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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Relationships: Dealing with Difficult In-laws

We've all heard the jokes and cliches about "the difficult mother-in-law." These jokes, often sexist in nature, are at the expense of the vast majority of mothers-in-law who are nurturing and supportive people with the couples' welfare at heart and who have appropriate boundaries.

But what if you're one of the unlucky people whose in-laws are truly difficult and it's creating havoc in your relationship?

Dealing With Difficult In-Laws

Whether it's your mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law, a difficult in-law can be very challenging to you and your relationship. Worse still, if your partner refuses to acknowledge the problem or acknowledges it but refuses to do anything about it, you might feel very alone and betrayed by your partner.

Difficulties with in-laws can come in all shapes and sizes: There's the in-law who criticizes how you spend money, the in-law who criticizes your housekeeping or your child rearing practices, the inquisitive in-law who wants to know everything about what's going on in your relationship, the "know it all" in-law who has unsolicited advise on just about everything and feels hurt if you don't follow this advice, and so on.

Here are some tips that might be helpful:

Communicate with your partner:
As I've recommended in prior posts,speak from your own experience. Don't start by criticizing your in-laws or your partner. That will get you nowhere fast. Stay calm and focused. It's better to say, "I feel upset when your mother criticizes how I spend money" than to say, "Your crazy mother always has something to say about how I spend money!" It might be difficult for your partner to hear and don't be surprised if your partner didn't realize that there was a problem. After all, your partner might have spent most of his or her life tuning out your in-laws and might still be tuning them out now.

The relationship must be primary:
Even though you and your partner might each love your own parents and siblings very much, it must be clear that your relationship must come first. That means that if you're having ongoing problems with your in-laws, your partner must speak up, unequivocally, on your behalf and vice versa.

Set clear boundaries:
After you and your partner have talked about the problems and (hopefully) agreed that your relationship must come first, talk about how you want to set clear boundaries with your in-laws, whatever the issues might be--babysitting, holiday visits, or unsolicited advice. Once you and your partner have agreed on these issues, it's up to your partner to communicate this to your in-laws. You must also be prepared to stick with these boundaries because change is difficult and people will often slip back into old behaviors at times.

Dealing with Difficult In-Laws
All of the above assumes that you and your partner can negotiate these issues between you and come to a mutual understanding about them. But what if you can't? What if these issues are eroding and threatening your relationship? At that point, it might be necessary for you to seek the help of a marriage counselor to assist you to overcome these obstacles so you can have a more satisfying relationship.

Working Through Issues With Difficult In-Laws

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.  
Feel free to call me at (212) 726-1006 to set up a consultation.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Living a Meaningful Life

Most of us like to feel that our lives have purpose and meaning.   Living from day to day without feeling that we have a purpose in our life can make us feel like we're in a rut. Although we might want to feel that we have meaning in our lives, at times, it can be a challenge discovering what that purpose might be.

Living a Meaningful Life

People Find Meaning in Many Different Ways
Many people find meaning in their lives through their spirituality, either through organized religion or through their own personal sense of spirituality. Other people find meaning in volunteering and helping others.

Being at a Crossroad in Life
Other people might be at a crossroad in their lives. Maybe they had a vocation or they felt they had a special purpose, but their circumstances have changed and they are now seeking a different purpose. If they found meaning in their work and they lost their job, they now find themselves asking themselves what they would like to do next that would be meaningful. Or, for a parent who raised children who are now grown and independent, they might find themselves questioning what they will do with the rest of their lives. For other people, it's the realization that they have lived their lives doing what other people (maybe their parents or their spouses) expected of them rather than asking themselves what they wanted to do in life. Or, maybe what was once satisfying is no longer satisfying. There are so many reasons why you might find yourself at this crossroad.

Keeping an Open Mind
If you can maintain an open and positive attitude, you're more likely to benefit from this time of self discovery. Allow yourself to think outside the box. One way to explore this question is to give yourself the time and the privacy you need to explore your options.

With paper and pen in hand (or on computer), write down "What I would like to do to have a meaningful life." Then, give yourself 15 mins. and brainstorm. Write whatever comes to mind, no matter how outrageous it might be. No one else will see this list. Sometimes, even the most unlikely items will be a signal to you as to what direction you'd like your life to take.

If you get stuck and can't think of anything else, write down the last thing you wrote until the next idea comes to mind. After 15 mins., stop and review what you've written. If nothing else. this exercise usually frees up your mind and helps to deal with the inner critic that keeps telling you, "You're too old to change" or "You'll never be able to do that."

Practice doing the brainstorming exercise a few times a week and see what you come up with. Chances are that you'll begin to get a sense of what you'd like to see more of in your life. Remember that this is a process and it's not supposed to be perfect.

Sometimes, it's helpful to consult with a therapist who can assist you through this process of self discovery and help you make it fun and rewarding.

I am a NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and EMDR therapist and I work with individual adults and couples.

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Psychotherapy Blog: Talk to Your Spouse About Money

In my prior post, Talk to Your Fiance About Money Before You Get Married, I recommended that people talk about money before they get married. Whether you started out doing that or not, when you're in a committed relationship and sharing a home, you really need to be able to talk to your partner about money.

Talk to Your Spouse About Money

As a couples counselor, I see many people who come to marriage counseling due to serious conflicts about money. It's one of the major reasons why people come for treatment.

There are numerous reasons why couples have conflicts about money. Here are some of the major reasons and some tips on how to overcome these problems:

No Financial Plan:
Many couples enter into their marriages without a common understanding between them about how they want to handle their finances.

Talk to Your Spouse About Money

Many people assume that their partners feel the same way that they do about money. However, this is often not the case. Couples need to come to an agreement about short-term and long-term financial plans. There should be no secrets about money. If a couple needs to make a major purchase, they need to talk it over together first.

