Translate

There was an error in this gadget
power by WikipediaMindmap

Share It

Monday, January 26, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: Allowing Room for Grief

Experiencing grief, especially when it involves the loss of someone close to you, can be very painful.

For many people, the emotional pain of grief can be so painful that they try to push away or push down their feelings to avoid feeling the sadness and loss.

Allowing Room for Grief:  Some People Try to Push Away Their Feelings
While it's understandable that people who are going through grief might be tempted to deny or push away their feelings, it's important to make room for grief so, eventually, these painful feelings can be worked through.

Pushing Away Grief

People often try to avoid or distract themselves from feeling grief by:
  • denying to themselves and others that they feel sad
  • zoning out in front of the TV
  • binge watching videos
  • playing video games for hours
  • surfing the Internet for long periods of time
  • drinking excessively
  • abusing drugs
  • engaging in compulsive gambling (see my article:  Overcoming Grief Gambling)
  • engaging in compulsive sexual activities
  • overeating
  • overworking
  • engaging in sexual affairs
and so on.

What Are the Possible Negative Consequences of Not Making Room for Grief?
When you try to avoid feeling grief, not only are you shutting yourself off to painful emotions--you're also shutting down to positive feelings.

Allowing Room for Grief

Whether you're numbing yourself by denying your feelings or distracting yourself in any one of a myriad ways, you're also numbing yourself to all of your other feelings.  

After a while, emotional numbing can make you feel out of touch with yourself as well as your loved ones.  You can start to feel that you're just "going through the motions" in life rather than living your life in a meaningful way.

Making Room for Grief
"The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen:  room for grief, for relief, for  misery, for joy."
 Pema Chodron

No one wants to feel sad and upset all of the time, but it's important to make time, when you're ready, to feel your feelings, whether you do this on your own, with a trusted friend or in therapy.

Allowing Room for Grief:  Take Time and Space to Connect With Your Feelings

Here are some suggestions for how you can do this during quiet times when you have privacy (you can consider as to whether they would work for you or not):
  • looking at pictures of your loved one
  • taking time and space to connect with your feelings
  • remembering good times together
  • writing down your feelings in a journal
  • engaging in creative arts related to your loved one (drawing, making collages, etc)
  • revisiting places that were important to the two of you
  • listening to music that brings back happy memories
  • meditating on your feelings about your loved one
  • attending or creating a spiritual ritual that is meaningful to you
  • hearing positive stories about your loved one from family members or friends
and so on.

Grieving is an Individual Experience
No two people grieve in the same way.  It's a very individual experience.

In our society, we tend to rush people to "move on" before they're ready.  Not only is this unhelpful, it can also make the person who is grieving feel ashamed, as if he or she is abnormal in some way.

Although people close to you might have good intentions, don't let anyone tell you that you should be "over it" already.

Allowing Room for Grief

There's a difference between avoiding grief and taking the time that you need to deal with your grief.  So, even though I've provided some suggestions above about what many people find helpful, if you're not ready to look at pictures, listen to music that was meaningful to the two of you or engage in any of the activities mentioned above, trust your intuition about this.

At the same time, it's important to be honest with yourself.

So, for instance, if years have passed since your loved one has died and you're still holding onto his or her clothes or keeping a room as a "shrine" to your loved one, as painful as it might be, you need to ask yourself if you're refusing to let go of your grief.

Letting go of grief doesn't mean that you don't care about your loved one.  It means that you're accepting the loss and, hopefully, finding other meaningful ways to integrate this experience into your life.

Allowing Room for Grief:  Finding Meaningful Ways to Integrate the Experience

Many people discover that when they've gone through the hardest part of their grief and they're willing to be open to what comes next, they realize that they still feel a deep and loving connection to their loved one that allows them feel close to him or her.

Getting Help in Therapy
Many people find that their grief is too overwhelming to deal with on their own or they feel stuck in the grieving process.

If you're struggling with your feelings of grief on your own, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who has expertise in helping clients with bereavement issues.

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

Helping clients to deal with grief is one of my specialties.

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

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

Also see my article:
Grief in Waiting
Inconsolable Grief After a Mother's Death



















Monday, January 19, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: How to Stop Pretending to Feel Happy When You Don't

Many people feel that they have to pretend to feel happy when they don't.  I think this is due, in part, to feelings in our Western society that people should always feel happy and if they don't, they should "bootstrap" themselves out of their problems.  And, if they can't, the belief is that somehow it's their fault.

