Amelia Kelley is a trauma-informed therapist, author, trainer and coach with over 15 years of experience. The following is the third interview of our Relationship Advice Series, featuring Dr. Kelley.
Questions We Asked Amelia
1) Tell us about yourself (your background, what you do, what what makes your relationship advice stand out)
I am a trauma-informed therapist, author, trainer and coach with over 15 years of experience.
I have a Master’s degree in Art Therapy and Counseling from Nazareth College of Rochester and a PhD in Psychology from Capella University.
Also, I am a trained Yoga teacher, meditation teacher, hypnotherapist and have experience in a variety of trauma informed treatments such as EMDR, Brain Spotting, Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Somatic Experiencing.
My passion for creative and integrative approaches, as well as my ability to support my clients as a highly-sensitive person (HSP), allow me to connect deeply with my clients and understand perspectives from people who are vastly different than myself.
2) What do you think about gaslighting in relationships? What is your advice for someone in a relationship with a gaslighter?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that is often used in order to gain control over the victim. It is a strategic way to make a person question their reality, breaking down their sense of self and making it more likely they will remain in an abusive relationship.
The reason is that those who are gaslighted often question their own morals, ideas, self-awareness and even their previous relationships.
If you believe that the person you are with is consistently blaming you for every negative aspect of your relationship, then it is likely you are being gaslit and the fire needs to be put out.
The best way to do this is by recognizing and calling out the behavior. Standing your ground and witnessing your own inner thoughts, ideas and needs will help you to rediscover the power you have over your own emotions and life.
If asserting yourself is not met with your partner changing their behavior or validating your feelings, their response is a further indication you are being gaslit and can be grounds for ending a relationship.
3) Why do you think some relationships become toxic?
Most toxic relationships do not start out that way. At some point there was enough positivity in the relationship to make an investment in the other person. This phase, often referred to as the “honeymoon” phase is temporary because life can be stressful.
The more the couple endures stress, the more instances there are for individual faults and personality issues to put a strain on the relationship. This is especially true if someone in the relationship has traits of narcissism.
When a narcissist feels they are no longer seen in a positive light, they will feel threatened and be more likely to engage in toxic and abusive behaviors in order to retain power.
This type of behavior compounds and can cause a relationship to become increasingly more toxic the longer the behavior occurs.
4) How can a couple prevent toxicity in their relationship? Do you have some tips?
Actively assessing the relationship is the most effective way to prevent the relationship from being toxic.
What this requires is that both people provide a safe and open environment for bringing up potential issues.
It benefits the relationship to listen openly and encourage change and growth and avoid a defensive stance when someone in the relationship brings up a concern.
If the relationship does not serve as a safe space for open conversation, it is much more likely that the relationship will become toxic. One way to create this open line of communication is with daily check-ins using the Daily Temperature Reading (DTR) developed by Virginia Satir.
This exercise can help to strengthen a healthy connection between a couple.
5) Is it possible to build a healthy and fulfilling relationship when one partner has mental health issues? What’s your advice for someone in this type of relationship?
It is absolutely possible to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship while also having a mental health disorder. This is made possible when the person struggling with a mental health disorder is willing to recognize the issues they struggle with and seek out support to address them.
Those who are unwilling to be honest about their issues will end up having more toxic and problematic dynamics in their relationships.
In regard to the partners of those with mental health disorders, it is helpful for them to learn about their partner’s diagnosis so they can gain empathy for their partner as well as validation of the struggles they experience as the partner of someone diagnosed with a mental illness.
6) Do you recommend couple therapy? Or do you think individual therapy is more beneficial?
It depends on the source of the issue and the objective of seeking therapy. If the issue is impacting the couple, both individual and couples work in tandem will be most beneficial.
It is also recommended to have a separate counselor for both individual and couples work so that the couples counselor can remain as impartial as possible.
If the primary issue is based on an individual struggle, it may not be necessary to seek out couples counseling solely, but the individual receiving therapy can benefit from sharing their journey with their partner if they feel safe doing so.
7) In your opinion, how can a couple keep the spark alive, even after years?
Doing something novel together on a regular basis can be very helpful. When starting a new relationship we gain a great deal of “expansion” from a new partner. They make our lives bigger whether through new social connections, new interests or even just learning new things about each other.
After being in a relationship long-term we may lose that feeling of “flow” or excitement if we do not continue learning together.
Some ideas of how to expand your life together and reignite your spark could be as simple as cooking new recipes together, participating in a hobby that your partner has, or finding new ones to start together.
Doing this will help keep you feeling excited and connected by offering new things to talk about and new experiences to explore. How often you do this can matter as well. It is healthy to continue to “date” your partner by doing things together to maintain your connection.
You would not expect to stay physically fit by going to the gym once per month. And you cannot expect to keep the spark in your relationship alive by connecting infrequently. It is recommended to prioritize time together at least weekly if possible.
If getting out of the house is not feasible, whether due to childcare, finances or scheduling, “date-nights in” can be just as beneficial.
8) In your opinion, what’s the best way to stay calm during an argument?
It is crucial to pay attention to your body. If you are shallow breathing, clenching your muscles or feeling panicked, there is a good chance you are not regulated.
There may be a part of you, perhaps an angry part, defensive part or fearful part, trying to protect you, while at the same time making it hard to remain in the moment.
If this happens, pause, breath and report.
Pause what you are doing or saying to check in with yourself, breath because often when we are losing control we forget to breath and finally report your feelings to your partner and ask for a momentary break.
You have the right to take the time needed to center yourself, which will help improve the outcomes of any conflict.
9) How can people find you?
On my website www.ameliakelley.com or on Instagram at @drameliakelley
10) Do you have a book/online course/app you would like our readers to know about?
Absolutely! You can find my newest book “What I Wish I Knew: Surviving and Thriving After an Abusive Relationship” at all major booksellers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target and Walmart. You can also find a collection of my meditation offerings on Insight Timer at: https://insighttimer.com/kelleycounseling
It was amazing having you as guest of our relationship advice series, Amelia. Thank you for your time!