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

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.