How to Stop Pretending to Feel Happy When You Don't

No wonder people who are unhappy often feel guilty and ashamed about their unhappiness.

Family history often plays an important part in why people feel the need to pretend to be happy, as I'll illustrate in the composite vignette later on in this article.

What Happens When You Pretend to Feel Happy When You're Not?
Pretending to feel happy is an emotional strain because it takes a lot of energy to act happy, especially  when you're feeling miserable inside.

The emotional strain can also affect not just your mental health, but also your physical health, for instance:  elevating blood pressure, affecting your immune system, causing headaches and other aches and pains, and so on.

It also makes you even more aware of the incongruity between what you're trying to project on the outside and how you really feel on the inside.

How to Stop Pretending to Feel Happy When You Don't

Pretending to feel happy when you don't can also make you feel inauthentic and other people might sense this lack of authenticity.

I'm not suggesting that people who are unhappy should bare their souls to strangers or reveal very personal details about their lives to coworkers.  That would be the other extreme, which also doesn't work.

Instead, I'm suggesting being true to yourself and striking a balance in your interactions with others--neither pretending to be overly happy nor spilling your feelings inappropriately to people you're not close to--as an alternative to feeling like you have to put on an act.

Even worse is feeling the need to put on an act with people who are close to you.

Anyone who is truly close to you and knows you well will sense that something is wrong, even when you deny it.

You might feel like you're trying to spare your loved one an emotional burden, but it usually works the other way:  You cause them even more stress and worry because they know something is wrong, but you're not saying what it is.

The following composite vignette, with all identifying information changed to protect confidentiality, is an example of the problems of trying to hide your unhappiness from a loved one and how to overcome this problem:

Ted:
Ted and Mary were married for 10 years.  They had two sons, ages 8 and 6.

When they first got married, Ted was thrilled to be starting a new life with Mary.  He was also starting a new career.  During that period of their lives, Ted woke up feeling enthusiastic and looking forward to the day.

But during the last year or so, Ted felt like he was in a rut.  He loved Mary and their children, but he felt that their lives had become too routine and he felt bored.  He also felt like he needed a career change, but he wasn't sure what he wanted to do.

Over the last several months, Mary had begun to sense that something was wrong.  Whenever she asked Ted if he was unhappy, he would laugh it off and tell her nothing was wrong.  He didn't want to worry her.

Then, he would become more animated and tease the children, but Mary wasn't convinced that something wasn't bothering Ted (see my article:  Improving Communication in Your Relationship).

By the time Ted came to therapy, at Mary's insistence, he was really feeling miserable.  He could barely pretend to be happy, and he felt even more miserable that he couldn't hide his unhappiness.  He felt like a "failure."

How to Stop Pretending to Feel Happy When You Don't:  "Ted"

During the initial consultation, Ted revealed how ashamed he felt that he wasn't feeling happy.  He felt that, somehow, it was his fault.

After all, from his point of view, there wasn't any reason not to feel happy, and there were people in the world who had a lot less than he did.  He felt "unjustified" in feeling unhappy.

As Ted talked about his family history, he revealed a stable family where there was no physical abuse or substance abuse.  But, as he discussed his father, the roots of his problem started to become evident (see my article:  Looking Back on Your Relationship With Your Dad Now That You're a Father).

Ted spoke glowingly about his father, Jim, who had overcome many obstacles to become a successful businessman.

Jim grew up in a poor family where there was barely enough for the family to eat.  Neither of his parents graduated high school because they each had to go to work at an early age to help support their families.

Both of Jim's parents worked and Jim was also expected to maintain a job while he was in high school. As the oldest, he was also expected to help out with his younger siblings, so he had a lot of responsibility at a young age.

Not only did Jim do everything that his parents expected of him, but he also excelled in school and in sports.  He graduated at the top of his class in college, and he went on to get married and develop a successful career.

When Ted was growing up, he saw his father as "a dynamo," and Ted wanted to be just like his father.

Jim believed in "the power of positive thinking," and he told Ted and his siblings that "complaining was for sissies."  He expected them to meet whatever challenges that they had by meeting them head on without complaining, and Ted's mother went along with this.

As a Child, "Ted" Looked Up to His Father 

Both parents felt that they had each individually overcome personal obstacles in their early lives and there was no reason why their children shouldn't do the same.

