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Monday, September 15, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Overcoming Emotional Blocks in Therapy

In my prior article, Working on Emotional Blocks in Therapy, I began a discussion about identifying emotional blocks.  In this article, I'll discuss how you can overcome emotional blocks in therapy.

Overcoming Emotional Blocks in Therapy

As I mentioned in my previous article, emotional blocks can be readily apparent, as when a client says, "I don't feel I deserve anything good" or they can be unconscious.

When they're unconscious, they usually take more time to come to the surface.

The following scenario is a composite of many cases that demonstrates one way that an emotional block can be identified and worked through in therapy:

Karen was in her mid-20s.  She had seen several therapists before she came to see me to deal with unresolved trauma from her childhood that made her fearful of getting involved in romantic relationships.

In her prior therapies, Karen learned, on an intellectual level, that she wasn't responsible for her parents' emotional neglect of her, but this didn't make her any less afraid of the possibility of being emotionally neglected or hurt in a relationship.

Her fear of getting hurt was so great that she shied away from men who showed interest in her, even if she was attracted to them.

At the same time, she was very lonely and wished that she could overcome her fear so she could be in a relationship.

She had been in cognitive behavioral therapy before, so she understood that her fears were distortions, but that didn't change anything.

She had also been in psychodynamic therapy and understood that she had underlying unconscious feelings that were part of the problem, but she didn't know what these unconscious feelings were or what to do about them.

Overcoming Emotional Blocks in Therapy

Using clinical hypnosis, we explored her feelings about being in a relationship.

Over time, in a relaxed hypnotic state, she sensed her conflictual emotions--both her desire to be in a relationship as well as her fear.

As we continued to explore her fear using clinical hypnosis, over time, we both realized that she had an emotional block which was that she was "unlovable." Her fear was that after a potential boyfriend really got to know her well, he wouldn't care about her any more.

Despite the fact that she knew that she had close friends who really cared about her a lot, there was still a part of her that felt she was unlovable.

We continued to work with this part of her in hypnosis.

Over time, it became apparent that this was a younger part of her (many people call this part the "inner child").

This part didn't respond to the logical explanations of cognitive behavioral therapy or psychodynamic interventions because it was such a young part, possibly preverbal.

So, we worked in therapy to help this young part of Karen to develop the internal resources that she needed to nurture this part of herself.

We worked to help Karen internalize positive experiences that she had with various friends and mentors in her life on a deep level.

Prior to working this way, even though Karen experienced her friends' love for her, her feelings were fleeting and she never internalized them in a deep way.  The challenge in our work together was to help Karen to internalize these positive experiences on a deeper level.

By remembering individual positive experiences in hypnosis and making these feelings come alive for her on an emotional and physical level, over time, Karen began to have a sense of being a lovable person.

This work wasn't quick, but by enriching these memories during hypnosis, she experienced these positive experiences not only in an explicit (conscious) way--she also learned to have an embodied experience of them on an implicit (unconscious) level (see my article:  Mind-Body Psychotherapy: Healing Trauma With New Symbolic Memories).

Overcoming Emotional Blocks in Therapy

By doing this work, Karen was able to enhance the positive experiences that she had with nurturing individuals so that these memories became a bigger part of her awareness on a conscious and unconscious level, which is different from just having an intellectual understanding:  She actually felt and believed it.

Getting Help in Therapy to Overcome Emotional Blocks
Emotional blocks are common problems for many people.

They're often difficult to overcome on your own.

Rather than struggling against these blocks by yourself, you could benefit from getting professional help from a licensed mental health practitioner who can help you to overcome them.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Working on Emotional Blocks in Therapy

An emotional block can sabotage therapy for even the most motivated psychotherapy client.  Most people who come to therapy experience some degree of ambivalence about change, even when the change is something that they really want.  But an emotional block isn't just about ambivalence.

Working on Emotional Blocks in Therapy

What Are Emotional Blocks?
Emotional blocks usually develop due to past negative experiences and unresolved emotions.   This includes emotional trauma.  Emotional blocks are usually unconscious self-limiting beliefs that can lead to self sabotage.

They are part of unconscious defense mechanisms that people use (without realizing it) to ward off their fears.

These blocks usually involve some aspect of a client's belief about him or herself that can undermine the therapy if the therapist and client don't realize what's going on and work to help the client overcome this distorted belief.

Examples of Emotional Blocks:
"I don't deserve to be happy."
"I'm an unlovable person."
"Feeling good is selfish."
"I'm a bad person and I deserve to suffer."
" I should put everyone else's needs before my own."

Identifying Emotional Blocks in Therapy
Listening for emotional blocks often requires a therapist to be attuned to the underlying, unconscious content that the client communicates in sessions.

