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.




8 Tips to Navigate Food and Emotions this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be about gratitude and joy for some and for others’, it’s extremely stressful – especially if you’re dealing with or in recovery from an eating disorder.  Here are some things you can do:

1.      Be Gentle with Yourself:

Remind yourself that this is just one day out of the year and it won’t make or break you.  Give yourself permission to eat foods that you like.  BREATHE and know that you are doing the best you can.

2.    Get Grounded:

BEFORE you leave your house.  What grounds you?  Do something that feels very grounding for you and set an intention to keep checking in with yourself during the day.  One of my favorite ways to get grounded is to ask myself “Where are your feet?” – then look down at them; wiggle my toes, feel my feet on the floor or in my shoes.  When I do that, I can rest assured that right here, in this moment, I am safe.  In this moment, where my feet are, I am okay.  Here are some other examples of grounding activities:

Prayer and meditation

Yoga

Coloring mandala’s or other coloring

Going for a walk

Make a list: of anxieties, gratitude’s or plans, etc.

Have a bit of a plan for the day – perhaps write it down in the morning.

Journaling

3.    Contain the Food:

Do your best to eat meals at the normal times you usually eat them.  So instead of skipping breakfast and going to Thanksgiving hungry, eat your normal breakfast.  When you get to your event, check in to your hunger cues – on a scale of 0-10, with zero being extremely starving, 5 is having a light sense of satisfaction – being neither hungry nor full and ten being the most stuffed you’ve ever experienced.  How hungry are you?  Aim for letting yourself empty out to a 2-3 before eating a meal.  See if you can stop eating at a 5-7.  Once you are hungry, rather than grazing on all the different foods, make a plate.  Allow yourself to put at least a little bit of each food you love on the plate or foods you’d like to try.  Skip the foods that don’t interest you much.  Sit down and really savor the foods you chose.  Check in with your hunger and satiety signals a few times while you eat your plate.  Once you are satisfied, tell yourself that you can have more when you are hungry again and follow through.  Making a practice of using hunger and satiety cues is extremely helpful in finding balance with food.

4.   Keep Your Boundaries:

People tend to project their OWN food and body issues onto others’.  So if you notice yourself engaged in a conversation with someone who’s trying to talk you in or out of eating or commenting on your body, take a step back.  Check in with yourself and see what YOU NEED, rather than what this person is trying to get you to do.  Saying you need to use the bathroom is always an easy out to give yourself some time and space to check back in with yourself and get grounded.  Take some deep breaths, splash some water on your face and ask yourself what you need in that moment to take care of yourself before you leave the bathroom.  Here are some examples of things you can say to people who are pushing you: “No, thank you”

“I’m okay right now”

“Yes, I’m going to enjoy this food right now”

“I’m not hungry”

“I’ll let you know when I’m ready for ...”

“I’d rather not discuss my body with you”

Practice saying these boundaries out loud BEFORE the holiday, so that when you’re in the moment, they flow easily and effortlessly.

5.    Make a Self-Care Plan:

If you notice yourself getting overwhelmed, come prepared with an exit strategy.  Here are some examples:

Playing outside with the kids (or adults)

Going into another room for a breather

Taking a walk with a trusted person

Making a phone call to someone from your support group

Taking a time out to journal or color

Going for a drive

6.    Ask for Help:

Enlist a member of your support group to be ‘Holiday Buddies’ to practice what I call ‘Book Ending’:  Have a few agreed upon times you with check-in with one another throughout the day – perhaps before, during and after.  You could plan to call or text one another to report how things are going.  If you don’t hear from your buddy, shoot them a text to see what’s going on.  In this way you have another person who has your best interest in mind to be accountable to.  This practice is also helpful in getting your mind off yourself and your own difficulties.

7.    Be of Service

If you’re feeling social anxiety, focus on what you can do to help.  Be it washing dishes, entertaining the kids, setting the table, taking out the trash – if you make it your mission to help out as much as possible, you’ll find yourself busy and this can really diffuse social awkwardness and anxiety.

8.    Trust:

Trust your body to make up for any ‘mistakes’ you may make.  One day, one meal, one bite at a time.  This day will not make or break you.  Try to turn it over and enjoy as much as possible.