As a result, even as a child, whenever Ted felt unhappy or anxious, he felt like it was his fault, and he was being "weak."  So he kept his feelings to himself.   He didn't want to disappoint or burden his father (see my article:  How Our Expectations and Beliefs Affect Us).

It seems that, at times, he even tried to hide his unhappiness and anxiety from himself because he felt so guilty and ashamed.

When Ted and Mary first got married, he felt genuinely happy.  But as time went on, he felt burdened by all the responsibilities that he had at home and at work, and he felt like he needed a change in his life.

It was clear that keeping this all to himself was also a huge emotional strain on him.  He also felt like the more he tried to pretend that he was happy, the less happy and the more "fake" he felt.

How to Stop Pretending to Feel Happy When You Don't

Admitting these feelings in therapy was also hard for Ted because he felt so deeply ashamed.

Even though his father had died several years ago, these feelings were so deeply ingrained in him that Ted felt like he was letting his father down and he was being "a sissy."

The only reason that Ted came to therapy was because Mary was worried about him and she insisted that, if he wasn't going to tell her what was wrong, at least, he could speak with a licensed mental health professional.  So, he came to therapy reluctantly.

Over time, we worked together in therapy to help Ted develop a sense of compassionate self acceptance, starting with his younger self (see my article:  Psychotherapy and Compassionate Self Acceptance).

Initially, he had problems feeling compassion for himself.  But when he thought about his own young sons and what he wanted for them, he was able to see how young he was as a child and how much was expected of him that wasn't reasonable.

He realized that, as a child, he carried a heavy emotional burden in order to please his father.

Ted knew he didn't want this for his own children, and when he saw his problem through that lens, he began to develop more compassion for himself.

Using a mind-body oriented approach, Ted used his imagination to develop a sense of what he needed as a child and, as an extension, what he needed now.

He wished that he could have had a more compassionate father who would have listened to him when he felt sad or anxious.

When he imagined what a compassionate father might be like, he came up with a detailed description of an ideal father and how that father would have been more nurturing towards him.

More importantly, he allowed himself to sense this on an emotional and physical level until it felt real.

Ted was surprised that his imagined ideal father could feel so real to him and that he could feel so taken care of by this ideal father.

So, I explained to him that when you imagine an ideal parent with such detail using a mind-body approach in therapy (like EMDR, Somatic Experiencing or clinical hypnosis), your emotional brain doesn't know the difference and feels like it is real.

Of course, the logical part of the brain knows that this imagined ideal parent wasn't the actual parent.  But most people still feel soothed by what they experience in the emotional part of their brain.  They can also use this experience as an internal emotional resource because there are ways using mind-body oriented therapy to "anchor" the experience in the body so it remains available.

By that time, Ted and I had developed a good therapeutic relationship and, together with the internal resources that he developed in therapy, he was beginning to feel better about himself.

"Ted" Learned to Communicate With His Wife  

Ted also learned how to communicate his feelings to his wife, Mary, so they could begin making plans for changes in their lives (see my article:  Learning to Communicate in a Healthy Way).

All of this helped Ted to feel more authentic and gave him a his sense of well being.

Getting Help in Therapy
The dynamic that I described in the composite scenario about "Ted" is a common problem for many people, so if you're experiencing this, you're not alone.

Pretending to feel happy when you don't, especially when you're pretending to your loved ones or to yourself, usually only makes you feel more unhappy and has a negative impact on your loved ones.

You might not be aware of the powerful underlying emotional issues, but a licensed mental health professional who has expertise in this area can help you to overcome these problems so you can feel more authentic (see my article:  How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Rather than hiding your feelings, you can start to take action to feel better.

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, January 12, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: How Unrealistic Expectations to Always "Feel Good" Contribute to Depression

Depression is one of the most common problems that bring people into therapy.  Despite all the new antidepressant medications, which were touted to be "the answer" to the problem, depression continues to rise in the US.

How Unrealistic Expectations to Always "Feel Good" Contribute to Depression

Depression manifests in variety of ways for different people on a spectrum from "low mood" to full blown major depressive disorder that can be incapacitating for people suffering with it.

As I discussed in a previous article, people who feel depressed often blame themselves for feeling low (see my article:  Overcoming Guilt and Shame About Feeling Depressed).  This is due, in part, to a societal distortion of thinking that we "should" feel happy all or most of the time and if we're not feeling happy, it must be our fault.  Needless to say, for people who are feeling depressed, this adds to their emotional burden.