Otherwise, if one person just goes ahead and makes a major purchase without consulting with his partner, this can often lead to fights about money. Or, if one of them has a secret bank account, sooner or later this information will come to light and this will also cause significant problems. Also, either of these issues would be indicative of larger underlying problems in the relationship that go deeper than money problems.

No Understanding About Each Partner's Role Regarding Money:
There needs to be an understanding about who is overseeing the couple's finances. This doesn't mean that it must be a rigid role and that these responsibilities cannot be shared or rotated every so often.

However, at any given time, the couple needs to agree as to which one of them is handling the various aspects of their finances, such as handling the checking account and paying the bills. Sometimes, one partner is better at it than the other and prefers to do it. This is fine--as long as each partner is completely knowledgeable about all aspects of their finances and would know how to handle them or where to find information in an emergency.

Avoid Getting Into Power Struggles About Money:
Often, when couples get into fights about money, it becomes a power struggle between them. Couples need to learn to communicate about money in a way that is respectful.

Talk to Your Spouse About Money:  Avoid Getting Into Power Struggle About Money

As I mentioned in a prior post, it's better to speak from your own experience ("I feel upset when you pay the mortgage late") than to be critical or verbally abusive ("I can't believe that you were so stupid that you forgot to pay the mortgage this month"). No cursing. No put downs. No hurling "dirty laundry" at your partner. Stick with the discussion at hand. If it becomes too heated, take a break and get back to it when you're both calm again.

Having long-term financial plans that you are both working on together can bring you and your partner closer together as you see progress over time towards your goals.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you and your partner are fighting about money and you're unable to resolve it between you, you could benefit from marriage counseling.

I am a NYC psychotherapist and couples counselor in NYC. To find out more about me, visit my web site at Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

Feel free to call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me to set up a consultation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tips on How to Stop Worrying

In my prior post, we explored chronic worrying, some of the more common reasons why people develop the habit of constantly worrying, and the negative consequences.

Habitual Worrying
Let's explore how you can become more aware of your negative habit of worrying all of the time and what you can do about it.

How to Stop Worrying
The Serenity Prayer is a wise prayer to remember. The 12 Step programs, like A.A., have adopted it, but it's valuable for everyone to remember:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference

Know what you can change:
If there's some action that you can take to improve your situation, do it. It will empower you and make you feel less afraid of whatever might happen. If you can't change it and there's nothing for you to do, then there's no use in worrying. Rather than railing against what you cannot change, it's better to accept it (assuming that it's not an abusive situation) and make peace with it.

One Way to Stop Worrying:  Accept What You Can't Change and Change What You Can
Designate a time to worry:
This might sound funny, but it's better than spending all day and half the night worrying. Make a deal with yourself: You can worry each day for 15 mins. at whatever time you designate. If you feel yourself starting to worry either before that or after that, remind yourself of the deal that you made with yourself and stick to it.

Ask yourself: Realistically, what are the odds?
Step back from your situation and look at it as if you're someone else. If you look at it objectively and you think that the odds are high that your worst fears will come true, what, if any, positive steps can you take to mitigate the worst case scenario? If the odds are low, ask yourself if it's productive to keep worrying.

Be Objective and Ask Yourself:  What Are the Odds?
Think about prior times when you became overly worried and things turned out all right
Think about all the times that you became a nervous wreck and everything turned out just fine. Did your worrying have any impact on the situation? What did you learn from that situation and can it be applied to the current situation that you're worrying about now.

Think about if you are engaging in all or nothing thinking
For instance, do you tell yourself things like, "If I don't get everything that I want in this situation, I know I won't be happy with it at all."

Ask yourself if you are catastrophizing
Do you tend to expect the worst case scenario most of the time? Are you blowing the problem out of proportion?

Ask Yourself if You're Blowing Things Out of Proportion?
Ask yourself if you tend to take a negative situation and then generalize it to all similar situations
For instance, do you have a tendency to say things to yourself like, "My last boyfriend was a jerk, so all men are jerks"?

Ask Yourself if You Take a Negative Situation and Generalize It to All Similar  Situations
Ask yourself if you tend to allow negative thoughts to overtake you
Do you tend to see the glass as half empty most of the time rather than half full?

Think about what, if anything, you're doing to manage your stress
Do you meditate or do yoga? Do you participate in a regular regime of exercise that is right for you? Do you listen to relaxing music? Do you talk to supportive friends and family? Do you go out for a walk at lunch time?

Develop Stress Management Techniques, Like Getting Out in Nature
Getting professional mental health treatment
If you've tried all or most of these ideas to overcome chronic worrying and you still can't overcome this habit, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional that can help you to work through these issues.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and EMDR therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

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

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

Also, see my article:  How to Stop Worrying: What is Chronic Worrying?

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Monday, June 22, 2009

How to Stop Worrying: What is Chronic Worrying?

How to Stop Worrying:  What is Chronic Worrying?

Are you a chronic worrier?
With all the economic uncertainty in the world today, many people are worried. However, there's a difference between worrying about a specific problem that spurs you to take action vs. chronic worrying that can paralyze you.

Chronic worrying usually doesn't help. In fact, not only does it not help, it often gets in the way and can have physical as well as emotional consequences.

What is chronic worrying?
If you engage in chronic worrying, you have a negative habit of worrying most of the time. You might be constantly thinking about the "what ifs" in situations where you feel you don't have control. You might also be filled with negative thoughts, anticipating the worst in situations. Breaking the worrying habit can be as difficult as breaking any other habit.

