CART Couples Activation Reduction Technique

Short Video with me describing how the CART works.

Below, there is a lot of written content that goes into a lot of detail, but this video shows how to do it in less than 10 minutes.

This second video describes “why we think it works” — aka what are the biological mechanisms that are happening that make it effective.  I also acknowledge influences whom I have borrowed from and modified their works including Phil Manfield’s “The Flash Technique”, Attachment Theory, Memory Reconsolidation Theory, Rob Fischer (Couples work with Hakomi), Jon Eisman (Re-Consolidation of the Self with Hakomi), and Peter Levine.

DOWNLOADABLE PDF THAT DESCRIBES EVERYTHING:  To download a 23 page pdf article of this page so you can print it out in an easier to read format click here:  Downloadable PDF is here>The Couples Activation Reduction Technique CART

ONE PAGE CHEAT SHEET:  The CART One Pager- The method distilled into one page.  This page is good if you already have been exposed to the method and want a refresher on the steps so you can do it with your partner.  Feel free to use this —->One Pager<—- link as a cheat-sheet.

The CART Method:  The CART more thorough description (about 5 pages) that provides more specific directions and details and nuances.  For a thorough description of how to do the Cart Technique, click —–>CART More Detailed Description<——- This is good to read to get a better understanding of how to do it.

FREE 2 HOUR VIDEO GROUP / CLASS DESCRIBING CART with individual and group demonstrations.

VIDEO  Here is a video of me sharing the technique with a few people.  I also demonstrate it on an individual (while explaining how you might do it with your partner).  Also, lots of questions were asked and answered.  (please forgive zoom imperfections 🙂

LOCATION OF DEMO’S IN THE CLASS  (Before and after demo’s is teaching of model and answering questions)

40:26-56:25  Demo Clearing Anxiety about insecure friendship

58:30 – 1:14:20 Demo Clearing Anxiety About Partner Being Severely Depressed

1:36:15 – 1:52:00 Group practicing PART technique (Personal anxiety Activation Reduction Technique)

Below is a brief description of the method then there is a table of contents that provides links to more information about the CART technique.

The Couples Activation Reduction Technique  (CART)[1]

I modified the Flash Technique, which is a pre-EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) protocol created by Phil Manfield, Ph.D., in a way that allows couples (or friends or family members) to use their bond and loving contact to help lower one another’s activation to triggers.  I’ve decided to name the technique the Couples Activation Reduction Technique  (CART).  This exercise is super effective and safe to do at home, and you don’t have to be a therapist to do it.

The CART technique uses bilateral stimulation, lovingness, imagination, and a brain hack to significantly reduce anxiety related to a particular trigger.

Couples will decide who gets to be the “Anchor” and who gets to be the “Loved One.” The Anchor focuses on showing up in a caring, loving way, and temporarily puts aside any of their personal issues to stay with their partner during this process.  The Anchor is the person who will be holding space.  The Loved One is also willing to briefly put on hold legitimate concerns and engage in the exercise so their own nervous system can be soothed.  The goal of this is not problem solving, rather creating a context where one person’s nervous system can become more regulated; problem solving can occur later, from a more calm and centered place.

I use the word “amygdala” to refer to the reptile part of the brain, that when activated, produces a fight, flight, or freeze response.  I use “prefrontal cortex” to mean the part of our brain that processes logic, emotion, connection, love, spirituality, art, etc.  In reality, the biology is much more complicated than I am able to understand or explain.  Fortunately, we do not need to fully understand the biological science behind this technique for it to be effective.  It is just important is to understand that we are intentionally activating different parts of the brain.

In a nutshell, the Anchor will be loving their partner through touch, eye contact, bilateral stimulation (rotating left-side of the body / right-side of the body stimulation) through squeezing their partner’s hands, helping them access a positive internal experience, and using words to affirm their bond.  The Anchor will do this while also introducing and supporting a “brain hack” that makes the Loved One subconsciously aware of something that would normally trigger their amygdala to be activated.  This is repeated a few times and the activation level almost always goes down.

What we are doing is using the Anchor’s love and the Loved One’s internal resources as a way of lighting up their prefrontal cortex while we subliminally touch on an activation trigger in the Loved One so the brain can move the activation trigger from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex.  Then we have a preferred part of the brain processing triggers.  And that part of the brain has more of a capacity to appropriately respond to triggers.


 Introduction: The Purpose of the Couples Activation Reduction Technique (CART)

         The Healing Mechanism

CART Short description (Cliff Notes)

CART Longer Description:  The Method Described

Common Questions (and Answers):  The answers to these questions are here:  –>CART Questions<—

  • What are other implications if memory reconsolidation theory is true?
  • Can you do this by yourself without a partner?
  • What emotional commitments are necessary for this to work?
  • What do you do if your partner starts thinking about the trigger when she blinks instead of just blinks?
  • Do I really have to say, “I love you…” “…I’m here”?
  • Will different words work?
  • What if the preferred experience is triggering?
  • What if you are the Anchor and it’s hard to shift into a loving state during the exercise?
  • Why blinking?
  • Can you do something besides blink?
  • Why avoid going into the memory?
  • Why do therapy at all if this technique is so helpful?
  • How should I handle it if my partner seems calm but is reporting high SUDS still?
  • I’m just comforting my partner, not doing a research project.  Is doing the SUDS really necessary?
  • Why don’t we take SUDS prior to doing this so we can have a proper before and after comparison?