I think there are many reasons, too many to enumerate here, for the increase in depression, including an increase in loneliness, social isolation and an overall decrease in life satisfaction.

An Increase in Social Isolation and Loneliness Contributes to Depression

Connecting with other people in a meaningful way after college is more difficult now, it seems to me, than ever before.  After college, making friends and finding a romantic partner can be a daunting process these days.

While it's true that you can "meet" many more people online than you ever could in person, for most people, there's something awkward and emotionally disconnected about "meeting" people online.  That being said, I also know many people who met their spouses online.

The Pursuit of Happiness and Having "More"
Although I think there are many contributing factors to the increase in depression, I'd like to focus on one that seems pervasive in our society--the expectation that all of us "should" be "feeling good" all the time, and if we don't, there's something wrong.

How the Continual Pursuit of Happiness and Having "More" Can Increase Depression

The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental part of our society in the US and in other parts of the world.  There are more self help books, motivational workshops and online courses about "feeling good" and becoming happy than ever before.  It's a booming business because of how increasingly dissatisfied and unhappy people are feeling.

This focus on happiness and "feeling good" all the time comes at a time when we're telling children that they can "be whatever they want to be" regardless of their circumstances, their effort, their talent or aptitude. It's made to so sound easy and there is no end to the success stories that are used to show children that "anything is possible."

While these strategies are meant to be motivational, it often becomes discouraging when children grow up to be adults who thought it would be easy and then realize that it actually takes, at the very least, hard work, perseverance, preparation and skills as well as some luck to succeed.

So, what happens when expectations to always "feel good" meet with a very different reality?  For many people, who hold onto this expectation, it often means that they push themselves even harder to pursue their idea of happiness without really contemplating what they're pursuing and if it will really make them happy.

For Many People the Pursuit of Happiness Often Means the Pursuit of Money

The pursuit will often involve an acquisitiveness of wanting "more"--more money, more possessions, more prestige, more "likes" on their Facebook page, and so on.  This can become a mindless, vicious cycle where, even when someone gets "more," it feels empty and increases the drive to seek "more" of whatever it is he or she is pursuing (see my article:  Is That All There Is? When "Having It All" Leaves You Feeling Empty).

Contemplating What is Meaningful
For many people, this can lead to depression because this pursuit for "feeling good" and having "more" is endless.  For those who are able to stop and reassess their lives, they have an opportunity to reflect on what's really meaningful and question whether they've been running on an endlessly turning wheel and going nowhere (see my article: A Search For a Meaningful Life).

Unfortunately, many people never get to this stage and remain on the wheel.  The faster they run, the more happiness eludes them.

For other people, symptoms of depression, which can stop them in their tracks, brings them to therapy and to reassess their lives, their expectations and what's really meaningful to them.

Contemplating What is Meaningful
If they stick with it and therapy goes well, they develop an understanding that they're not always going to feel happy, "feeling low" at certain times in life is common and it doesn't necessarily mean that something is wrong with them.

Therapy can help with an exploration of what might be unrealistic expectations as well as what's truly meaningful in life which, in the long run, is more significant than focusing on being happy all the time and having "more."

Therapy can also help you to be grateful for what you have.

Discovering what is meaningful in your life is often neither quick nor easy, but it can be the most worthwhile pursuit of your life.

In a future article, I'll continue to explore this topic and give a composite scenario to illustrate some of the points that I've discussed here.

Getting Help in Therapy
People don't often stop in their daily lives for self exploration and to consider what's meaningful.

Among its many benefits, psychotherapy provides you with an opportunity to stop doing what's not working for you, explore what's meaningful, and develop the skills and capacity to create a more meaningful life.

Getting Help in Therapy

If you're feeling lost or dissatisfied with your life, you could benefit from seeing a psychotherapist who can help you to discover what's meaningful to you so you can have a 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.




















Saturday, January 3, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR, Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs

In an earlier article, Self Blame and the Internal Critic, I began a discussion about how people often experience self blame.  In this article, I will discuss self blame, the need to feel in control and how experiential therapy, like EMDR, helps to achieve emotional breakthroughs.

The Connection Between Self Blame and the Illusion of Control

Self blame can come in many forms, including a general feeling of "I'm wrong" or "I can't do anything right."

Self blame can also relate to a specific misfortune or trauma in one's life, including loss.