If You Engage in Chronic Worrying, You Have a Negative Habit of Worrying Most of the Time

Why do people engage in chronic worrying?
There are so many reasons--we would need pages and pages to explore them. Let's explore some of the more common reasons:

The illusion of feeling prepared and in control: Many people feel that if they worry about a problem constantly, they'll be more prepared in case their worst fears come true. Of course, this is an illusion. However, this type of distorted thinking can make it very hard to give up chronic worrying.

Worrying as a learned behavior: For many other people, they grew up in a household where their parents worried constantly and, as young children, they integrated this type of thinking without even realizing it.

The need for absolute certainty in an uncertain world: Many people also have a hard time dealing with uncertainty. They need to know what will happen, when it will happen, and how it will happen with as close to 100% certainty as they can get. As a result, these people worry almost all of the time.

What are the consequences of chronic worrying? Chronic worrying can cause insomnia as you toss and turn all night (see my prior post on insomnia). Insomnia, in turn, has negative consequences for your overall health and well being.

One of the Consequences of Chronic Worrying Can Be Insomnia

Chronic worrying can deplete your energy and result in physical problems. For some people, chronic worrying can lead to excessive drinking and drug abuse as a maladaptive way to get relief from stress.

It can make you feel irritable and cause arguments between you and your partner or you and your boss. Unrelenting worrying can also lead to problems with depression (see prior post:  What is the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?). 

There are so many other consequences. Suffice it to say, constant worrying usually doesn't lead to anything good.

In my next post, I'll discuss what you can do to overcome chronic worrying.

I'm 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 web site: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

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

Also, see my article:  How to Stop Worrying: Steps You Can Take

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Overcoming Insomnia with Clinical Hypnosis

Sleep is natural and essential to maintaining our physical and emotional health. When we sleep, our bodies and minds restore themselves. We also have at least 5-7 dreams at night where our unconscious minds often come up with creative solutions to problems or integrate whatever has gone on that day. Most people need about eight hours of sleep to function well. However, there are so many people who are having problems with insomnia--problems with either falling or staying asleep.

Sleep Hygiene:
If you are among the millions of people who, at one time or another, have problems sleeping, there are things that you can do to improve your sleep. Among them, make sure that you are engaging in good sleep hygiene. The following are some tips to improve your sleep hygiene, which in turn, could improve your sleep:

  • Limit your intake of caffeine, including coffee, tea and soda
  • Limit your intake of alcohol: Many people think that having a drink or two before bed helps them to sleep. However, alcohol is a stimulant as well as a depressant, so having a couple of drinks before bedtime might make you sleepy or more relaxed initially; however, when the stimulant aspect of alcohol kicks in, it's going to wake you up.
  • Don't eat a big meal before going to bed. It will keep you up.
  • Make sure that you are sleeping in a room that is dark. If you fall asleep with the lights on or with the TV or computer on, your body will think that it's daytime and you will wake up.
  • Don't listen to the news or read the newspaper before going to bed because this might also keep you up, worrying about what you have seen or read in the news.
  • Don't engage in vigorous exercise just before going to bed because this will be overstimulating to your body and keep you up.
  • Make sure that you are sleeping on a comfortable mattress, neither to soft or too hard
  • Don't do work or go on line while you're in bed because this gives your unconscious mind the signal that going to bed is a time to be alert. The bed is for sleep and sex.
  • Don't have arguments in bed with your partner as this will also tell your unconscious mind that you need to be alert and awake, and you'll have problems sleeping.
  • Have a wind- down routine that you engage in before going to sleep, whether it involves gentle stretching, meditation, listening to relaxing music or whatever you find soothing.

How Clinical Hypnosis Can Help You to Overcome Insomnia
If you use these sleep hygiene tips and you still find that you're suffering with insomnia, you could benefit from clinical hypnosis to overcome your sleep problem. Clinical hypnosis (also known as hypnotherapy) accesses your unconscious mind and can help you in a safe and effective way (without taking medication) to have a deep and restful sleep.

I am a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in NYC. To find out more about me, please visit my web site

Feel free to call me at (212) 726-1006 for a consultation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Overcoming Emotional Overeating and Lose Weight with Clinical Hypnosis

Obesity is one of the leading health problems in the US today. Emotional eating as well as lack of exercise and poor eating habits often leads to obesity. More and more, we're hearing in the news and reading in the newspapers that obesity can lead to serious health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and other health problems. Obesity can also drag down our self confidence.

What is a Habit?
So, if most of us know that unhealthy eating habits can lead to health problems, why is it so hard for us to change our eating habits?

To understand this, we need to look at how habits are formed. When you engage in certain tasks or actions on a routine basis, your brain sets up neural pathways that make it more efficient for you to perform these tasks. For instance, when you brush your teeth each day, you don't need to think about how to do it each time.

Your brain has already set up an efficient pathway so that you can do it automatically without much thought. The more you perform the task, the more ingrained it becomes in your brain. This is one of the reasons why it's so hard to give up negative habits like smoking and overeating. Your brain has already established a particular pattern in response to whatever triggers your emotional eating.

Whether you overeat because you're sad, lonely, angry, frustrated--the reason doesn't matter. Think of it this way: If there's a muddy dirt path that people walk over each day, after a while, that path gets deeper and deeper with use. It's the same for your brain--the neural pathways become deeper. Very often, we're not aware of that we're engaging in emotional overeating because these habits are automatic and unconscious.

How to Break the Emotional Eating Habit:
Clinical hypnosis (also known as hypnotherapy) can access the unconscious mind where the problems that cause emotional overeating lie. Hypnotherapy can get to the root of the problem, break the pattern of overeating, and substitute healthier coping mechanisms.

What to Do
If you think you have a problem with emotional overeating and you want to lose weight, you could benefit from clinical hypnosis from a qualified hypnotherapist.