Sometimes, the content of what's communicated by the client isn't hidden at all--it can be stated in a direct way, like the examples that I've given above.

There are also other ways that a therapist can detect emotional blocks in clients.

So, for instance, when clients come to see me for a psychotherapy consultation, I usually ask them if they've been in therapy before and what their experiences in therapy have been.

When clients tell me that they've been to many different therapists, but no one has been able to help them at all, I know that there can be many different reasons for this:
  • On the one hand, there could have been a mismatch between client and these therapists; the therapists might have lacked the skills to help the client with the particular problem; a client might have left therapy too soon before completing the work, and so on.
  • On the other hand, I'm also aware that the problem could involve an emotional block that keeps the client stuck and undermines the therapy.
As the treatment unfolds with each client, the origin of the problem usually becomes apparent.

Why Is It Important to Work Through Emotional Blocks in Therapy?
If the problem is an emotional block, it's important that it is identified and worked through or the client will probably remain stuck and, as I mentioned earlier, the work in therapy will be undermined.

In many cases, when emotional blocks go undetected, the therapy can feel like it keeps looping around in a circle without progress.

In my next article, Overcoming Emotional Blocks in Therapy, I address these issues with a composite case to show how emotional blocks develop and how therapists, who are skilled in dealing with these blocks, can help clients to overcome them.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you think you're stuck because of an emotional block, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who is skilled in helping clients to overcome these blocks.

Getting Help in Therapy

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11th: We Will Never Forget

To all the families and friends who lost loved ones on September 11th, a heartfelt wish that you are with loving friends and family on this anniversary to ease the pain of your loss.  

Let us all remember the lives that were lost in that senseless attack and honor those lives.

After the September 11th World Trade Center attack, I met with many spouses and family members who lost loved ones on that shocking day.

Anniversaries such as September 11th can stir up a lot of emotions.  If you're experiencing a flood of emotions for your loss, be especially kind to yourself on this anniversary.

If you know someone who lost a loved one on September 11th, find out how they're doing and be compassionate.

Life goes on, but we will never forget.

I am a licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist in NYC.

To find out more about me, visit my website:

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Learning How to Connect With the Quiet Place Within Yourself

In my last article, Discovering the Quiet Place Within Yourself, I discussed what the "quiet place within yourself" is and the various other terms that are used to identify this part, including core self, authentic self, true self, the center, and the inner world.

Learning How to Connect With the Quiet Place Within Yourself

I use these terms interchangeably.

I also discussed why many people have fears about spending quiet time connecting to their inner world.

In this article, I'll discuss some of the benefits of connecting to your inner world and also give some tips on how to do it.

Benefits of Connecting With the Quiet Place Within You
Among the many benefits of connecting to your inner world, you may find that you can:
  • cope better with challenges that come up in your life 
  • develop an increased sense of self awareness
  • develop an increased sense of self confidence 
  • make decisions and problem solve more easily
  • de-stress more easily 
  • develop greater compassion for yourself and others
  • develop emotional intelligence
  • become more intuitive
  • go to this place as an emotional "inner sanctuary" 
Tips on Connecting With the Quiet Place Within Yourself
Keep in mind that, aside from the suggestions that I'm giving, there are many ways to connect with your inner world, including meditating, doing yoga, practicing mindfulness, journaling, and going to therapy (to name just a few).

If you've never attempted to connect with your inner world without distractions, be aware that it takes practice and, with practice, it usually gets easier to do.
  • Start by finding a quiet place where you won't be interrupted or distracted (turn off your phone).  If you can't go to a peaceful place outside, just find a quiet place in your home.  If you live with family members, tell them that you'll need about 20 minutes to yourself.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Close Your Eyes, Take a Few Deep Breaths and Slow Down Your Breathing
  • Slow down your breathing.
  • Relax as much as possible by consciously allowing the muscles in your body to relax and soften.  This can be done in many ways.  One way is to do a mental body scan where you sense into your body to see where you're holding onto tension.  Start from the crown of your head and go slowly down the rest of your body.  Wherever you sense tension in a particular area, imagine sending your breath to that place and allowing the muscles to relax.
  • If you have a negative thought or an uncomfortable feeling, just allow it to come up and see it in your mind's eye as floating away like a cloud.
If You Have a Negative Thought, Let It Float Away Like a Cloud
  • To sense into your inner world, focus on the area between your throat and your lower abdomen and just see what you notice.  Just notice what comes up, don't analyze it or interpret it--just notice it.
  • Keep a journal to write down your observations and reflections afterwards about what you experienced.
Practice Connecting to the Quiet Place Within Yourself
If you've never engaged in any practices that put in touch with your inner emotional world, you'll need to practice this exercise in order to get better at it.

