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Monday, July 21, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Gaining a New Perspective in Therapy About Yourself and Others

Ingrained negative thoughts can impact how you see yourself and others.  When these thoughts are longstanding and unconscious, you can make assumptions about yourself and the world around you that aren't true.  Understanding and processing these thoughts in therapy can give you a new perspective and improve the quality of your life.  This is one of the many benefits of going to therapy.

Gaining a New Perspective in Therapy About Yourself and Others
Let's take a look at some common negative thoughts:

About Yourself:
"I'm unlovable and nobody cares about me."
"I hate the way I look."
"I'm stupid."
"I never do anything right."
"Nothing good ever happens in my life."
"Nothing is ever going to change in my life so why should I even try to change?"

About Others:
"I can't trust anyone."
"Nobody likes me."
"Everyone has it in for me."
"Nobody ever gives me a break."
"People look at me funny."
"People think I'm ugly."

I'm sure you can probably come up with many other examples, but the examples above are some of the most common ones.

The Effect of Ingrained Negative Thoughts
One of the major problems with ingrained negative thoughts is that people don't question them.  These thoughts are so much a part of their unconscious mind and often buried so deep that people make assumptions based on these thoughts without questioning these assumptions.

Gaining a New Perspective in Therapy About Yourself and Others: The Effect of Negative Thoughts

This can lead to many problems, including lifelong feelings of shame and doubt about themselves as well as missed opportunities in their personal lives and careers.

A Reality Check on a Distorted Perspective
For people who might have some idea that their perspective might be skewed, asking a friend can provide a reality check.

By getting a different perspective, they're often surprised that the assumptions they've made are mistaken.

Gaining a New Perspective in Therapy About Yourself and Others: A Reality Check

This can be very helpful in a particular situation, but for people who have an ingrained pattern of negative thinking, it often doesn't have a generalizable effect.  In other words, it can help with the situation at hand, but it might not help the next time it comes up or in another situation.

It also doesn't get to the root of the problem or help them to recognize what's causing them to think this way or, most importantly, how to change.

In a future article, I'll discuss more about how therapy can give you a new perspective about yourself and others.

Getting Help in Therapy
People who get help in therapy for negative thinking are often relieved to be able to let go of their negative assumptions about themselves and others.

They have an opportunity for a new and more positive perspective.  They also have a better possibility of understanding themselves and others.

They learn to feel better about themselves.  They also learn to have better relationships in their personal lives and in their careers.

If you feel that the way you think is having a negative impact on your life, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who has expertise with this problem.

Getting help in therapy could be the beginning of lifting a big burden off your shoulders.

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, July 14, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Moving Past Your Regrets

Most adults have at least one major regret in their lives that they hold onto and feel unhappy about.  Generally speaking, older people tend to be more unhappy about their regrets because they have less time to rectify what they regret or it might be too late for them.  But just holding onto regrets just makes you feel increasingly unhappy, so it's important to learn to let go and move past your regrets.

Moving Past Your Regrets

What are Some of the Most Common Regrets?
While there are many different kinds of regrets, some of the most common regrets tend to involve:

Relationship issues:
  • Missing an opportunity to get to know someone who, in hindsight, turned out to be someone you would have wanted to know
  • Leaving a romantic relationship too quickly
  • Staying in a relationship too long
  • Neglecting your relationship
  • Contributing to the demise of a relationship due to infidelity
Family issues:
  • Being estranged from family members
  • Allowing arguments to fester and harden 
  • Refusing to accept an apology
  • Neglecting to spend enough time with family members
Career decisions:
  • Spending more time at work and missing out on family time
  • Working too much and missing out on having fun
  • Taking a job solely for the money where there is no job satisfaction
  • Quitting a job prematurely

Moving Past Your Regrets: Career and Financial Decisions

Financial issues:
A Life Without Substance or Meaning:
  • Neglecting to consider what's really meaningful to you (see my article: A Search for a Meaningful Life)
  • Focusing mostly on short-term pleasure rather than contributing to the well-being of your loved ones, your community and yourself

Moving Past Your Regrets:  Developing a Meaningful Life

See my article:  Listening to Your Inner Voice to Discover Your "Calling" in Life.

Health issues:
  • Neglecting and, possibly ruining, your health by not developing a health conscious lifestyle
  • Procrastinating about important health issues

How to Move Past Your Regrets When You Can Make Changes:  

Take Action
It's important to take action whether it's external or internal.

So, for instance, if you and a family member are estranged because you severed ties with him or her, assess the situation and consider whether you can take steps to make amends.

You might try sending a carefully written letter or email expressing your regret, owning up to your mistakes, and asking for a reconciliation.  Then, you need to honor his or her response, including a refusal to accept your apology or a lack of response (see my article:  When Your Efforts to Make Amends Are Rejected).