I am a licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in New York City. To find out more about me, please visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

Feel free to call me at (212) 726-1006 for a consultation.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Overcoming Procrastination

Just hearing the word "procrastination" is enough to make some people cringe with guilt and feel judged, defensive, and annoyed. Unpleasant memories of school papers not being turned in on time, missed deadlines at work, missed payments on credit cards, and other consequences of procrastination come to mind. 

Overcoming Procrastination: Procrastination is a Common Problem

But before you decide to put off reading this article, take a deep breath and calm yourself. This article is not meant to judge--it's meant to provide helpful information that might help you to stop avoiding the things that you find unpleasant.

What is procrastination and why do people procrastinate?
Rest assured, you're not alone. Procrastination is a common psychological defense to avoid dealing with certain tasks, people, or situations.

I'm sure that we can all think of many examples, whether they're related to ourselves or to someone that we know: waiting until Christmas Eve to go Christmas shopping, putting off doing taxes until April 14th, receiving credit card bills and shoving them in a drawer and not paying until after the due date, avoiding having an important discussion with a spouse or partner, putting off going to the dentist, and so on.

What is Procrastination?

In our rational minds, we know that avoiding the unpleasant task will only make it worse but, somehow, we trick ourselves into believing otherwise: "I'm too tired to do that now--I'll do it tomorrow" or "This can wait until after I watch my favorite TV show" or "I'm hungry. Let me me have something to eat first."

All the while, there's that wise part of us that is urging us to go ahead and take care of whatever needs to be done. But how often we ignore that wise part--usually to our detriment.

How to overcome procrastination
So what can we do about this?

First, when you feel the "competing parts" in your mind in conflict about what to do, learn to listen to that wise part of yourself that usually knows what's right for you.

Overcoming Procrastination

This usually takes practice, especially if you've become accustomed to ignoring that part in favor of the other parts who urge you to avoid handling important matters. You might need to start by "sending" those well-meaning but, ultimately, misguided parts on "a vacation" in your mind's eye.

You might say, "What does she mean by that?" But if you think about it for a moment, you'll realize that it's not unusual for all of us to have mixed and competing feelings about many situations where we have to make decisions about what to do.

Usually, we'll weigh the pros and cons in our minds to come up with a decision. When we make decisions that are not good for us, we usually know on some level because the wise part of us is gentling nudging us to take another course of action.

But how easy it is to ignore that wise part. So, I'm suggesting that, rather than giving in to those well-meaning parts that urge us to avoid, invite them to step back and take "a vacation."

In your mind's eye, send them to Tahiti for a much-needed rest. And while they're sunning themselves on the beach and having Pina Coladas, allow the wise part of yourself to have a stronger voice in your decisions. The well-meaning parts will be back soon enough to challenge the wise part and you might need to send them on another vacation for a while.

In the meantime, listening to the wise part of yourself, take a large task and break it down into smaller, more manageable subtasks.

Write it down. Be specific.

Now, talk to a friend about the task and make a commitment to your friend as to when you will complete each of these subtasks. Ask him or her to write it down.

Overcoming Procrastination:  Make a Commitment

Now, a word about how to choose the person who will be holding you accountable: Choose someone who will be supportive but firm. Don't choose your friend who is "very nice" but who won't challenge you a little if you need it. Also, don't choose someone who will be a Nazi about it. Either extreme isn't good.

Once you've chosen a friend, offer to help your friend with something that he or she might be avoiding. Plan in advance when you and your friend will have your check-in session (by phone or in person) to talk about how you fared in terms of completing the subtasks. Also, plan to give yourself a small reward for each subtask that you complete. (If you don't complete the subtask, no reward.)

If you don't complete the subtask or if you completed part of it but not all of it, don't berate yourself or give up. Just make a new agreement with your friend and stick with it. Often, starting is the hardest part, so once you're on a roll, you may find yourself on an upward spiral, creating new and healthy habits by tackling situations that you used to avoid.

When Procrastination is a Sign of Deeper Issues
Sometimes, procrastination is not just avoidance but a sign of more complex problems like depression or anxiety.

Getting Help
If you follow the tips offered above, but you find that you continue to have an ingrained and persistent pattern of procrastination with detrimental consequences in your personal or work life, you could benefit from dealing with these issues with a licensed mental health professional to understand and work through them.

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

To find out more, 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:  
Overcoming Procrastination and the Need for Certainty in an Uncertain World

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Overcoming Phobias with Clinical Hypnosis

In my last post, I explored what phobias are and how they develop.

Now, I would like to discuss hypnotherapy as an effective treatment for people with phobias.

When I work with a client who has a phobia, I will usually ask if the client is aware of the triggering event that caused the phobia. This is helpful to know, but not absolutely necessary. So, for instance, if a client has a fear of riding in an elevator, I would explore with the client when this fear began and how it began. If possible, I would also like to know what it was like for this client to ride in elevators before the fear developed. Phobic reactions don't always develop because of a person's direct experience. Sometimes, phobias develop because a person witnessed the phobic reaction of someone close to them. As an example, if a client has a fear of dogs, it is possible that she might have witnessed her father get bitten by a dog. Even if she did not witness this incident directly, her father might have talked to her about his fear and, without realizing it, he might have communicated this fear in a deep way to his daughter so that she took on the fear. Whatever caused the phobia, the fear has been repressed in the unconscious mind.

How Can Clinical Hypnosis Help?
Clinical hypnosis, also known as hypnotherapy, deals with the unconscious mind where the cause of the phobia lies. There are many myths about hypnosis. Contrary to one of the myths, you should know that clients who receive hypnotherapy treatment are in control at all times. They are awake and maintain dual awareness of the here-and-now and everything going on around them as well as what they are feeling in the hypnotic state. No one can force them to do anything that they don't want to do. I discuss this in more detail in an earlier post ("What is Clinical Hypnosis?").