Learning How to Connect With the Quiet Place Within Yourself

Keep in mind that connecting to your inner world is a skill, so don't get discouraged if, at first, you have  a hard time staying focused, as many people do, or if you're not sure what you're sensing.

Many people who practice get better at it over time and discover that the benefits that they derive from connecting to their inner world is well worth the time and effort.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Discovering the Quiet Place Within Yourself

Being in a quiet, peaceful place where you feel a sense of solitude, whether it's in a park, the woods or by the ocean, can be a transformative experience.  Being in a peaceful place can help you to begin to connect to the quiet place within yourself.

Being in a Peaceful Place Can Help You to Connect With Your Inner World

What is the "the Quiet Place" Within Yourself?
Some people call this inner quiet place "the core self."

Some call it "the center."

Others call it "the authentic self" or the "true self."

Whatever you might call it, the quiet place within you is the place that is beyond external definitions of yourself.

Discovering the Quiet Place Within Yourself

It's a place that is beyond your usual identification as a parent, spouse, employee or friend.

That place is all that is within you that makes you uniquely you.

When you tap into the quiet place, you can experience a sense of stillness and connection with a deep sense of self.

Many people think of this part of themselves as being their intuitive selves and the part of them that is compassionate for others as well as being compassionate for themselves.

Why Do So Many People Try to Avoid Experiencing Their Inner World? 
In a New York Times article, No Time to Think, Kate Murphy writes about recent research which revealed that many people would prefer to keep themselves distracted than spend even a few quiet minutes to themselves.

According to this article, many of the people who participated in the research were so uncomfortable that they preferred giving themselves electric shocks rather than having quiet time to themselves.

According to Ms. Murphy, these people "just didn't like being in their own heads."

Why Do So Many People Try to Avoid Their Inner World?

One explanation for why so many people keep themselves constantly busy and distracted is that they want to avoid the negative thoughts and unresolved issues that come to mind when they have quiet time.   So, many people try to avoid quiet times at all costs to avoid uncomfortable feelings from coming up.

This avoidance, in turn, causes its own discomfort in the form of irritability, anxiety and insomnia, which leads to an even greater desire for more distraction.  So, it becomes a vicious cycle of avoidance.

How Can You Discover This Quiet Place in Your Inner World?
There are many ways to discover this quiet place in your inner world, including mindfulness meditation (see my article:  Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness Meditation).

Discovering the Quiet Place Within Yourself

In my next article, I'll give you some tips on how to connect with this part of yourself.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Coping With Changes in How You See Yourself

There is an old adage, "Everything changes. Nothing remains the same," which is true not only for the circumstances of our lives but also for changes in how we see ourselves.  In a prior article, Navigating Life's Transitions, I discussed, in a general way, how change can affect us and suggested some tips on how to get through times of difficult change, whether they are changes that we choose or changes where we have no choice.  In this article, I'll be focusing more specifically on changes in self perception.

Coping With Changes in How You See Yourself

People often resist change because they fear the challenges that the change might bring.  This is, of course, understandable because some changes can be frightening and overwhelming.  This includes changes in our self perception.

Even Changes in Ourselves That We Welcome Can Make Us Feel Ambivalent and Uneasy
As I mentioned in my prior article about coping with change, even changes that we want can be stressful.

For instance, let's look at hypothetical example:  A woman, who is told by her doctor that she must lose weight or she'll be at risk for certain obesity-related medical problems, works hard for many months to diet and exercise to lose weight.

When she gets down to the weight her doctor recommended, she feels a sense of pride and a sense of accomplishment for achieving her goal.  She now has more energy.  She also fits into clothes that she loves that she couldn't wear before.  Her friends and coworkers are happy for her and compliment her.

Generally, she's happy that she feels and looks great.  But when she looks in the mirror, she is momentarily taken aback by the image she sees.  It's so different from the image that she was seeing for the past 20 years that she thinks, "Who am I now?"

Coping With Changes in How You See Yourself

In addition, she's also getting much more attention from men than she ever did before, which, on a certain level is flattering but, on another level, is new and a little frightening for her because she never saw herself as being attractive to men.

So, she begins to realize that, in many ways, the way she sees herself, both internally and externally, hasn't caught up with the reality of this big change in her, and she has some mixed feelings about these changes.

She also begins to realize something that she never allowed herself to see before--she has lifelong problems with self esteem.   In the past, she never allowed herself to see that she saw herself as someone that men would never be interested in.

In the past, before she lost the weight, whenever any thoughts of this came to mind, she brushed them aside by telling herself that this wasn't important.  Now that she is getting more attention from men,  she feels confused about why men are more interested in her now and how she feels about it.

