Navigate / search

Understanding Your Emotional Style: Studio 5

Understanding Your Emotional Style

Husband, wife, friend, family member – your emotional style is a contributing factor in each and every life relationship. It determines the level and depth of your connection.

Therapist Julie A. Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares how to identify your emotional style and understand how it affects your relationships!

Have you ever noticed that you find yourself repeating relationship patterns, even if you don’t particularly like them? Do you find that you tend to feel similar emotions in your close relationships time and time again? We all have a unique style of relating to others that has its roots in our earliest relationship patterns. In our first few years of life our emotional world revolves around our family and parents (or caregivers). While these patterns aren’t set in stone they provide a default pattern for our emotional life and our relationships throughout life. It can be helpful for you to understand your relationship style so you can modify it when it causes distress or it no longer works for you. Identifying your style doesn’t mean that you are blaming your parents for the way you are. It can be helpful to understand your early relationships and how they impact your current emotions and relationship patterns so you can choose to make changes.

Which of the following best describes you?*

1) I want to be closer to others than they want to be. I worry that the people I love will leave me. When I share my true feelings it overwhelms others.2) Others want to be closer to me than I am comfortable with. I’d rather depend on myself than on others. I prefer to keep my feelings to myself.

3) It’s easy for me to be close to others. I have many people that I can depend on. I can say directly how I feel and what I want in my relationships.

Emotional Styles:

1) Worried

You want close relationships but often feel not good enough, fear abandonment, and feel overwhelmed by your emotions. You have a difficult time saying goodbye or being separated from loved ones.

2) Guarded

You value independence more than close relationships, you have difficulty knowing and sharing your emotions and needs, and you prefer not to rely on others. Others regard you as somewhat distant.

3) Confident

You can easily develop emotionally close relationships, you feel deserving of love, and you recognize that saying “goodbye” is a natural part of relationships. You can express your emotions and needs directly in your relationships.

How to Develop a More CONFIDENT Relationship Style:


• Seek solitude
• Practice self-soothing
• Take emotional ‘step back’
• Seek consistent relationships
• Express feelings & needs


• Seek connections
• Practice self-awareness
• Take emotional risks
• Seek nurturing relationships
• Express feelings & needs


Quiz adapted from Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic Love Conceptualized as an Attachment Process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.

Additional Resources:

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How they Shape Our Capacity to Love by Robert Karen

Gifts of Self: All he wants for Christmas is you: LDW Magazine

All He Wants for Christmas is You

I’m thrilled that Latter-day Woman Magazine invited me to write their “Love” article in their newly published Winter 2010 issue…

“Finding the perfect gift for your spouse is an exciting part of the holiday season. But fighting crowds to snag one of the latest must-have items and squeezing money out of a tight budget can make gift-giving stressful. While I wouldn’t mind a new iPad under the tree this year, (listening, Santa?) the best gifts are those that don’t require money, but require thought and time and emotional awareness.”

Read my tips on giving meaningful gifts of self…

Read Article online

Download PDF

What are you giving your spouse for Christmas?
What’s been the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received, and why?

Handling A Narcissistic Mother: Studio 5

Studio 5 Contributor & therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW of Wasatch Family Therapy answers a viewer email on how to begin healing…

Have you ever dealt with a narcissistic family member? Do you have any recommended books or resources to share?

Sister Power: How sisters improve mental health

Sister Power: How sisters improve mental health

Studio 5 Contributor, Julie Hanks, LCSW with Wasatch Family Therapy has tips to help you tap into the positive power of sisters.

A recent New York Times essay “Why sisterly chats make people happier” by Deborah Tannen caught my eye because I have five, yes, FIVE sisters. I love research that supports what I already know from real-life experience — sisters are important to mental health. Having a sister protects teens against feelings of depression, loneliness, self-consciousness, fear, and being unloved according to Laura Padilla-Walker, head researcher in a recent BYU study.

The positive impact of sisters extends beyond adolescence into adulthood. British researchers Liz Wright and Tony Cassidy found that people who grew up with at least one sister were happier more motivated, had more friends, and were more resilient during difficult times, especially during parental divorce.

Here are some tips for helping your children, sisters AND brothers, develop close, positive relationships with each other during childhood and adolescence so they will continue to support emotional health as adults.

Tips to Help Your Kids Help Each Other

1) Show Affection

Encourage your family to express physical affection, to notice and express positive traits, to increase emotional sensitivity to siblings, and to celebrate other sibling’s successes. Affection is an important aspect that contributes to the positive mental health outcomes among siblings, According to Padilla-Walker, “An absence of affection seems to be a bigger problem than high levels of conflict.”

A-list star Gwenyth Paltrow, and her producer brother, Jake Paltrow are a great example of affectionate siblings raised in a loving home.

2) Express


Healthy emotional expression is a crucial component to emotional health. Wright & Cassidy found that in families whose parents divorce, sisters tended to express themselves, and encourage emotional expression in others leading to less distress.

