My super skill is to be able to talk about emotions

Tania Riosvelasco
3 min readJul 3, 2019

It turns that being a Marriage & Family Therapist, or a therapist (be that psychologist, social worker, psychotherapist, etc.) that has been trained in a systemic way, does not necessarily mean you know how to help people in relationships talk about their problems and heal their wounds. It’s really stressful to seat down with a couple, or a family, who has conflict, and help them slow down and listen to each other. It takes a lot of practice. A Lot. And deep breathing.

I love working with couples in distress. Put me in front of any one couple and my instincts kick in: I start tracking their conversation, I notice their non-verbal communication, I take note of their body language, and most importantly I try to tune into the meaning behind their words. What is it that they are trying to tell each other? What’s behind the critical statements? What lies underneath that strong shield of silence when they turn away from each other? Most likely, it is anger and hurt, fear of loneliness, of abandonment, or feeling unloved. But rarely do we come out and say, “Hey partner, I’m feeling completely depleted right now. I’m fearful at seeing you turn away. Can you understand why I’m scared?”

When I work with couples, I help them understand why it is that they feel stuck in their conflictive dynamic or pattern. Then, we look at what’s going on for each of them individually on an emotional level. Why do they ‘attack’ each other? What’s the fear beneath their need to protect themselves? [And in turn protect the relationship]. And then, we start practicing a healthier way of interacting and communicating. We explore their vulnerability, and why it might be difficult for each of them to show that side. We practice recognizing their thoughts and emotions — and sharing them with each other.

Couples often look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them, “Please turn towards each other and keep eye contact. Then tell your partner how are you feeling, right now.” One couple said that it felt unnatural and forced. And I said, “Yes, that’s true. But here’s the opportunity to practice something different from what you both do at home. So give yourselves a chance.” More often than not, these small , ‘forced’ conversations lead to a sharing of emotions— honest, raw, and vulnerable — that is absolutely magical to watch and experience.

Today, I was asked if this is the way I speak outside of therapy.

Do I actually say things to my partner like, “I’m feeling really vulnerable right now, and scared that the way in which you said those words means that you might not care for me. “

“Do you really talk like that?” was the question.

“Yes, yes I do,” I replied back.

And then my client said, “That’s a super skill.”

And I thought to myself, “That’s quite true. How awesome is that.”

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Tania Riosvelasco

Marriage & Family Therapist | Mom | Mexican roots & heart | Stories about mental health and relationships| tania.riosvelasco.com