There are times when her ambivalence and unease about how she sees herself and how others see her make her almost wish that she was overweight again.

When she talks to friends, who never had these problems, they don't understand.  They tell her that she looks great and she should enjoy this new attention that she's getting.  She feels frustrated because they don't understand what she's going through.

After months of struggling with these feelings on her own, she decides to go to therapy to work through this issue.

Coping With Changes in How You See Yourself
She's relieved to discover that her therapist not only understands the complexity of her situation, but she's also able to help her to adjust to the changes and begin to thrive.

This hypothetical example is one of many different circumstances where changes in how we see ourselves can be a mixed bag.

In future articles, I'll discuss other examples of changes in self perception.

Getting Help in Therapy
When you're going through changes in your life, one of the most challenging can be a change in how you see yourself.

There are times when this kind of change can be overwhelming and loved ones don't understand.

At that point, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional who can help you not only to cope with the change but to thrive (for some tips on how to choose a therapist, see my article:  How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I've helped many clients in therapy to overcome their fears about change and to see themselves in new ways.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:

Also see my article:
Gaining a New Perspective in Therapy About Yourself and Others


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Navigating Life's Transitions

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."  Heraclitus

Navigating Life's Transitions

Life brings many changes.

Sometimes these life changes are ones that you want, and others times they're not.

Navigating Life's Transitions:  Life Brings Many Changes

Although the transitions might be unwanted, often you can't avoid them.  So, the best you can do is to learn how to navigate these transitions with emotional balance and resilience.

Tips on How to Navigate Life's Transitions
  • Recognize that Many of Life's Transitions are Inevitable:  Rather than wasting time and energy resisting changes that are inevitable (like the changing of the seasons, the "empty nest syndrome," aging or widowhood), try to accept these changes and draw strength from the fact that you have sustained other changes in your life before and, most likely, you'll sustain the current transitions that you are facing.
  • Be Aware That Many Changes Often Occur at One Time:  Often, when you're going through a major life transition, many times you're dealing with more than just one change in your life.  So, for instance if you lose a spouse, in addition to losing someone that you love, you might need to move or make other changes.  
  • Acknowledge Your Feelings About the Transitions:  Although you might not be able to change whatever is going on in your life, it's important to acknowledge the feelings you're having about these changes, whether you're feeling sad, angry, confused or all of these emotions.  In Western culture,  people who are going through major changes in their lives are encouraged by others who are well meaning to "move on" before they've had a chance to deal with their emotions.  Take the time you need.
  • Recognize that Everyone Goes Through Life Transitions in His or Her Own Way:  Related to acknowledging your feelings is the fact that each of us is different and will undergo change in his or her own way.  No one can tell you how you "should" go through a major change in your life.  
  • Be Gentle and Compassionate With Yourself During Major Life Transitions:  Even when the transition is something that you want, it can still be stressful, so you need to take extra care and be compassionate with yourself while you're going through this transition.  This means making sure you get enough rest, eat nutritious meals, and get the level of exercise that's appropriate for you.
Navigating Life's Transitions:  Be Gentle and Compassionate With Yourself
  • Make Choices When You Can:  In situations where you can make choices about the changes occurring in your life, rather than being passive, anticipate what you're going to need, how you can make the situation better for yourself, and try to resolve problems as they occur.
  • Break Big Changes Down into Smaller, More Manageable Pieces (when you can):  If you're anticipating a major change, like for instance, moving to another area of the country, break down this change into smaller, more manageable pieces.  So, for instance, if you're not familiar with this area, do research, ask people who know about this area, spend some time in this area, and so on. 
  • Get Emotional Support:  Major changes can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining.  Allow others who are close to you to give you emotional support during this time.  It can make the change a lot less daunting.
  • Be Aware that the Change You Dread Sometimes Brings Unexpected Benefits:  Sometimes the change that you dread the most can bring the most unexpected benefits.  You might develop new skills, meet new people or learn things that you never thought you would or could before.  You might also surprise yourself when you see how resilient you.
  • Acknowledge Whatever Steps You Take:  Often, people who are making major changes in their lives don't give themselves credit for all the small steps they take which, eventually add up to a big step.  If you have a tendency to ignore the small steps that you take that lead to progress, learn to acknowledge even the smallest steps.  When you can acknowledge progress that you've made, instead of focusing only on the big outcome, you'll be encouraged to keep taking steps to complete the change.

Get Help in Therapy
Going through a major life transition can be very difficult, whether it's your choice or not.  

Navigating Life's Transitions:  Getting Help in Therapy

Everyone needs help sometimes.

If you find that you're overwhelmed by the changes you're going through, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional to help you to navigate the change.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to cope with major changes in their lives and to develop increased resilience and resourcefulness.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: