Melissa Ferrari was kind enough to answer a few questions. I hope you all enjoy what she has to say.
Can you tell me more about your practice and how you work, what services do you offer?
I am a relational psychotherapist and counsellor and I’ve been in private practice for almost 17 years. I primarily work with three client groups: couples, individuals and corporate professionals. I also offer a range of workshops, seminars, couple retreats and corporate coaching. Check out my website at www.melissaferrari.com.au for more details.
Working with couples is where I have chosen to specialise and it’s a great fit for me and I use a number of modalities in this context but more on that later. With my corporate work, I find these days’ clients really need to work on their individual belief systems to create change so they can optimally function in their work environment.
As I mentioned earlier I use many modalities and interventions but for the purpose of today’s interview I would really like to focus on two that I use with couples: PACT and The Core Profile Paradigm. I use each process with couples after a lengthy assessment of what I think would suit them best.
A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT®) was developed by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, a clinician, researcher & teacher. Some of his ideas are explored in the best-selling book he wrote called “Wired For Love”. http://www.amazon.com/Wired-Love-Understanding-Attachment-Relationship/dp/1608820580
PACT was developed based on cutting-edge research in three areas: neuroscience, attachment theory and the biology of human arousal.
Last November I got the opportunity to train with Stan Tatkin in this specialised approach to couples work, and for me, it is a natural fit because it brings together many of the theories I have been trained in over the years and experience tells me they really work.
As Stan Tatkin explains the first area is neuroscience, the study of the human brain. Understanding how the brain works provides a physiological basis for understanding how people act and react within relationships. In a nutshell, some areas of your brain are wired to reduce threat and danger and seek security, while others are geared to establish mutuality and loving connection.
The second is attachment theory, which explains the biological need to bond with others. Experiences in 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.
The third area is the biology of human arousal—meaning the moment-to-moment ability to manage one’s energy, alertness, and readiness to engage.
As a Level 1 PACT therapist you are trained to very closely observe the couple and register facial expressions, body shifts, voice changes and armed with this observed information, you begin to understand how this couple interact and use this to create change between the couple.
At times I will re-create experiences that couples describe from their home life or social experiences and work with the couple to change their interactions and conversation with each other. It is intense but in my experience, highly effective.
Having a good understanding about how the brain works – particularly when it comes to couples – informs my interventions and the way I work. Understanding how couples attach to each other and how their developmental environment and many other experiences that inform this process helps us understand how the couple’s “blueprint” of interaction is established. As a PACT therapist I work to change these blueprints by encouraging the couple to work with changing it on a day-to-day basis and by slowly altering the way they connect with each other. This may mean that if a couple is “fighting” I will use the leverage of my training in PACT to create new ways of confronting their “system” or way of being so that a new way of interacting and feeling secure with each other is created. This training in PACT has given me the finer details required to really help a couple create the experience of “secure love and attachment” that so many couples crave. This way of thinking has bought the experience of couple therapy to new heights and I thank Stan Tatkin immensely for having the skill to present this work so beautifully here in Australia.
The second approach I use is called “The Core Paradigm” that was co-created by Nikki Nemerouff, who for the past 30 years has been a thought leader in the field of human development and Larry Gneiting author of Life after Survival: Consciously Evolving our Consciousness. Nikki is also one of the founding partners in Starquest which was formed in the U.S.A. seventeen years ago. Please go to http://www.sqstinc.com/our_company/ for more.
I was certified as a facilitator for the The Core Profile Process which is a therapeutic application of the Core Paradigm. I trained in this in my very early days of training as a counsellor but the approach has stood the test of time. I continue to use it because it works. I was certified in the Core Profile Process after a long process of “profiling” many people who came to find their ‘gifts’, which is the experience and expression of the client’s natural and authentic self when not using the automated self/coping mechanisms for protection.
During this process participants (either individual or couples) are asked to work through what triggers them in daily life – past and present – and causes them to respond in ways that don’t encourage our natural and vulnerable selves.
After many years of studying different modalities this has been the process I have come back to time and time again because it is really effective in helping people discover who they are and how to experience themselves congruently both as how they present to the outside world and how they feel on the inside. This process unveils their “unique self” and helps participants to operate from a place of calm, more ease and peace without automated coping mechanism responses, which often don’t get us what we want from life.
Through ongoing consultation and guidance from Nikki I continue to present this work in Australia and I am currently being re-certified because the process has become even more user friendly and refined. Using my clinical thinking and my psychotherapeutic training I am presenting this work in a more informed and comprehensive way taking into account the many factors that I have learnt what shapes us psychologically. This process was life changing for me as I began to understand myself more intimately and why life was not going so great at the time. This process helped me become closer to others and find more love/connection in my life that I had always deeply craved. I am presenting a workshop for couples based on this work. Here is the link for more: http://melissaferrari.com.au/blog/2014/5/12/c6d2xb139ak9j1lqtmm10u81f159sb
What is the main focus of your practice? What is your passion?
The main focus of my practice is couples work with the intention of enhancing their connection to each other and improve their family life, general wellbeing and happiness. I am passionate about attachment theories and their application in the couples setting and I believe attending to these issues leads to a sense of security and supports the robust development of their children’s personalities as well. I also work with self-esteem, loving relationships and the tensions we experience around the push-and-pull of power and vulnerability.
How did you decide on your speciality?
I decided to work primarily with couples because I believe robust and healthy connection between couples is a fundamental foundation to healthy family life, healthier children and healthy communities. My natural curiosity and interest in people and how we find love has been with me since I was a little girl and I believe it has led me to do the work I am doing; the work I love!
Is there any practical advice that you can give to our readers?
Wow!!! Now that’s a great question to ask a woman who loves to talk. My answer comes from a place of thinking about how we live peacefully and happily. Here are some tips:
- Be you.
- Learn about yourself, go to therapy, do workshops, speak with close friends about how they experience you and mostly stay centred.
- Meditate, eat well, exercise, take care of yourself and then you can be there for others and yourself.
- Get to know the “shadow parts” of you and remember each and every one of us has them.
- Learn how to change the energy we put out that does not bring us closer to others or to you.
- To be a person that is angry all the time is not going to get you closer to others or being a mother that worries so much about her children that she is furious if something goes wrong is not going to give you your best self that you are going to achieve.
- Share yourself as best you can without the mechanisms that we develop that don’t get us what we want.
And remember connection is key! We are wired for connection and love. I truly believe without it the soul suffers. Stay curious to who you are and stay curious to those around you.
Written by Melissa Ferrari
Melissa Ferrari is one of Sydney’s leading couple’s therapists. She has had over 15 years’ experience as a psychotherapist in private practice, dealing with individuals, couples and corporate professionals. Melissa is well known for her lively way of working with couples and her cutting edge thinking in psychotherapy, counselling and workshop/seminar environments.
If you want to learn more about connection and you are a wholehearted practitioner, check out my earlier blog on: