The Weather is Warming in Philadelphia, PA- 3 Tools to Reclaim your Body Image in the Spring and Summer by Melanie Taylor, LMFT

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It’s such a colorful time of year in Philadelphia when the weather begins to warm. More people frolicking out and about on the historic, cobblestone streets. Bikers weave in and out of SEPTA’s way. Rittenhouse Square is filled with picnic baskets and playful dogs. Tulips, cherry blossoms, and azaleas line Pine St., Delancey St. and Fitler Square. You catch the reflection of Center City in the flowing Schuylkill River from the South Street bridge. You walk past the smiling faces and clinking glasses of Philly locals and tourists alike at the French-inspired tables of Parc and Rouge, and you begin to wonder why you aren’t experiencing the same sense of excitement and joy as it seems your fellow Philadelphians are at the promise of sunshine and another Philadelphia winter passing us by. 

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In fact, all you can find yourself thinking about as you travel the Center City streets is how uncomfortable you feel in your body. You find yourself worried that others are judging the way your body looks in your newly purchased spring attire. You gaze at the peeking of skin in others you pass and you feel like you do not deserve to show your flesh. You wish you could hide safely nuzzled in the camouflage of your winter coat. You want so badly to feel happy in the changing of the seasons, but you can’t. You dread the warmer weather and the body shame it brings. You consider what some of your friends are doing like the Keto diet or the Whole 30 so you too can have a “summer body”, but you’ve tried diets so many times. Maybe you’ve lost the weight and gained it back and you’re tired of yo-yo dieting. You find yourself wondering if that “summer body” is really worth all the shame it brings with it.

 You may be living with or in recovery from an eating disorder or maybe you just know what its like to experience body shame with the diet culture we live in. Spring and Summer can be a trigger to restrictive urges, body comparisons and self-judgement.

But, we have good news! You don’t have to diet to find happiness!

We’ve described some tools below to help you start the process to reclaiming the excitement and joy that warming weather can bring! 

3 Tools for Improving your Body Image in Warmer Weather-

  1. Practice mindfulness to neutralize your thoughts about your body. 

•   Reclaiming your body image doesn’t have to mean you love how it looks all the time or you are never uncomfortable in your body. If that is our beginning goal, we may give up before we get there! Reclaiming your body image actually means that you can be with your body without the usual judgements or qualifications or evaluations and focus on living your life. 

•   Mindfulness (being with the present moment without judgement) provides a frame of mind to neutralize your experience in your body. Try using only objective, fact-based descriptors when thinking or talking about your body. For example, instead of “I hate my thunder thighs in these shorts!”, try “I can feel the way my shorts fit around my thighs”. 

•   The next tool is to eliminate the label of good or bad. So, when you notice that you feel your shorts around your thighs, instead of thinking “that’s bad (or gross or disgusting or enter negative belief  here)”, you can practice saying “I am learning that this is neither good or bad. It just is.”We only believe it to be bad because of the rigidity of diet culture ideals!

•   Lastly, when practicing mindfulness, don’t judge your judging. Its only natural that your mind will return to the habitual judgement patterns for a while. When this happens, simply name it- “I noticed a judgement thought”, then give yourself permission to practice recreating a new, nonjudgmental thought to follow it up. 

2. Surround yourself with AntiDiet, Health at Every Size, Body Liberation messages

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•   We are bombarded with harmful diet culture messages repetitively throughout the day. Do a quick experiment and see if you can notice how many messages about changing your body, losing weight, trying the next diet, getting fit, judging food,etc. you come across in a day. These messages live on billboards, internet ads, television and radio commercials, magazines and common talk. It’s everywhere!! And whether we like it or not, our minds are very susceptible to repetitive messages, so its practically impossible for our thoughts to not be influenced by the broken record of diet culture. 

•   Good news! Because our minds are susceptible to repetitive messaging and our brain is malleable, we can counteract this by filling our daily thoughts with messages of body liberation, food neutrality and self acceptance. If you are a daily scroller, one powerful way of doing this is by taking time to personalize your social media feeds. Delete accounts that promote unhealthy thin or fitness ideals, diet mentality, restrictive wellness and body shame and follow supporters of Health at Every Size, Anti-Diet, Intuitive Eating and Body Love perspectives. We’ve created a starter list for you below. (add IG follow sheet) Please feel free to share others in the comment section if you have them! Reclaiming our body image means reclaiming the stories we are told about our body and self worth, and paying attention to only the messages we choose to believe.

3.    Take the time to realize that you are so much more than your body.  

•   Like we said before, true body acceptance isn’t about always loving the way your body looks. It’s actually moving away from the idea that your body’s appearance is one of the most important aspects of you and toward a belief that you are much, much more than your body. 

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•   You consist of values and morals and dreams. You hold the ability to create and nurture and play. You’re worth is not determined by the shape of your flesh. Practice focusing on other aspects of yourself that make you you! Listen to music you are interested in, have conversations that ignite your passions and open your mind, connect with others who see your light. Paint, draw, dance, play, laugh, cry, feel, care, grieve, inspire, be. The more we connect with the deeper, more intrinsic and core aspects of ourselves, the more we lean into body acceptance, because we begin to cherish this container that holds our soul and provides us an ability to love and explore and be. Then we can appreciate our body for what it offers us- a way to travel about this life, to feel the warmth of the sun, to connect with other beings and our senses. Create a list (remember your mindfulness skills here) of other aspects that make up you and spend time each day engaging in these parts of you. Then, create another list of other ways your body can function for you during the warmer months besides as an illustration of your worth. Choose at least one to mindfully focus on each day!

If you feel you need more support, set yourself up with a body positive treatment team. Find a therapist and dietitian in Philadelphia who work from a Health at Every Size, Body Positive perspective. Maybe this Spring and Summer can be the beginning of a fresh, life- giving relationship with warmer weather, with your body and with yourself! 

Melanie Taylor, LMFT

Melanie Taylor, LMFT

Melanie Taylor is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist speacializing in Eating Disorders and Yoga Therapy. Melanie is the Assistant Clinical Director at Spilove Psychotherapy.

Using Emotion-Focused Therapy in Couples Therapy by Megan Delp

Using Emotion-Focused Therapy in Couples Therapy

by Megan Delp

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Do you feel like you’ve lost the connection you used to have with your partner?  Seeking professional help may be just the answer you are looking for - and emotionally-focused therapy (EFT) can help in the process of rebuilding the relationship from the ground up.  Through the process of building more empathy and communication skills within the relationship, a path forward can be established.

Phase 1 - Understanding the Problems and Gaining Stability

First, we will work to figure out what brought you and your partner to therapy in the first place.  Is there a lack of communication? Unhealthy argument styles? Too much or too little time spent together?  Getting a clear picture of what each partner hopes to work on is highly important to ensure effective therapy.  For some couples, it may also be surprising what comes up during this phase of treatment - perhaps there is an underlying problem that one partner hasn’t felt comfortable bringing up.  This stage can be difficult to get through, but ultimately the honesty and openness lead to a greater understanding of what each partner needs.

Phase 2 - Building Empathy and Changing Communication Patterns

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Once the problems within the relationship have been established, discussions about the wants and needs of each partner can occur that allow both partners to begin to feel more understood.  Building this base of understanding can help lead to a better ability to empathize between partners. This empathy is crucial as the deeper comprehension of where our partner is coming from can help lead towards a resolution that works for both partners.  It can also be highly useful while establishing empathy to recognize past hurts, whether from family or previous relationships, that may have created negative behavior or communication patterns. Knowing where a pattern started can help both partners understand more about themselves and their partner. Throughout this phase, we will also work to notice unhealthy communication styles and begin to adjust to a more supportive style of communication. Often, it can take a while for new patterns to take root, and so a therapist can play the crucial role of reminding each partner what they can work on and point out patterns during the sessions.