Coach your children to express feelings to their siblings in a non-attacking way. Here’s an excellent tool to help your children communicate their emotion:

I feel (emotion word) when you (other’s specific behavior) because I think (thought) . I would like it if you would (requested behavior) .

Here’s an example: “I feel mad when you take my clothes without asking because I think you don’t respect my privacy. I would like it if you would ask me before you borrow my clothes.”

When single mother Jennifer Child’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer her sisters were her strength.
“I have 2 sisters whose lives CHANGED when my daughter was diagnosed. I was a young single mom, my sisters PULLED me through~ I COULD NOT have made it through without my family. We pulled together and somehow made it through this HORRIFIC time in our life. My sisters are my best friends. I now have 2 daughters, 6 and 7 they are best friends. They do fight like NO OTHER, but love each other as I have seen with my sisters.”

3) Show Kindness

Coach your children to treat each other with respect, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Having a loving sibling of any gender seems to promote kindness and empathy toward others, according to Padilla-Walker. Interestingly, the relationship between positive sibling relationships and good deeds was twice as strong as the relationship between parenting and a child’s good deeds.

Mother of eight children, Andrya Lewis, promotes kindness among her children “by having sleepovers on Friday nights with movies and treats and sleeping bags, by letting siblings tell good news and surprises and

distribute treats to the other siblings, and by verbally interpreting and translating that acts of kindness or service (like sharing a toy, or finding a lost shoe) mean their sibling loves them.”

4) Communicate Often

Tannen’s research found that women talk with sisters more often, at greater length, and about more personal topics than they do with brothers. She concludes that the frequency of contact with sisters, not necessarily the content of the communication, is most important component contributing to the positive impact of having a sister.

Annie Frazier says she checks in with her older sister Jennie Gochnour by text or phone every other day. “It’s not always a big conversation; often it’s just a check in. We share everything and it’s not judged. We have gotten each other through everything – deaths, marriages, and divorce. She’s the only reason I’m not in intensive therapy! I particularly remember one day when we were running together in the early morning. I was going through infertility treatments and hoping to get pregnant – despite the reality of the months of darkness that I knew were around the corner with my postpartum depression. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember what I felt. In her eyes, I could not have been any more wonderful – even though in my eyes, all I saw was failure, sadness and inadequacies. She was my crutch and has carried me along many dark roads that have led to beautiful moments of celebration. She has always been by my side.”

5) Minimize conflict

Set family rules of no name-calling and no physical fighting, and don’t be afraid to intervene in your children’s fights. High levels of sibling conflict is associated with increased risk aggression in other relationships, and increased delinquent behavior, but on the positive side, a little bit of conflict gives siblings a chance to practice emotional control and problem solving skills.

According to Oracne Price, mother to tennis superstar sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, though they are fiercely competitive on the court, her daughters are very close friends.

Do you have a sister? How has she impacted your mental health?

Men & Depression Interview

Last week Dr. Todd Dunn & I did an interview with Rebecca Cressman of Utah Families show on FM100.3 on Men & Depression.

Did you know that men’s

depression symptoms may differ from women?

Did you know that many men mask their depression by substance use, working excessively, or engaging in reckless behavior?

Do you know that 7% of men in any given year suffer from depression?

Do you know how to spot warning signs?

Get tips on how to help the men and boys in your life become more emotionally healthy and where to get help if you or a loved one is suffering from depression

Listen to “Men & Depression” interview online HERE

Dr. Todd Dunn is a Licensed Psychologist at Wasatch Family Therapy specializing in men’s mental health & I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker & Owner/Clinical Director of Wasatch Family Therapy.

For information about therapy visit our website or call 801.944.4555.

Mini Changes That Will Boost Your Mood: Studio 5

Mini Changes That Will Boost Your Mood

Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of Positive Psychology’s top researchers estimates that 60 percent of your moods are impacted by a combination of genetics and environment. The remaining 40 percent of your happiness is within your control and can be altered by intentional activities. Here are a few simple changes that you can make today to feel happier and lighten your mood.

1-Listen to Music

Small changes in your environment can improve your mood, like listening to music. Music activates the pleasure center of the brain, according to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology at McGill University. Music can improve moods and intensify positive emotions–it doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to, as long as you like it. I recently blogged about music and mood Music & Mood-Musings from a Songwriter and Therapist which includes playlists for when you’re stressed, lazy, frustrated, down, or lonely.
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without — Confusious

In addition to adding music, other small changes in your environment can elevate mood. Nancy Etcoff, director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well-Being at Harvard found that there are many emotional benefits to having fresh cut flowers in your home. If you don’t have a special someone, send flowers to yourself.

2-Smile More

Emotions are contagious. Smiling makes you feel better inside and appear more attractive to others. Several research projects demonstrated that even forced smiles improved moods. Even when subjects held a pencil in their teeth causing facial muscles to simulate a smile they reported feeling happier.