Moving Past Your Regrets:  Taking Action

Another example is that if you've gained a lot of weight and it's starting to affect your health, rather than berating yourself, see your doctor and find out what she or he recommends so you can start to take better care of yourself.  Set reasonable goals for yourself (see my article: Achieving Your Goals: Learn to Celebrate Small Successes Along the Way to the Final Goal).

If you've spent most of your life pursuing trendy lifestyle choices, take some time to think about what's really important to you in the long run.  If your life, so far, has left you feeling spiritually and emotionally bankrupt, spend time journaling about your core values and how you can live your life so you honor those values (see my article:  Journal Writing Can Help to Relieve Stress and Anxiety).

Accept What You Can't Change
Let's face it:  There will be areas of your life that you regret that you won't be able to change for a variety of reasons.

There are many people who reach the end of their lives and they regret decisions they've made that are too late to change.

As a psychotherapist, I've heard many stories of people who, at the end of their lives, were unable to reconcile with estranged siblings or children.  This is one of the biggest emotional challenges to face when you're close to death.  And for those of us who are younger and healthier, it's a lesson to be learned:  Don't wait until it's too late.

But even if you're not at the end of your life, there will be things that you can't change and which you'll have to accept.

Consider the Lessons You've Learned
If you can make changes and avoid making the same mistakes in the future, that's great.

But even if you can't change what you regret, you can let go of it and realize that you probably learned a valuable lesson that can help you in other areas of your life.

Stop Berating Yourself, Forgive Yourself, and Accept that You're Human
Continuing to beat yourself up for things you did or didn't do won't change anything.  It just makes you feel worse.

Moving Past Your Regrets:  Practice Self Compassion and Learn to Forgive Yourself
A healthy dose of self compassion can go a long way to helping you towards acceptance, letting go, and moving past your regrets.

Getting Help in Therapy
Regret is a common reaction that many people struggle with throughout their lives.

Many people have a very hard time letting go of regrets that continue to haunt them.

Getting Help in Therapy

A licensed mental health practitioner, who has expertise in helping people to let go of regrets, can help you to make peace with yourself so you can develop a healthier sense of well being.

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 let go of past regrets.

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, July 7, 2014

Expanding Your Horizons While Traveling

In a prior article, Learning About Yourself While Traveling, I wrote that traveling can reveal how you react to new people, situations, and foreign customs when you travel.   It can also reveal how you deal with travel-related stressors.  I talked about my own experiences while traveling in Costa Rica.  In this article about expanding your horizons while traveling, I'll discuss some of the other advantages of traveling, especially traveling abroad.

Expanding Your Horizons While Traveling

Getting Out of a Rut
The day-to-day routine can make life seem boring and uninspiring.

Traveling to another country gets you out of your daily routine and can put you into new and potentially exciting places.  When you get out of a rut, you're more likely to come up with new ways of looking at your life as well as life around you.  It can make you more creative.

Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
Staying in your comfort zone can make you feel safe, but it can also keep you stagnant (see my article: Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone).  When you travel, it's an opportunity to break out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to new and exciting ideas.

Expanding Your Horizons While Traveling:  Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone

Building Confidence and Enhancing Your Ability to Deal With Challenges
Travel often comes with its challenges, including making travel arrangements for unfamiliar places, navigating new territories, communicating in foreign languages, coping with delays, and so on.  When you're able to  successfully overcome these challenges, it helps to build confidence in other areas of your life.

Finding Inspiration
When you immerse yourself in another culture, you can observe how other people live and interact with each other, which is often different from your usual environment back home.

Expanding Your Horizons While Traveling: Finding Inspiration

When you have new experiences, it can inspire your imagination so you look at things in new ways.

Enhancing Your Social Skills
Even if you tend to be shy, when you travel you're placed in situations where you often must communicate with others.

Expanding Your Horizons While Traveling:  Enhancing Your Social Skills

If you usually feel awkward when you communicate in social situations, you might be surprised at how much confidence you develop after a while.

Having Fun While Traveling
When you open yourself up to new experiences while you're away, you also open yourself up to having fun (see my article: Being Open to New Experiences).

Having fun can help to improve your mood and reduce stress.

So, have fun and happy travels!

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:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happy Gay Pride!

Happy Gay Pride Day to all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People All Over the World

Happy Gay Pride

Happy Gay Pride

Happy Gay Pride

Happy Gay Pride

Psychotherapy Blog: Finding Moments of Joy While Coping with Trauma

Anyone who has ever dealt with emotional trauma, including posttraumatic stress disorder, knows how challenging it can be.  So, it might seem like I'm trivializing the anxiety and despair that many people feel when they're coping with trauma by suggesting that there can also be moments of joy along the way.  However, as a psychotherapist in NYC who specializes in working with trauma, I also know that finding moments of joy can help with the healing process.