For people who are stuck and mired in self blame related to a traumatic incident, the feelings of self blame often give them the sense that they could have controlled some aspect of the traumatic event when it occurred and that this would have brought about a different outcome.

In most cases, this is an illusion and keeps people stuck emotionally at the point where the trauma incident occurred.

The following scenario is a composite of many different cases to protect confidentiality:

Rena
Rena came to therapy because she blamed herself for the death of her husband, who died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center.

Several years had passed since the tragic event and every day Rena thought about how she could have prevented her husband from dying that day if only she had insisted that he stay home from work because he wasn't feeling well.

She replayed the last moments in her mind over and over again--when she saw her husband as he was standing in their bedroom trying to decide whether to go to work or stay home.

He was sneezing and coughing, and she thought about telling him to stay home but, for some reason which she could never figure out, she didn't say it.  Instead, she told him to come home early if he felt worse and, with that, he kissed her, walked out the door, and she never saw him again.

Rena had attended cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) a few months after her husband died and, because of that therapy, she realized that she wasn't really to blame.  But her realization was very much on an intellectual level and it didn't help to dispel the grief and guilt that she felt.

Deep down on an emotional level, she still felt that if only she had insisted that her husband stay home, he would be alive today.  Even though she knew logically that this made no sense, on an emotional level, she carried this heavy burden.

The weight of her grief and guilt was such that all she could do was go to work, come home and sleep.  She no longer saw her friends or engaged in activities that she used to enjoy.

Since Rena's prior therapy only helped her in a limited way, she wanted to try a different type of therapy.

So, when her friend told her that she was able to resolve a personal trauma with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR), Rena read up on EMDR and decided that she wanted to try this experiential form of mind-body oriented therapy (see my article:  What is EMDR?).

Rena wanted to work on the memory that she replayed in her mind over and over since 9/11.

After getting Rena's personal history and helping Rena to develop coping skills to work on the trauma, which took several sessions, we began to process the trauma.

The Connection Between Self Blame and the Illusion of Control

When I asked Rena to think about an image that represented the worst part of that memory, she told me that in her mind's eye, she saw her husband standing in their bedroom as he was weighing whether or not to go to work and she was standing nearby, concerned, but silent.

Just saying these words caused Rena a great deal of pain and she sobbed.  After a few moments, she stopped crying and she was able to identify where in her body she felt the grief and guilt--in her chest and throat.

Identifying feelings in the body is an important difference between experiential therapies (like EMDR) and CBT, which tends to stay on the cognitive level.

Then, in keeping with the EMDR process, I asked her what words would best describe how she feels about herself now with regard to that memory, and she said, "I should have made him stay home so he would be alive now."

In terms of how disturbing this memory was for her on a scale of 0-10 (where 0 equals no disturbance and 10 equals the most painful disturbance imaginable), Rena said it felt like a 10.

Then, I asked Rena what words best describe how she would like to feel about herself in relation to that memory, and she said she wanted to feel, "I did the best that I could."

At that point in EMDR therapy, Rena didn't feel this way about herself at all.

Before we started processing this traumatic memory, I reminded Rena that if at any time she felt she was too upset to continue, she could signal me and we could stop for a few minutes or stop altogether for the rest of the session.  It was important for her to know that she was in charge.

Although Rena experienced waves of sorrow during the EMDR processing, she did not want to stop because she felt that something was shifting inside of her, but she wasn't sure what it was yet.

This sense of internal shifting is a common experience for clients who are in EMDR therapy.

We continued to work on this memory for several more weeks.

At the end of each session, we talked about the session, and Rena continued to say that she felt something, which was unidentifiable to her, that was shifting internally.  At that point, it was still hard for her to imagine that she could ever let go of her guilt and sadness for not stopping her husband from going to work on 9/11.

Then, a few weeks later, Rena had an emotional breakthrough.

Until then, as I mentioned earlier, her understanding that her husband's death was not her fault was only a logical construct in her mind--she didn't feel it emotionally, and she continued to carry this contradiction within herself.

But on that day, as she sensed into her body to feel what emotions came up for her about the memory, she realized that she wasn't feeling self blame.  She was sad that her husband died, but she didn't feel responsible for his death.

At first, she could hardly believe that there had been this internal shift within her.

Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR, Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs

Instead of feeling self blame, she felt a deep sense of knowing that she couldn't have altered the chain of events.  She felt deeply that she wasn't to blame.  She knew deep down that no matter what she would have said, based on how her husband reacted in similar situations prior to that day, he still would have gone to work.  So, she couldn't have controlled the situation--and now she knew this on a an emotional level.

Afterwards, when we talked about this, Rena said that her sense of knowing that she wasn't to blame was different this time from how she had felt before.  She said that this time she felt it in her gut and in her heart.

She knew on a deep level that the idea that she could have changed the course of events was an illusion that she had been hanging onto.

As we continued to work together, what surfaced was that Rena's illusion that she could have changed the course of events at that pivotal point (when he was standing in the bedroom trying to decide what to do) served to keep her feeling emotionally attached to her husband--to that last time that she saw him.

This is why, prior to her emotional breakthrough, thinking about that moment over and over again was so powerful for her.

This emotional breakthrough for Rena helped her to release her grief, which had been pent up in her for several years.  It also allowed her to deal with other emotions that had been covered over by her feelings of self blame.

Over time, we continued to work on other emotional issues that arose about her husband's death, including her feelings of abandonment.  Even though she knew logically that her husband didn't choose to leave her, she experienced this common reaction that people often have when loved ones die.

Along the way, Rena learned other ways to have an internal experience of closeness for her husband without having to remain stuck in the traumatic memory.

Being able to feel the release of grief helped her to start putting her life back together again.  Gradually, she began to see friends again and she took up hobbies that she had neglected since her husband's death.

CBT as a Counteractive Therapy vs EMDR as Experiential Therapy
Each client is different and there's usually no way to know in advance what will be emotionally transformative for a particular client.

I do use CBT for some clients under some circumstances, but my experience as a psychotherapist who specializes in working with trauma, has been that, although CBT can be useful to a certain extent, it often offers limited help, particularly in situations described in the scenario about "Rena."

Of course, it's important for clients to understand on a cognitive level that they're not to blame for traumatic incidents that they could not have controlled.  But, as in the case with Rena, this kind of cognitive understanding is limited and clients will often say, "I know logically that I wasn't to blame, but I still feel on an emotional level that it was my fault."

It's important that clients understand that feeling this contradiction isn't at all unusual when it comes to trauma.

The problem with CBT in these instances is that it is a top-down approach that acts only as a counteractive force to the negative feelings that clients feel about themselves, which often keeps the internal conflict of what they know vs. what they feel in place for clients.

It provides the client with an alternative to how they're thinking, which is good, but it often doesn't change the feelings where they reside, which is deep in the limbic part of the brain.

Experiential Mind-Body Oriented Therapy Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs

Experiential therapies, which use a bottom-up approach that involves the mind-body connection, like EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis and other types of experiential therapies, go to that deeper level and help to make the emotional shift that leads to emotional breakthroughs.

Skilled EMDR therapists also know how to work in a way where clients feel emotionally safe, which is important for clients who have experienced trauma.

I'll discuss this topic further in a future article.

Getting Help
Many people live their whole lives blaming themselves for traumatic events that they could not have changed.  They live with the illusion that they could have controlled events, and this serves to keep them stuck in the memory.

Getting Help in Therapy

For people who are stuck in this way, on an emotional level, it's as if there is no difference between "then," when the event occurred vs "now," their current life (see my article:  Overcoming Trauma With EMDR: When the Past is in the Present).

If this resonates with you, you owe it to yourself to get help from a licensed mental health professional who has expertise in one of the experiential types of therapy, like EMDR, Somatic Experiencing and clinical hypnosis, among others.

Once you're no longer living as if you're still in that traumatic memory, you will be free to live a 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.























































Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Making and Keeping New Year's Resolutions

As a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in NYC, this is the time of year when I see new clients coming into treatment because they've decided to make important changes in their lives. This is the time of year when many of us take stock, think about our lives, and make New Year's resolutions about the things that we want to change about ourselves. 


Making and Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Clinical hypnosis (also known as hypnotherapy) is a safe and effective way to change old habits and create new and positive changes. Whether you want to develop better communication skills in your relationship, change old eating habits, stop smoking, or create an overall healthier lifestyle, clinical hypnosis has helped thousands of people to overcome obstacles that were keeping them from making those changes on their own.