Phase 3 - Securing New Communication Patterns

Finally, once the foundation of empathy and new communication skills is in place, we will begin working on firming up new communication styles so that you can begin to handle any new problems that may pop up.  For instance, if one partner habitually becomes highly defensive when discussing problems, that behavior can be addressed and resolved through EFT and will no longer be as present in future discussions. Addressing issues such as defensiveness, stonewalling (non-responsiveness), avoidance of difficult topics, or a lack of utilizing listening skills can greatly improve communication between partners.  No relationship can ever be 100% perfect all the time, however, through hard work couples can begin to make progress in reconnecting to one another and get back on track.

Megan Delp, MS, MFT

Megan Delp, MS, MFT

Knowing the game plan for therapy can help couples better understand the path they are on, so they can keep the end goal in mind.  If you and your partner need help to reconnect, don’t wait - reach out today for help!


To learn more about me and the approach I use for couples counseling, click here.




How Trauma Impacts Relationships & Intimacy: The Broken Door Concept

The Broken Door Concept

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When we experience trauma, our bodies store it, along with our memories, our psyche and our soul. When we experience sexual trauma, our second chakra (the energetic center around the sacral area of the sex organs) can be thrown out of balance.  

A balanced second chakra is able to emit a sort of radar outward towards others that says “I am healthy and I only welcome healthy others’ into my space. I am discerning.  The doorway into my intimate space is strong and stays shut until I know I can trust and decide to welcome you in.”  

When our second chakra is out of balance, it operates like a broken door.  The level of broken-ness of our doors depends on our history.  If our attachment to our primary care providers was safe and consistent, our door is more likely to function properly, keeping people out when we want to and allowing others’ in when we invite them. If there was a sense of distrust, instability, neglect or harm with our primary care providers, the door may operate with less consistency and functionality.   If we’ve endured trauma, the door is effected even more.  

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If the door was previously broken due to poor attachment, and then further injured by trauma, we might find that the door is missing a screen or the hinges may not hold it in place or the glass may be busted in.  When people walk around with broken doors in this way, they emit an energy, much like a radar, that seeks out and attracts others’ with similarly broken doors.  In result, two people who have experienced trauma and/or insecure attachment may experience a magnetic force pulling them together.

This magnetic force that is experienced towards others’ who have broken doors is the psyche’s way of trying to replay and repair the trauma that broke the door in the first place.  The goal here is to engage in the relationship in a way that heals the past hurt and broken trust, but unfortunately, two broken doors within a relationship do tend to hurt each other more than heal. Oftentimes, this sort of instinctual match making can re-create trauma similar to their historical trauma, leading to re-traumatization and further damage to the door. That is, however, unless the individuals are able to engage in appropriate trauma resolution.  This is where therapy can be very helpful. 

When the traumatized individual decides they want to repair their broken door and heal the wounds that broke their door in the first place, finding a trauma specialist is an effective way to begin that journey.  When I engage in trauma work with my clients, I focus first to help them build trust in me and in the process.  I ask them about their goals and their history, and we come to an agreement for how they’d like their healing journey to proceed.  Once we establish our goals and direction for achieving them, we then start to discuss how they can protect themselves from further damage to their door.  

It is here that I may provide psycho-education on relationships and intimacy so that my clients can make informed decisions about how they want to protect themselves from further damage to the door while engaged in sexual trauma work. 

I have created this diagram showing different levels of intimacy with love and commitment, the most intimate, at the center and less intimate experiences, like interacting with strangers, in the outer ring.  Take a look and see if this is accurate for how you consider intimacy levels.  It may not be and that’s okay, but it is important to have a clear picture of your personal levels of intimacy so that you can make informed choices about who you’d like to allow into more inner levels and who you’d like to keep further out.  

