communication skills

Using Emotion-Focused Therapy in Couples Therapy by Megan Delp

Using Emotion-Focused Therapy in Couples Therapy

by Megan Delp

Philadelphia-Bryn-Mawr-Couples-Counseling-Therapy-psychology-marriage-psychology

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

Philadelphia-Main-Line-Bryn-Mawr-Couples-Counseling-marriage-therapy-psychology

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 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.

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.