Laughter is also contagious and helps reduce tension, promote relaxation, diminish pain, strengthen your immune system, and boost your mood. Watch a funny movie, play a zany game, do something silly, or hang out with hilarious people and you’ll feel happier.

3-Get Some Sun

Who doesn’t feel more cheerful when the sun is shining? Researchers agree that thirty minutes of sunlight daily can improve mood, improve sleep, and increase Vitamin D production. In fall and winter months when the days are shorter exposure to sunlight is even more important. If you tend to get the fall or winter blahs start planning now for a January vacation to a tropical island! In response to my Facebook post on asking what is a simple thing you do to improve your mood, many responses included outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, laying on the grass, and going to the beach.

Individuals who suffer from clinical depression during specific months may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a seasonal depression that can be diagnosed and treated by a health or mental health professional. One treatment for SAD is phototherapy which is exposure to sunlight or to an artificial light for a specific amount of time each day as prescribed.

4-Talk to Strangers

Your mother may have told you not to talk to strangers but researcher Elizabeth Dunn, assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, found that talking to strangers has a benefit — boosting your mood. We are used to being more cheerful around people we don’t know. So, next time you’re in an elevator or standing in line at the grocery store strike up a conversation and see what happens.

Reaching out to others in small, kind ways can help you feel happier. According to a University of California, Riverside study, participant who performed 5 acts of kindness in a single day reported feeling happier. If you want to be happy, practice compassion — Dalai Lama.
Many research studies found that in addition to kindness, an expression of gratitude also has a positive impact on mood. Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside found that participants who wrote down what they were grateful for once a week felt significantly happier. Try this by keeping a gratitude journal and write down all that you are thankful for each week

5-Change Your Mind

When you’re feeling low, your thoughts slow. Emily Pronin, assistant professor of psychology at Princeton University found that when research participants read statements quickly their mood and energy level improved, even if the statements they read were negative. Next time you’re feeling blue, try brainstorming solutions to a problem, playing a fast paced game, or engaging in witty banter with a friend to speed up your thoughts.

Another effective mood booster is to challenge your negativity. Just because you may think something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. If you’re thinking “I’m dumb”, “I’m a slob”, or “I’m not lovable” challenge the negative thought by asking yourself, “Is it true?”, “Where did I learn this?”, “What is a healthier thought to replace this negative thought?” Changes in your mind translate into changes in your mood.

6-Move Your Body

Even if it’s only a brief walk, moving your body elevates your mood, especially if you’re outside. At Duke University researchers found exercise to be as effective as antidepressant medication for treating depression. For additional information on benefits of exercise watch my previous Studio 5 segment on exercise and mental health.

In addition to aerobic exercise, practice deep, rhythmical, and repetitive breathing and experience the benefits of elevated mood, reduced stress, and calmness. If you’re new to deep breathing read Dr. Weil’s article The Art and Science of Breathing for excellent beginning breathing exercises.

If you struggle with thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, feeling of guilt or worthlessness, disturbances in eating or sleeping, and experiencing low moods seek help immediately from a medical or mental health professional.

Visit for help with low moods, and to learn about my therapy clinic and individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.

Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child: Studio 5

Raising An Emotionally Healthy Child on KSL TV’s Studio 5

Self and Relationship Expert Julie Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares how you can become your child’s “emotion coach” and help her develop emotional health. Watch the segment online!

As a parent, I find it’s often easier to focus on my children’s physical and external needs (food, shelter, clothing, grooming, education, relationships) than on their emotional needs. As a therapist I understand the crucial role that emotions play in our lives, but when I was a new mom and my own children expressed intense emotions, it was challenging to help them work through it. I tried hard not to shame or to dismiss their emotions, but I also didn’t want their intense emotion to rule my life…or theirs. When I came across the work of Dr. John Gottman and his book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child several years ago I remember thinking, “This fits with what I intuitively knew about parenting and it describes the parent I want to be!” It provided a framework to help me more effectively help my children understand and express emotions in healthy and productive ways.


Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

According to Dr. John Gottman’s research emotionally healthy, emotionally intelligent children are better able to regulate their emotions, calm their heart rate faster after being emotionally upset, had fewer infections, are better at focusing attention, have healthier peer relationships, and perform better academically. The best way to help you children achieve emotional health is to adopt an “emotion coaching” parenting style.

Dr. Gottman’s 5 Steps to Emotion Coaching:

1. Be aware of your child’s emotions

2. View emotional expression as opportunity for teaching and intimacy

3. Listen, empathize, and validate your child’s feelings

4. Label emotions in words your child understands

5. Help your child come up with solution or way to manage emotions

Recommended Parenting Books:

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, PhD & Joan Declaire

Parenting From The Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell

Self & Relationship Expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, LLC specializes in women’s mental health therapy, marriage counseling and family therapy. Visit to learn more about counseling services, workshops, & classes. Visit HERE for more relationship advice.

Join the discussion by posting comments below (your email will be kept private). I’d love to know your favorite parenting books. What do you do to raise emotionally healthy kids?