At the beginning of the New Year when people make their New Year's resolutions, many people start with enthusiasm, motivation and determination to make the changes that they want to see in their lives. However, after a month or two, many of those same people get frustrated and discouraged when they don't see the changes happening fast enough, and they abandon their efforts. When you work with a licensed mental health professional who has advanced training in clinical hypnosis, you're able to work more deeply on the unconscious issues that keep you from making the changes that you want to make. It's not as much of a struggle as when you try to do it on your own.

If you, like many others, are at the point when you've made your New Year's resolutions and you feel determined to make those changes, here are some tips that might be helpful:

Recognize that Change is a Process:
Since change is a process that happens over time, and usually not a one-time event, recognize that making changes, especially if you're trying to do it on your own, might take longer than you think.

Focus on Changing Your Behavior:
Instead of focusing on specific results (e.g., wanting to lose a specific amount of weight by a specific date), focus on changing your behavior. So, for instance, instead of saying, "I want to lose 15 lbs. by March 1st," focus on eating healthier and more nutritious meals. When you focus on healthier eating habits, your goal will be a broader change that will be longer lasting, more holistic and more effective than planning for particular weight loss. You're also more likely to keep off any weight that you've lost when you have a broader goal.

Choose Only One or Two Changes at a Time:
If you overwhelm yourself with too many New Year's resolutions at a time, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. Choosing one or two behaviors that you would like to change is more likely to be effective. As you see positive changes in those one or two areas that you want to change, you'll feel more confident about yourself. Then, after you've consolidated your gains in these areas, you can consider other areas that you'd like to change.

Decide What You'd Like to Add to Your Life As Well:
When you decide to make a change in yourself, decide what you'd like to add to your life as well. So, for instance, if you want to stop smoking and you know that you tend to smoke when you get anxious, think about what pleasant activities you can substitute for your old smoking habit when you feel triggered by anxiety. Attending a yoga class, going to the gym, talking to a friend, learning to meditate, or some other healthy activity that you would enjoy, might be among the activities that you choose to add to your life. So, it's not just about "giving up smoking." The overall goal is to lead a healthier life, you're learning new coping skills for when you get anxious, and you're also adding healthy activities to create greater happiness in your life.

Recognize that You Might Slip Back into Old Behaviors:
This gets back to the idea that change is a process. So, it's better not to engage in all-or-nothing thinking when you're trying to make changes in your life. Recognize that you might slip back into the old behaviors that you're trying to change. Plan for these slips so that you're prepared if and when they occur. For many people, this is the time when they become frustrated and they give up on their New Year's resolutions. So, rather than berating yourself and giving up, acknowledge that you're human, you had a slip, recommit to your goal and move on.

Consider Clinical Hypnosis:
If you've tried all of the above suggestions and you find that you're still struggling to keep those New Year's resolutions that are so important to you, you might want to consider attending clinical hypnosis sessions with a licensed mental health professional who has advanced training in hypnotherapy.

Remember, there's a big difference between a lay "hypnotist" and a licensed mental health professional who is a hypnotherapist. While the "hypnotist" might know some hypnotic techniques, the licensed mental health professional who is a hypnotherapist has advanced therapeutic training and is recognized as a licensed professional in your State.

I am a licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in NYC. I have helped many clients to make positive changes so they can lead more fulfilling lives.

I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year.

To find out more about clinical hypnosis, visit the website for the professional clinical hypnosis society, ASCH: http://www.ASCH.net.

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.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: An Inspiring and Uplifting Film: "Nicky's Family"

I recently watched the movie, Nicky's Family, for the second time within the last year, and I enjoyed it even more the second time than the first.

Czechoslovakia:  The Country Where Over 660 Children Were Saved by Nicholas Winton

In case you haven't seen this wonderful documentary yet, I highly recommend that you see it (it's now available on Netflix and Amazon), especially if  you like inspiring and uplifting movies.

"Nicky's Family" is a documentary by Natej Minac about Nicholas Winton, currently 104 years old, who saved the lives of over 660 Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia by arranging to transport them from their country to loving homes in England.

This was an immense undertaking during that time, before there were computers and before the Internet.

He met with the parents, who made the tremendous sacrifice of giving up their children, realizing that, in all likelihood, they would never see them again.  But these parents also knew that allowing Nicholas Winton to find their children new homes in England was the only way that their children would survive.

It's hard to imagine how devastatingly painful it must have been for the parents of these children to let them go--to say nothing of how frightening it had to be for these children to be transported by train to a country completely unknown to them.

These children, who now have grandchildren, would have certainly been killed in Nazi concentration camps during World War II if it were not for the dedicated work of Nicholas Winton, who worked against formidable odds to save their lives.