Levels of Intimacy

Levels of Intimacy

During sexual trauma work, it can be very helpful to pause any movement inwards in order to protect yourself from further harm or confusion. Oftentimes, when we lead with or rush into physical intimacy and sexuality before we establish trust or emotional intimacy, we run the risk of re-traumatizing. This can make management of life and relationships particularly difficult and slow down the reparation process of the door. Seeking a therapist who will help you set up protected space within yourself and your relationships is key to successful trauma resolution.  

For more information, to schedule an appointment in our Bryn Mawr or West Chester Offices near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or for any questions, feel free to contact me here or at SpilovePsychotherapy@gmail.com

Learn more about our services on the Main Line of Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr at www.tiffanyspilove.com. Check out our helpful Instagram Account @spilovepsychotherapy

How to Communicate Effectively

Main Line therapy, counseling, Villanova, ardmore, depression, anxiety

Basics of Effective Communication:

Effective communication is based more on how say things rather than on what you actually say.

A conversation can go very well or wind up in a lot of anger and upset, depending on the communication style used. Our means of communication impacts all facets of life. 

When communicating, the goal should always be to understand – not to be right.  When we approach situations with curiosity, rather than with anger or accusation, we tend to be better listeners, thus better problem solvers. Get the facts before you pass judgment.  Some styles lend themselves better to this than others.

Here are Four Different Communication Styles

  1. Passive Communication:

An example of passive communication: John doesn’t show up for the date he has with Sally and Sally feels angry and hurt by the situation, but doesn’t want to rock the boat. When John later calls her, Sally tells him she is fine and does not assert herself, making another plan with John.

Passive communication Is a style in which individuals have developed a pattern of avoiding expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights and identifying and meeting their needs.  Passive communication is usually comes from low self-esteem.  The core belief associated with passive communication is: “I’m not worth taking care of.” People who are communicating passively may not respond overtly to hurtful or anger-inducing situations.  Instead, they allow grievances and annoyances to mount, usually unaware of the buildup. They are prone to explosive outbursts which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident. Afterwards, they feel shame, guilt and confusion so they return to being passive.

People who are communicating passively will often: 

·      Fail to assert for themselves

·      Allow others to deliberately or inadvertently cross their boundaries

·      Tend to speak softly or apologetically

·      Exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture

Impact of passive communication:

·      Anxiety because life seems out of their control

·      Depression because they feel stuck and hopeless

·      Resentment (they may be unaware of the resentment) because needs are not being met

·      Confused because they ignore their own feelings

·      Unable to mature because real issues never get addressed.

Belief system:

·      I’m unable to stand up for my rights.

·       I don’t know what my rights are.

·       I get stepped on by everyone.

·      I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.

·      People never consider my feelings.

When Passivity is Appropriate:

·      When the results of pushing the issue would cause problems that outweigh the benefits. 

·      When issues are minor.

·      When there is a power differential that is not in your favor and the other party is getting agitated by your assertiveness.

·      When the other individual’s position is impossible to change.  

2. Aggressive Communication:

Example of aggressive communication: “What is WRONG with you?! You NEVER do anything right!” Individuals express feelings and opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that violates the rights of others. Aggressive communication usually comes from low self-esteem, is often caused by past physical and/or emotional abuse, unhealed emotional wounds, and feelings of powerlessness.

Aggressive communicators will often:

·      Try to dominate others

·      Use humiliation to control others

·      Criticize, blame or attack others

·      Are very impulsive

·      Have low frustration tolerance

·      Speak in a loud, demanding and overbearing voice

·      Act threateningly and rudely

·      Not listen well

·      Interrupt frequently

·      Use “you” statements

·      Have piercing eye contact and overbearing posture

Impact of aggressive communication:

·      Become alienated from others

·      Alienate others

·      Generate fear and hatred in others

·      Blames others instead of owning their issues, therefore they have trouble with personal growth

Belief system:

·      I’m superior and right and  you’re inferior and wrong

·      I’m loud, bossy and pushy

·       I can dominate and intimidate you

·       I can violate your rights

·      I’ll get my way no matter what

·      You’re not worth anything

·      It’s all your fault

·      I react instantly

·      I’m entitled

·      You owe me.

