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.




5 Ways To Be A Better Listener: Communication Through DBT Skills

DBT for Communication

by Megan Delp, MFT

Psychotherapy and Couples' Counseling through DBT and communication skills on the Main Line of Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr and West Chester.

The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (or DBT) tenant called Interpersonal Effectiveness teaches us how to be a more effective communicator through learned to be a better listener.  We have always known that progress depends on the ability to communicate effectively.  The most effective communication does not begin with what a person says, but how well they hear the person they are communicating with. Only by listening effectively can you respond appropriately inany situation.

Throughout all forms of communication (reading, seeing, speaking, listening), we spend 40% of that time listening.  And yet, we get less training in listening than in any other kind of communication. All throughout childhood, we are taught how to speak, how to read, but very little time is spent on learning how to listen.  Learning to listen is difficult, but worth it.

For instance:

  • You can not NOT communicate.  We're communicating verbally or nonverbally all the time.

  • Whenever contact is made, some form of communication does occur.

  • The true meaning of something is not in the words we use, it's in how people interpret the words.

  • Yet the meanings cannot be transferred. We can't just put a computer file directly in someone's head. We can only send the words. So listening becomes a critical skill if we are going to fully understand the meaning someone is trying to send us.

We have the ability to listen in many different ways - it is important to be able to distinguish how we are approaching our communication so that we are prepared to handle it effectively.

The Five Listening Approaches are:

1. Appreciative:

People are more likely to listen if you feel inspired by what you are hearing or if you are enjoying yourself. You’re not necessarily interested in the details when you are using Appreciative Listening, rather you are more focused on the impression of the experience.

2. Empathic:

This style is often a sounding-board to others. A person would offer support to the person they are listening to.  They focus specifically on the feelings revealed by the person they are listening to. If you are often approached by people who need to confide or vent about something, you will know that's your typical approach to listening!  This style is much more focused on offering compassion.

3. Comprehensive:

A comprehensive listener can recognize key details between one message and another even when the speaker is less than organized. They can also recognize when someone doesn't understand what is being said and can re-explain clearly in their own words.

4. Discerning:

This approach of listening wants to get all the information and may take detailed notes.  Distractions can be very disturbing when using this listening approach. An example would be when other people are talking in class and you are trying to get all the notes.

5. Evaluative:

When listening with an evaluative approach, the listener will not automatically accept what is being said as true just because an expert says it. If they disagree, they will simply stop listening. They will also be more doubtful if the speaker is too passionate about their topic. This approach can be helpful when evaluating something and making a decision about it.

It can be highly useful to adapt your listening approach to the needs of the situation.  For example, if a close friend is sharing their difficulties with you, you would want to be empathic and not evaluative.  You have probably had the experience of someone giving you unsolicited advice when you really just wanted them to empathize with you!  The opposite can also be true. When you recognize the correct listening approach in any situation, and use the appropriate listening approach, you can build better relationships, make the correct decisions and use your interpersonal effectiveness skills.  It all starts with learning how to listen!

Megan Delp, MFTI

Megan Delp, MFTI

Megan is a pre-licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in couples counseling and individual therapy for those struggling with depression, anxiety and relationship issues.  Megan practices with Spilove Psychotherapy in West Chester, Pennsylvania and on the Main Line of Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr.  For more information or to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation, contact us here.