Regardless of the type of phobia, the goal of hypnotherapy treatment is to desensitize the client to the fear and provide the client with his or her own internal resources. With effective hypnotherapy, the mind processes the phobia so that the client no longer responds with fear and panic. If the phobia is not complex and the client is motivated, he or she can overcome the phobia in several sessions. If the phobia is more complex and if the client experiences frequent panic attacks and phobic reactions, it can take longer.

What to Do?
Don't suffer on your own with phobias. Phobias usually don't go away by themselves. Get professional mental health treatment from a hypnotherapist. Effective treatment can help you to overcome your phobia and improve the quality of your life.

I am a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in NYC.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:

Feel free to call me at (212) 726-1006 to schedule a consultation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Want to Stop Smoking?

Maybe you're concerned about the health risks. Maybe your partner has complained about your smoking. Perhaps your doctor has advised you to stop. Maybe you're concerned about the cost of cigarettes. Perhaps you're concerned about the effect of secondary smoke on your family. Whatever the reasons, most smokers consider giving up smoking at least once in their lives.

Smoking is a physical as well as a psychological habit
Smoking is both a physical and a psychological habit. Even after the nicotine has left a smoker's system, the psychological cravings can be very strong. For many smokers, smoking is a way to cope with stress, upset, anger, sadness, and other uncomfortable feelings. Some smokers smoke when they're bored. For others, smoking is associated with pleasant activities like eating, drinking, driving, socializing, and having sex. For many people, giving up smoking is like giving up a friend. Some clients have told me that when they're smoking, it's the only time that they feel relaxed because, aside from the nicotine, it's the only time that they inhale deeply. Other people have said that when they get together with buddies and smoke, it's a bonding experience.

Why stop smoking?
If smoking is so pleasurable, why give it up? Most of us are aware that smoking places us at greater risk for heart attacks, cancer, and respiratory diseases like emphysema. Maybe we even know someone who has suffered the ill effects of smoking. Most people are also concerned about the effects of secondary smoke on their loved ones. If you've tried to stop smoking before and have relapsed, you know it can be challenging, especially when you're under a lot of stress.

Stop smoking with Hypnosis
The good news is that you can learn to recognize the various triggers that cause you to pick up a cigarette in different situations and develop better coping skills so that you no longer crave cigarettes. You can do this without using drugs that might have side effects or using nicotine patches or nicotine gum. Hypnosis is a safe, natural and effective way to give up smoking, usually in only 3-4 sessions.

I am a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in NYC. If you would like to learn how to become a nonsmoker, please feel free to call me at (212) 726-1006. You can also visit my web site:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Relationships: Improving Communication

Every relationship has its ups and downs. Every couple has arguments from time to time, but how you communicate with each other can make the difference between a relationship surviving or failing.

How to communicate with your partner:

Listen to what your partner is saying:
There's a difference between hearing and listening. When you listen carefully, you're putting yourself in your partner's place and reflecting back what has been said. You're not thinking about what you're going to say next. You're not interrupting. You're not becoming defensive.

Relationships: Improving Communication

Speak from your own experience:
Rather than hurling accusations at your partner, speak from your own experience. It's better to say, "I feel annoyed when you..." than "You really ruined my day when you... " Most likely, your partner will be less defensive and more likely to hear what you're saying if you stick to expressing yourself by focusing on your own experience.

Stick with what's going on in the current situation:
Concentrate on the present. Don't bring up other unrelated grievances from the past. Don't retaliate by throwing out everything that ever bothered you about your partner. This will cause the discussion to spiral down to accusations and counter accusations.

Understand that you and your partner might have different needs:
It's not unusual for one person to need time to regroup before he or she can have a discussion, especially if it's about a heated topic, while the other person needs to talk about it immediately. There has to be a compromise.

On the one hand, there's no point in trying to force someone who needs a short period of time to calm down to engage in a discussion that he or she is not ready to have. It's better to allow your partner to take a break and then resume the discussion.

On the other hand, it's counterproductive for the "short break" to become a passive aggressive way to avoid the discussion altogether. You and your partner need to find a balance. It's better to discuss these differences and come up with a compromise on your different styles at a point when you're both in a good place with each other and not when you're arguing.

Take responsibility for your own your part in the problem:
It's so easy to become defensive and discount what your partner is saying, especially if you feel criticized. It takes a big person to really listen and admit when you've been at fault. If you do this, your partner is more likely to acknowledge his or her part in the problem. Then, you're more likely to reach a compromise.

Get professional help:
Ongoing arguments have a way of eroding a relationship and, before you know it, your relationship has devolved into an unhappy situation. If you and your partner have a pattern of getting into ongoing arguments or you can't seem to resolve your differences, it's time to seek the help of a licensed psychotherapist who works with couples who can help you to learn how to communicate with each other.

About Me:
I'm a licensed psychotherapist in NYC. One of my specialties is working with couples. 

To find our more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

Call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me at to set up a consultation.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Complicated Grief

In prior articles, I focused on coping with grieving for a loved one, whether it is a family member, friend or a cherished pet (see links for those articles below). I emphasized that no one is immune to loss and grief and everybody is different in terms of how they grieve and how long.

Coping With the Loss of a Loved One: Complicated Grief

What is complicated grief?
Complicated grief is when grieving turns into not just sadness, but psychological symptoms that include features of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Someone who is suffering with complicated grief might become obsessive about the details of the death or highly suspicious about other people's motives.

In some cases, they might hallucinate. They will often have intrusive thoughts about the deceased person. They might deny the death (thinking the deceased person is alive somewhere else and suffering, needing their help) or they might want to die themselves.