Finding Moments of Joy While Coping with Trauma

What is Joy?
Joy is a state of being.

Joy can include feelings of great happiness, bliss, exhilaration, or pleasure.

What is Joy?
It can be evoked by beauty, feeling good about oneself, feelings of transcendence in art, music, poetry or spiritual practice.  It can also be evoked during play (see my article:  What is Happiness?).

Coping with Trauma:  From Emotional Numbing to Emotional Openness
These moments of joy often come after the person, who has been traumatized, begins to open up in the healing process.

It's not unusual for people coping with emotional trauma to shut down emotionally because the trauma was too overwhelming at the time.

In many cases, shutting down when the trauma occurred helped them to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed.

Coping with Trauma
But, unfortunately, shutting down not only protects them the uncomfortable feelings--it can also block feelings of happiness, joy, and love because they're emotionally "frozen" or numb to all emotions.

So, what was once, possibly, an emotional defense that helped is now a hindrance.

The initial stage of opening up, whether this occurs in therapy, meditation or in a yoga class, can feel unfamiliar and scary.

But most therapy clients that I have worked with also describe a feeling of relief that the emotions that were suppressed for so long can be released so they can start to feel more authentically like themselves (see my article: Reclaiming a Lost Part of Yourself).

When I work with clients who have been traumatized, I'm mindful that the therapy often needs to be titrated so it is emotionally manageable and it feels safe for clients, which is why, in many cases, I use a mind-body oriented therapy approach (see my article: Mind-Body Psychotherapy: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious).

Often, as clients begin to open up to their fear, sadness and anger, they also begin to notice that they're opening up to moments of joy, even very simple things, like noticing a beautiful flower or colorful bird flying overhead (see my article:  Small Wonders All Around Us If We Take the Time to Notice).

Finding Moments of Joy While Coping with Trauma

These sights might have been around them all along, but when they were emotionally numb, they probably didn't notice them.

Once they've started to open up, people coping with trauma often discover that these moments of joy can help to balance their emotional pain.

And, over time, rather than waiting to notice these moments, they seek them out and find ways to create them (see my article:  Recapturing a Sense of Aliveness).

The Way Out of Emotional Pain is Through It
As Mark Epstein mentions in his book, The Trauma of Everyday Life, the way out of emotional pain is through it.

We cannot avoid the emotional pain or trauma that is a part of life, but we can learn to work through it and find a sense of well being.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're suffering with emotional pain, you're not alone.

Getting Help in Therapy

You can get help with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in working with trauma so you can work through your trauma and experience a sense of emotional well being.

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

One of my specialities is helping clients to overcome trauma.

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, June 23, 2014

Nurturing Your Relationship

Being in a relationship can be one of the most loving, gratifying and fulfilling experiences of your life. It can also be challenging.  Every relationship has its ups and downs.  Whether you're going through a good time or a challenging time, it's important to remember that all relationships need nurturing.

Nurturing Your Relationship

Often, people who are in relationships, especially long term relationships, forget that their relationship needs love and care.  Nurturing each other can make the difference between a relationship surviving a rough patch or not.

Here are some tips for nurturing your relationship:

Communicate in a Tactful and Honest Way
In the heat of an argument, it's easy to forget to be tactful.  And, yet, you might regret something that you say that you can't take back once it's out.  Even if you need to take a break from a heated argument, it's important to treat your spouse with respect and care.
See my article: The Challenge of Keeping Small Arguments From Developing Into Big Conflicts in Your Relationship

Provide Each Other with Emotional Support
Listening with empathy can make all the difference even if you can't change whatever your spouse is going through.  You both need to be there for each other.

Show Compassion
During difficult times, your relationship can degenerate fast if you're each blaming each other for your problems.  Put yourself in your spouse's shoes and think about how you would want him or her to respond in a similar situation and then show the same compassion that you would want.
See my article: Relationships: Moving Beyond the Blame Game

Express Gratitude
It's easy to take each other for granted, especially in a long term relationship.  No one wants to feel taken for granted, so express your gratitude to your spouse for the things s/he does or says
See my article:  Relationships: The Importance of Expressing Gratitude to Your Spouse

Persevere Through Difficult Times
Along with providing each other with emotional support, it's important that you both remain committed to each other when things start to get rough.  Of course, this doesn't mean that you should put up with abusive behavior.  But, under normal circumstances, when life presents challenges in your relationship, your attitude to see it through together is important.