·       I own you.

3. Passive-Aggressive communication:

Example of passive-aggressive communication: “Fine. Whatever”. Individuals communicating passive aggressively seem to be passive on the surface but are really showing anger in a subtle, indirect or behind-the-scenes way.  Anger is expressed by subtly undermining the object of their resentments.  

Passive-Aggressive communicators will often:

Philadelphia Main Line Counseling, therapy, Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Villanova, anxiety, depression, communication skills

·      Mutter to themselves rather than confront the person or issue

·      Have difficulty acknowledging their anger

·      Use facial expressions that don’t match how they feel – for example, smiling when angry

·      Use sarcasm

·      Deny there is a problem

·      Appear cooperative while purposely doing things to annoy and disrupt

·      Use subtle sabotage to get even

Impact of a pattern of passive-aggressive communication:

·      Become alienated from those around them

·      Remain stuck in a position of powerlessness

·      Discharge resentment while real issues are never addressed so they have trouble with personal growth

People who communicate passive-aggressively

·       I am weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate and disrupt

·      I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must do so indirectly

·       I will appear cooperative but I’m not

4. Assertive Communication:

Example of assertive communication to let someone know they’ve crossed a boundary: “When you laugh while I tell you my feelings, I feel hurt and sad because I tell myself that it means that you don’t care. My request of you is to listen respectfully and let me know that you hear my feelings. Are you able to honor my request?”

Main Line Therapy, counseling, psychology, ardmore, Villanova, Bryn Mawr, depression, anxiety

Individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others.  Assertive communication often indicates someone has high self-esteem.  These individuals value themselves, their time and their emotional, spiritual and physical needs and are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.

Assertive communicators will often:

·      State needs and wants clearly, appropriate and respectfully

·      Express feelings clearly, appropriate and respectfully

·      Use “I” statements

·      Communicate respect for others

·      Listen well without interrupting

·      Feel in control of self

·      Have good eye contact

·      Speak in a calm and clear tone of voice

·      Have a relaxed body posture

·      Feel connected to others

·      Feel competent and in control

·      Not allow others to abuse or manipulate them

·      Stand up for their rights

Impact of assertive communication:

·      Feel connected to others

·      Feel in control of their lives

·      Are able to mature because they address issues and problems as they arise

·      Create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature

Assertive belief system:

·      We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another

·       I am confident about who I am

·       I realize I have choices in my life and I consider my options

·       I speak clearly, honestly and to the point

·       I can’t control others, I can control myself

·       I place a high priority on having my rights respected

·       I am responsible for getting my needs met in a respectful manner

·       I respect the rights of others

·      Nobody owes me anything unless they’ve agreed to it with to me

·      I’m 100% responsible for my own happiness. 

Pointers on Assertion:

·      Being assertive means you also must own what is yours to own.  If the other person has a point about your behavior, take it in as constructive feedback and see if it is something you’d like to change about yourself.

  • It is okay to say “I don’t know.”

  • It is okay to say “No,” or “I cannot do that.”

  • It is okay to make mistakes as long as responsibility is taken for them.

  • It is okay to disagree and to verbalize that.

  • It is okay to challenge others’ opinions or actions.  

  • It is okay to not accept another’s opinion as factual or accurate

  • It is okay to ask for a change in behavior.

Which communication styles do you respond best to? What are some of your goals for communicating effectively?

 For more information on communication styles and help learning how to be more assertive, contact us here.

Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend by Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: 

Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend

 By: Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga therapy for anxiety and depression on the Philadelphia Main Line in Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Villanova and Lower Merion

 What if you could find a friend that would stay by your side always? Someone who’s sole purpose was to make sure you not only stayed alive but also thrived in your life. Someone who knew just what to do to provide you a pick-me-up when depressed or tired or could ease your body and mind when anxious or upset. What if you had access to this friend 24/7 and the only thing this friend needed from you was a willingness to accept their support? 