In many cases, they are unable to function in their daily activities of living (getting up, going to work), or they find it too difficult to maintain their self care (bathing, sleeping, dressing themselves).

Getting Help: What to do if you or someone you know is suffering with complicated grief:
If you or someone you know is suffering with complicated grief, it's very important to seek professional mental health as soon as possible.

Do not assume that the symptoms will go away on their own. A licensed psychotherapist can assist by helping to work through the grief.

Hypnotherapy (also known as clinical hypnosis) and EMDR are two types of treatment that can be very helpful in assisting people to overcome complicated grief (see my prior postings to learn about these very effective forms of therapy).

About Me:
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and EMDR 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:

Other articles about grief in this blog:  
Grief in Waiting After the Death of a Parent
Resolving Complicated Grief
Common Reactions to Grief: It's Not Unusual to Feel Worse Before You Feel Better
Coping With the Loss of a Loved One: Taking Care of Yourself
Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: How to Take Care of Yourself

As we explored in the prior article, Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Common Reactionseveryone is different when it comes to dealing with grief. What is right for one person is not right for another person. The following are some suggestions for how you can take care of yourself. Use your judgement in terms of what's right for you, and know that there are many other healthy ways to comfort yourself.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: How to Take Care of Yourself

Emotional support:
For most people, it's important to have the emotional support of people who are close to them. Don't isolate. Sometimes, people don't know how to express their condolences to you because they feel that whatever they might say would not be adequate compared to the depth of your feelings, but usually their intentions are heartfelt.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: The Importance of Emotional Support

It can be very comforting to talk to people who knew your loved one. Hearing their experiences and their memories can help to ease your pain. That's why memorial services are so helpful to families and friends. Remembering your loved one can help you to feel how much a part of you he will always be.

Allow yourself to feel your feelings:
Trying to avoid your feelings will only make them feel worse and prolong the pain. When you try to stuff your feelings, you can only do it temporarily.

Sooner or later, your feelings will come to the surface again and, if you avoid them, you might find yourself dealing with them in ways that are unhealthy (drinking, using drugs, overeating, overspending, developing health problems, etc). It's not unusual for the most recent loss of a loved one to bring up other losses.

Take the time when you're in a place where you feel safe and comfortable to allow yourself to cry, wail, or punch pillows, if that's what you want to do. You're not going crazy. These are normal feelings.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Allow Yourself to Feel All Your Feelings

And don't allow well-meaning people to tell you things like, "You just have to move on with your life" while you're in the initial stage of grief or "Be strong" or any of the other inappropriate things that people say. If you find that some people are insensitive, don't share your feelings with them. Share your feeling only with people who are supportive of you. And be patient with yourself.

Seek professional help:
If you feel that your sadness is developing into depression, seek professional help. You might only need brief treatment to help you 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

You can call me at (212) 726-1006 for a consultation or email me:

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Common Reactions

Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows the intense pain of this loss. The closer the loved one was to you, the worse the pain. At times, the pain can be so strong that it feels like it will never go away. But rest assured, the intensity of the pain usually subsides after you have gone through a natural period of grief.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Common Reactions

Common reactions to the death of a loved one:
Everyone grieves in his or her own way. There is no right way to grieve and no specific amount of time that it should take.

The important thing is not to judge yourself or anyone else about this. When grief is profound, the feelings can be so strong that you might feel like you're losing your mind. Even though we know, at least on an intellectual level, that death is part of life, most of us are not prepared for the depth of feelings. So, it's important to know that you're not losing your mind and there are some common reactions during the early stages of grief:

Losing someone you love can be hard to believe. You might feel like you're dreaming and the death is not real. You might feel emotionally numb at first. On some level, you might even believe that your loved one is just in the other room or about to come home or about to call. It's not unusual to "forget" and pick up the phone to call her, especially if this was part of your daily routine, only to be reminded each time, as if anew, that she is no longer alive.

Another common reaction is to have dreams about your loved one that are so real that you might believe that you actually saw him. One common dream is to see your loved one and hear him say that he's not really dead at all, that it was a terrible mistake. This can be very confusing when you wake up, especially because of the powerful nature of this type of dream. You might also think that you "see" him walking down the street, only to find as you get closer that this person looks nothing like him. This can be very disturbing and sad. It's usually a projection from your mind--a wish to see the person again, which is completely understandable.

Losing someone that you love can make you feel extremely sad. The sadness can feel endless at the time. You might find yourself consumed with this sadness. It's not unusual to cry a lot, especially at first.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Common Reactions

Another common reaction is to feel that you could've done something more to prevent her death or you wish you had said something (or not said something) before she passed. You might have the feeling of "If only I had..." (fill in the blank). Not only is this guilt, but it is an attempt to feel that you could've had more control over the situation than you probably had. It's a stage that people often go through before they have accepted, on a deep emotional level, that their loved one is really gone.

It's not unusual to feel angry when you lose someone close to you. Even when you know on some level that no one is really to blame for your loved one's death, you might feel angry with your siblings, the doctors, yourself, even God.

You might think, "What will it be like without him?" or "How will I go on day after day?" You might feel more vulnerable yourself or for the rest of your family. A close loss often turns our world upside down. You might feel, "If this could happen, what else might happen?" These are frightening thoughts.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Common Reactions

Bodily discomfort:
Intense grief can bring about bodily discomfort: aches and pains, changes in sleep or appetite (either increase or decrease), upset stomach, exhaustion, and other physical symptoms.

Grief can come in "waves." It's not unusual to feel a roller coast of moods. Maybe you're very sad one moment, feel somewhat relieved the next moment, only to feel sad again. This is all normal.

About Me:
I'm 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 articles:
Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: How to Take Care of Yourself
Coping with the Loss of a Loved One: Complicated Grief

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Coping with a Job Loss

So many people who never thought they would lose their jobs are now unemployed due to the worst economic downturn since the Depression. Through no fault of their own, they find themselves out or work and, often, out of luck.

If this has happened to you, I'm sure I don't need to tell you how devastating this can be to you and your family. I don't want to paint a picture of all doom and gloom. There are people who are finding jobs. Maybe it's taking them longer and maybe they're not earning as much as before, but it's not a hopeless situation. But until you get back on your feet, what can you do to sustain yourself emotionally?

Coping with a Job Loss
Stay connected to your emotional support system:
One of the most important things that you can do is to stay connected to your support system. Don't isolate. This is the time when you need family, friends, and your therapist more than ever. Many people who are laid off from their jobs feel ashamed--even if, rationally, they know that they were laid off through no fault of their own. For many people, their identity is tied to their jobs. So, if they don't have a job, they feel worthless. This is an important topic and it deserves its own post, but I won't digress further. Suffice it to say, a job loss can be a tremendous blow to a person's self esteem.

Stay connected to your career network:
It is a well-known fact that one of the best ways to find a job is not through conventional sources (e.g., newspaper, online), but through your career network. So, maintain contact with your former supervisors and coworkers from your last job and your prior jobs and professional organizations in your field. Most likely, if there are job openings in your field, they'll know about it before it's advertised, if it's advertised at all. Often, they can give you the inside scoop on the details of the job, the supervisor and the work environment. This can give you a huge advantage over other prospective job applicants.

Maintain a structured schedule:
After you've taken some time to recovery from the shock of losing your job, set up a structured schedule for yourself. If you take time off for a brief vacation to regroup, make sure that you get back into a routine for the job hunt. Sleeping until Noon or writing cover letters at 3 AM is not healthy for you in the long run. Looking for a job is a job unto itself, so to be at your best, you need to take care of yourself. That means proper rest, eating nutritious meals, and maintaining an exercise regime that is appropriate for you.

Volunteer your services:
If you find that you have a lot of time on your hands, you might consider doing volunteer work. Even though you won't be earning any money, doing volunteer work can help to take your mind off your problems for a little while, and it also helps you to feel useful and valued. It's also a way to get out and meet new people. You might also get to try out a new field of work that you've been considering but never had the opportunity to explore. Sometimes, if you're lucky, the organization might hire you if a job opens up.

Seek professional help:
If you find yourself spiraling down into depression, seek the help of a licensed psychotherapist. You might only need brief treatment to get you back to your old self, and it can help to prevent you from developing a long, drawn out depressive episode just at the time when you need to be at your best.

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

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

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

Coping with Hard Times

We all go through hard times at some point in our lives. Whether we're dealing with a job loss, money problems, the breakup of a relationship, the death of a loved one, betrayal from someone we trusted, the debilitating effects of depression and anxiety, health concerns, the loss of a pet or one of life's other major disappointments, no one is immune from difficult times.

Coping With Hard Times

The question is not whether or not we'll experience disappointments. The real question is how we cope with the loss so that, eventually, we can move on to the next phase of our lives.

Many people are experiencing hard times.

Often, one problem can make another problem worse. If a person loses her job, this loss often places an emotional strain on her relationships with her spouse and family.

For the employee who is still on the job but now, due to staff cutbacks, must work longer hours, this can also place a strain on his marriage and his relationships with his children.

During hard times, it's essential to stay connected to your support system, supportive family and friends, your career network and also your psychotherapist.

This is not the time to isolate.

It's also not the time to leave your therapy.

Possibly, due to financial concerns, it might seem like a good idea at first to leave therapy, but the financial savings you might gain can be easily wiped out if emotional problems take their toll on your physical health.

We know, due to the mind-body connection, that there is a connection between our emotional well-being and our physical health.

In the next series of articles, I'll be exploring these issues in more detail.

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

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

Monday, June 8, 2009

Wellness: The Benefits of Meditation

In prior posts, I've explored basic meditation and Safe Place meditation as well as how to use your senses to deepen your sense of relaxation.

But what are the benefits of meditation?

Research studies have shown that meditation can help most people to:

*relax and de-stress
*improve memory
*improve concentration
*lower blood pressure
*deal more effectively with anger management issues
*reduce anxiety
*lift your mood
*improve your intuition

As part of an overall wellness program, there are many advantages to developing a daily meditation practice.

To find out more about me, please visit my website:

Feel free to contact me for a consultation by calling (212) 726-1006.

Wellness: Meditation - Using Your Senses

In the prior post, I explored how to use and develop visualization in your meditative practice in the Safe Place (or Relaxing Place) meditation.

What about the other senses? How can you use your imagination to include your other senses in the Safe Place meditation?

What we don't always realize is that we use our senses in our imagination all the time without even realizing it. Whether we're thinking about eating a delicious piece of warm apple pie a la mode or sucking on a lemon, aren't we engaging our sense of taste and smell?

Let's explore this. Close your eyes and think about sucking on a lemon. What happens when you do this? For most people, they sense the bitter, tart taste and it makes their mouth water. How does this happen when we might not be any where near a lemon? Well, when you think about sucking on lemon, your brain sends a signal to your mouth and your mouth waters. This is another way that we see the mind-body connection.

What about imagining sound? If we imagine the sound of chalk scratching a blackboard--that sound that makes us cringe, don't we usually react, even though we haven't even heard the sound? Another example is when you hear a catchy song or jingle and you've got the song going around in your head, sometimes even when you don't want it. You're not actually hearing the sound. You're imagining it, but your mind is experiencing it as if it is hearing it.