Admit When You're Wrong
If you realize that you've made a mistake, it's important to admit it, make amends and move on.  Holding onto an attitude of "I'm right" when you know you made a mistake will only make matters worse
See my article:  Relationships: The Courage to Admit You're Wrong

Have a Sense of Humor
In many situations, seeing the funny side of a situation can help lighten the mood and help you and your spouse to deal with a difficult situation.

Share Common Goals
One of the signs of a happy, healthy relationship is that both people share certain common goals.  This helps to make your relationship more meaningful.

Create Special Times Together
It's very easy to get bogged down with responsibilities and family obligations, but you and your spouse need to have time together for just the two of you.
See my article:  Creating Special Times Together to Enhance Your Relationship

Nurturing Your Relationship:  Creating Special Times Together

Be Open to New Shared Experiences
It's easy to get into a rut in a long term relationship, so being open to new shared experiences can keep your relationship alive and fun.
See my article:  Being Open to New Experiences

Getting Help in Therapy
There are times when couples go through tough times when they're unable to work things out for themselves.  During those times, it can be helpful to seek help from a licensed mental health professional who has experience helping couples to work through their problems.

When you seek help, you're acknowledging to each other that your relationship is important enough to make the commitment to attending couples counseling.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals 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, June 16, 2014

Having Compassion for the Child That You Were

In a prior article, Psychotherapy and Compassionate Self Acceptance, I discussed some of the challenges that people often face when they start therapy.  In this article, I'm focusing on having compassion for yourself for who you were as a child.

Many people come to therapy feeling ashamed of their problems, even when those problems started when they were children.   Rather than having compassion for what happened to them as children, they have a chronic sense of shame and harsh self judgment.  Often, they believe that whatever happened to them was their fault.

Having Compassion for the Child That You Were

Shame and Self Criticism Often Develops in Childhood
Young children are naturally egocentric, and these feelings of shame and self judgment often develop during childhood and continue into adulthood.

Having Compassion for the Child That You Were: Self Criticism and Shame Often Start in Childhood

As a therapist, when I ask adult clients who feel this way about themselves if they would be as judgmental about a close friend who was struggling with the same issue, they usually say they would not.  Instead of being judgmental, they often say they would feel compassion and would try to help their friend to be more self compassionate.

And yet these clients are often unable to muster the same compassion for themselves.  They're stuck in chronic shame and self criticism.

Often, when I'm working with a client who is feeling such chronic shame that originated in childhood, I help him or her to remember and feel again what it was like to be that young child.

Usually, when a client is able to experience those feelings of sadness, disappointment and anger, as he or she felt those emotions as a child, an emotional shift takes place.  Instead of being ashamed and judgmental, the client feels a certain tenderness for the child self.

The following scenario, which is a composite of many cases with all identifying information changed, illustrates how this emotional shift can take place:

Mike came to therapy because he was struggling with crippling shame and self judgment.

To hide his negative feelings about himself from others, he put up a good front.  But putting up this front often left him feeling exhausted and disingenuous.  It also felt it was getting harder to do over time.

As he described his problems, I could feel that Mike was "reporting" his history without emotion as opposed to feeling it.  He recounted one childhood trauma after another, which included physical abuse from an alcoholic father and neglect from a mother who was emotionally disengaged.

Over and over again, Mike blamed himself for not being able to overcome his problems on his own, saying, "I should be able to get over this on my own" and "I'm just too weak to be able to handle my problems."

Gradually, as we worked together in therapy, Mike realized that his negative feelings about himself originated when he was a child.  Many of the negative things he said about himself now were said to him by his father when he was a child.  Without realizing it, Mike had taken on these critical feelings about himself, which made him feel ashamed.

Before we processed the early trauma, I helped Mike to develop the emotional resources that he needed to deal with his traumatic feelings.

After he developed these resources, I helped Mike to slow down and, instead of just "reporting" what happened, to feel what it was like as a child to experience the abuse and emotional neglect.  At that point, Mike was able to say and feel how disappointed and sad he felt that his parents were unable to give him what he needed as a child.

When he was able to experience himself as a child, he was no longer dissociated from his emotions, and he developed a sense of compassion for himself.  This was the beginning of a healing process for Mike.

From there, we went on to work through the trauma in therapy so that he could let go of the shame and harsh self judgment.

Getting Help in Therapy
Developing a sense of compassion for yourself can be challenging, especially if you developed a harsh, judgmental attitude towards yourself and you feel ashamed.

Having Compassion for the Child That You Were

Rather than suffering alone, you can get help in therapy with a licensed therapist who has experience in helping clients to overcome this problem.

Developing a sense of compassion for yourself can help you to lead a happier, more fulfilling life.

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:

Also, see my article:
Healing Shame in Therapy