Well, my friends, I have some exciting news to share. This friend exists, and not only does the friend exist, it exists within you! Its your breath. You see, your breath is both a complicated and conveniently simple process that weaves together the communication between your body and mind. Linked to your nervous system, your breath has the capabilities of keeping you alive, soothing your body and mind and increasing energy. Your breath can let you know how you’re feeling and if you’re relaxed or tense. Think about it… when panic sets into the body and mind, the breath oftentimes responds rapidly, assuming the need to prepare for survival. Your breath may become shorter and choppier or maybe even appear nonexistent and stuck. This same breath, the one coming and going from your lungs, can be trained to deepen and soften during panic, activating your calming nervous system, thus subsiding the panic in both your body and mind.  Or, maybe your nervous system is feeling too subdued, you’re falling asleep at work or feeling unable to pull yourself out of bed to face the day. In these moments, accentuating the inhale can increase energy and focus, even lifting your mood in the moment. Your breath holds a wealth of resources for you. All you have to do is attend to it. Here’s some ways to access its usefulness.

1. A breathing practice to soothe the nervous system: Paced Breathing 

When to use:

To soothe anxiety, panic or restlessness, if you are having difficulty sleeping and/or relaxing, when you feel worked up or frazzled. 

How to use:

When attempting to soothe or relax the nervous system, accentuate the exhale. Paced breathing patterns the breath to increase the length of the exhale to twice as long as the inhale. You will count the breaths in your head. If able, breathe both in and out of your nose. If you need to breathe out of your mouth due to sinus issues, it can help to purse the lips so that the breath is able to stay long and controlled. Let your breath carry deep into your body… allow your stomach to expand on your inhales, and gently contract your stomach in on your exhales. Try the counts of 4 to inhale and 8 to exhale. If this feels difficult or creates more tension in the body, reduce the numbers, just making sure the exhale is 2x as long as the inhale. Our lungs often need time to practice expanding (in our society, we don’t usually use much of our breathing capacity from day-to-day), so be patient and just do what feels comfortable. Remember, this is intended to relax and soothe you. 

Here we go:

It can help to sit upright allowing spaciousness in your chest or lying down (especially if you are using this to help with sleep). Close your eyes if comfortable. If you prefer to have your eyes open, maybe gaze at a soft spot on the floor or in front of you. Now, inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, Inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, repeat this sequence multiple times. I recommend at least 10 rounds, but as many as you would like until you start to feel soothed, more at ease or fall asleep. 

Contraindications:

The only time to avoid this breath is if you are already relaxed or tired  and do not want to fall asleep of become more relaxed. If this is the case and you are looking for a pick-me-up, try the breath below.

2. A breathing practice to enliven your nervous system: Breath of Joy

When to use:

when tired, depressed, energy depleted, feeling stuck, lacking interest or focus.

How to use:

When attempting to lift your energy, focus or mood, accentuating the inhale wakes up the nervous system. Breath of Joy calls for 3 quick inhales and one large exhale. This breath can be done standing or sitting in a chair. Make sure you have arms-length of space around and above you. 

Here we go:

On your first quick inhale through your nose, swing your arms out in front of you. 

On the second inhale through your nose, swing your arms from in front of you, out to the sides in a “T” position. 

On the third inhale through your nose, swing your arms from the “T” position above your head in a touchdown position. 

Next, exhale forcefully out of your mouth with an audible “Ha” as you fold at the waist and swing your arms down by your legs

Repeat this at least 3 times, more if you like. 

Main Line Yoga Therapy, Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr, anxiety, depression

Contraindications- 

If you have any severe back issues, bulging discs, osteoporosis or hypertension, folding forward or hanging your head upside down is usually not safe. Good news, you can still do this breath! Just make sure to avoid folding over and instead swing your arms down by your side while exhaling a “Ha” forcefully.  

If you are interested in learning more about how to balance your mind and body through your breath and other yoga techniques, consider yoga therapy. To learn more about how to get connected with a yoga therapist, give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15-minute consultation.