So, this shows us that we already have the ability to imagine our senses, and we can use these techniques to develop our senses to use in meditation. It doesn't matter what you use to practice. Use things that are easy for you so that when you practice using your five senses in meditation, you'll be more deeply immersed and relaxed in your meditation.

To find out more about me, please visit my website:

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

Wellness: Meditation

I usually recommend meditation to my psychotherapy clients. If they don't already have a regular meditation practice, I go over basic meditation techniques and suggest that they start by meditating for 10-15 mins. each day and then, if they wish, they can expand the practice over time.

There Are Many Ways to Meditate

There are many ways to meditate
There are many ways to meditate. For the most basic form of meditation, you can begin by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath (always practice when you are in a quiet, safe place and never when you are driving or engaging in activities where you need to be alert). Just notice the quality of the air as you breathe in and out through your nose. Take a few relaxing breaths.

Most of us breathe in a way that is too shallow so, when you breathe in, take the time to feel your stomach muscles expand. When you breathe, out feel all the air leaving your body. You can put your hand over your stomach to help you become aware of breathing in more deeply and out completely.

Then, turn your attention inward and notice where you are holding onto any tension in your body. Then, picture yourself sending your breath to that area and feeling the tension melting away.

After a few minutes, most likely, you' ll feel more relaxed. If not, don't worry. Usually, with practice, you'll improve your meditative skill. When you open your eyes, you can wiggle your fingers and toes and focus on your surroundings so that you feel like you are alert and fully present in your environment.

People often ask me questions about when is the best time to meditate. I think the best time is when it is right for you, a time when you're in a place where you have privacy and there's less of a chance of having distractions. Ideally, either the beginning or end of your day is a good time to meditate. When you start your day by meditating, it usually sets a positive tone for the rest of day. Meditating at the end of the day can be very relaxing. If you meditate at night, I recommend that you don't do it while in bed because if you do, your mind will associate meditation with sleep, and that's not what it's about (although, meditating at night can help you sleep).

When you begin meditation, don't worry if you feel distracted or your internal "chatter" gets in the way. Usually, with practice, you're able to meditate with more ease and learn how to let go of these internal distractions.

I'll explore meditation practice more in future posts.

In the meantime, enjoy your meditation practice.

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 an appointment, please feel free to call me at (212) 726-1006.

Also see my article:  Safe Place Meditation

photo credit: Photo Pin

Friday, June 5, 2009

Overcoming Low Self Esteem: Watch Out For Negative Self Talk

When people have low self esteem, negative thoughts about themselves often come so much easier than positive thoughts. In part, that's because it has become a habit. Like any habit, it might take a while to overcome.

Overcoming Low Esteem: Watch Out For Negative Self Talk

Why do people with low self esteem engage in negative self talk?
There are so many reasons. Often, they have internalized what was told to them when they were growing up ("You'll never amount to anything" or "You're just as useless as your father" or "You're so stupid" or "Children should be seen and not heard").

After a while, no one has to say these things any more because people who have developed low self esteem begin to say it to themselves and, worse still, they believe it.

What to do to stop the negative self talk:
The first thing to do is to become aware that you're doing it.

 That can be a challenge because it's so automatic. The other thing is that if you really believe these negative things about yourself, you can convince yourself that it's not negative self talk--it's the way it really is ("It's not a negative thought--I really am useless").

Overcoming Low Self Esteem:  Watch Out For Negative Self Talk

Learn to Observe Your Thoughts to Identify Distorted Thinking
Learn to observe your own thoughts and identify distorted thinking.

If you have difficulty doing this, ask a supportive friend to help you by pointing out (gently and tactfully) when they hear you engaging in self criticism. Someone else might see it more easily than you do at first.

The next thing you can do is to make an effort to change these negative thought patterns by stepping back, challenging yourself and developing some perspective.

Ask Yourself:

Do I really believe this about myself?

Is there even a small part of me that has a more positive view sometimes?

What might a more objective person say about it? If an objective person has a more positive view, can I practice trying to look at it from this person's view?

Could there be some other reason why things might not have worked out for me in a particular area (rather than thinking of yourself as lazy or stupid)?

What would I say to a close friend or loved one if they told me that they usually have negative thoughts about themselves? (Chances are, you would be kinder to your friend than you are to yourself.)

Getting Help
If low self esteem is still getting you down, you might want to seek professional help. In particular, clinical hypnosis and psychotherapy can be very effective to overcome low self esteem.

With Help From an Experienced Therapist, You Can Overcome Low Esteem

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

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

Low Self Esteem? Take Steps to Increase Your Sense of Self Worth

So far, in What is Low Self Esteem? and What Are the Effects of Low Self Esteem?, we have defined low self esteem, we have looked at the affects of low esteem, and we have also begun to explore how you can become more positive about yourself.

Low Self Esteem? Take Step to Increase Your Sense of Self Worth

Continuing along this line, let's look at other steps you can take to increase your sense of self. So, another way to increase your sense of self is to increase your sense of achievement.

As I've said in prior posts, usually when I say this to people with low self esteem, they come up with all the reasons why they can't do it: "I won't be any good at it," "I don't have the time," "What's the use? I'm only going to mess this up too." All the reasons are just too numerous to even list here.

First, let's be clear that I'm not talking about big achievements. I'm talking about every day things. And, don't try to do everything at once or you'll get discouraged and stop.

Think: "This is a process." Start small and work your way up. It can be a project that you want to work on that you can break down into smaller steps, like: cleaning up one shelf in the kitchen (rather than trying to tackle the whole kitchen), working out for 10 minutes (rather than exhausting yourself for an hour), calling one credit card company to talk about repayments (rather than thinking about calling all your creditors at once), and so on.

Each step that you take can help you to feel better about yourself, give you a sense of accomplishment, and encourage you to continue in the process.

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.