After the war, Mr. Winton (now Sir Winton) modestly kept quiet about his work--until his wife discovered the book that he kept with all of the names, pictures and records of the British adoptions for these children.

In 1988, he was honored on the BBC show, "That's Life," where he got to meet the people that he saved in the audience.  This is one of many poignant moments in the film.  And his modesty, so emblematic of people in the 1940s, is deeply moving and refreshing.

The documentary is narrated by Canadian journalist, Joe Schlesinger, who was also one of the children that was saved by Nicholas Winton.

A Child Today in the Czech Republic

Not only do we hear the personal stories of their lives from these individuals who were saved, we also get to meet their children and grandchildren, many of whom, inspired by Winton, have gone on to do their own devoted work for children all around the world.

We hear the word "hero" a lot these days.  Nicholas Winton is a hero in every sense of the word and deserves the recognition that he is finally getting after so many years.

This is a heart-warming true story that will lift your spirits.

About Me
I am a 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.
















Friday, December 26, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Asking For What You Need in Therapy

Many clients who are in therapy have difficulty asking for what they need from their therapists.  This is especially true for clients who have a history of being physically or emotionally abused.  Often, because of the abuse, they're out of tune with their needs and, as a result, they might not know what they need.

Asking For What You Need in Therapy
Even the most empathically-attuned psychotherapist might miss the fact that s/he isn't working in a way that meets the client's needs, which is why it's so important that, every so often, the therapist and client reevaluate their work together.

Usually, this discussion is initiated by the therapist, but a client, who feels s/he isn't getting what s/he needs, can also initiate this conversation.

Here are some tips that may be helpful in getting what you need in therapy:

Tips on How to Get What You Need in Your Therapy:
  • If your therapist doesn't take time periodically to review the work you're doing together, you can take time to reflect on your own how you're feeling about your therapist and your work and then tell your therapist that you would like to talk about this.  Most therapists will be open to this.
  • Don't assume that if your needs aren't being met that it's your fault.  This is an assumption that many clients, who have been abused, make in their therapy.
  • If you're unclear about the way your therapist is working, ask about it.  Your therapist should be able to give you an explanation in simple terms that you can understand.
  • If you feel the work is going too fast and you're having difficulty coping between sessions, talk to your therapist about this so the two of you can come up with ways that you can cope better between sessions.  It might also mean that you spend more time processing what's going on between you.
  • If you feel the work is going too slow, tell your therapist about this.  S/he will can explain the way the two of you are working together and, if needed, might make changes in the work.  Also, this can help to clarify whatever beliefs or misconceptions that either of you might have about the work.
  • If you feel you and your therapist haven't developed a rapport after working together for a while, it might be that the two of you aren't a good fit.  It might also mean that, due to your history, you might have problems trusting and it might take you a while to develop a therapeutic alliance with any therapist.
  • Be aware that, due to ethical boundaries, your therapist can't be your friend or have a personal relationship with you outside of your sessions, even after you complete therapy.  So, if part of what you think you need or would like is for your therapist to be your friend, this won't be possible.  At the same time, it's common for clients to develop these feelings, including sexual attractions, for their therapist (see my article:  Psychotherapy and the Erotic Transference).  Even though you might be disappointed at first that you can't have a personal relationship with your therapist, a discussion about your feelings can be helpful in highlighting what you need in your life and how you can go about creating it outside of the therapy room.
Too often clients abort therapy prematurely because they feel too vulnerable or ashamed to have these kinds of discussions with their therapist (see my article:  When Clients Leave Psychotherapy Prematurely).

But, usually, even though you might not be accustomed to talking about your needs and it might take courage on your part, being able to talk about what you need helps you to develop self confidence and often helps to improve the therapy.

Also, if part of the problem is that there has been a misunderstanding or rupture between you and your therapist, there is a chance for repairing this rupture, which can create a stronger therapeutic alliance between the two of you (see my article:  Psychotherapy: Ruptures and Repairs in Therapy).

Getting Help in Therapy
Asking for help isn't easy, especially if you've spent most of your life denying your needs or being unaware of your needs.

Asking For What You Need in Therapy
Rather than continuing to ignore your emotional needs, if you're concerned about your therapy, speak to your therapist.  Even if you're feelings are vague, a skilled, empathic therapist can help you to clarify and express your feelings.

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.