider's Guide to Your Partner will appear Valentine's Day 2012 through New Harbinger.Dr. Ruth Wetherford is a San Francisco–based psychologist who has been practicing psychotherapy and teaching for the past 30 years. She specializes in family of origin work with individuals, guided imagery and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Her website is www.drruthwetherford.com.
This is one of the most informative and enjoyable interviews I've ever read on the topic of working with couples. A very experienced and dear friend/colleague has worked with Stan, so I know second-hand how useful it has been. Now I feel I've had an almost "first-hand" exposure to his work, thanks in large part to Ruth's perceptive questions. A wonderful integration and cutting-edge work. Congratulations, and THANKS! David Bullard
David Bullard, Ph.D.
This is great! I was trained by Sue Johnson (EFT - attachment) and Jim Maddock (deceased, good friend of David Schnarch - differentiation), and had a difficult time trying to integrate the two approaches. What I have ended up doing is to use EFT as the main approach and combine it with EMDR to help the more dysregulated partner if necessary. Stan's approach comes across to me as a very interesting way to theorize, and likely effective approach to working with couples. Normalization through developmental neurobiology also sounds like a great technique to cognitively move couples away from blame towards self-aware ownership of dysregulation. I am excited about this development. Kudos to Stan for this work, and thanks for posting this informative interview on your website! - Dr. Johnben Loy, PhD, LMFT www.kinterlink.com
Dr. Johnben Loy
CE credits: 1.5
- Describe the five domains that are the focus of a psychobiological approach to couple therapy.
- Learn how to apply a psychobiological approach to working with couples in distress.
- Identify strategies for helping couples develop a secure functioning relationship.
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