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Friday, September 11, 2009

Psychotherapy Blog: Developing Internal Motivation to Change

Making changes in our lives, even when it comes from an internal sense that we need to make a change,  can be challenging enough. But when the call for change comes from our partners, families, friends, employers, or all of the above, it can be very difficult to hear what they have to say and find the internal motivation to change, especially when we might not see the need to change.

Developing Internal Motivation to Change

Being Open to Hearing What Others Have to  Say
Being able to stay open, listen and really hear what we're being told, and consider the possibility that, perhaps, there is some kernel of truth to what others are telling us can be hard. It's much easier to become defensive and dismiss what others are saying. After all, it can be hurtful to hear that our partner or a family member isn't satisfied with something about us. But after the initial reaction of surprise, hurt or anger, can we take the time to consider that, most of the time, the people who are confronting us with the need to change are people who care about us and that it's usually not easy for them to tell us things that they know we don't want to hear? That doesn't mean that they're automatically right, but can we take the time and make the effort to think about what they're saying and see if it resonates with us in some way?

External Motivation in Seeking Therapy
As a psychotherapist, it's not unusual for me to get calls from prospective clients who say, "I'm calling because my wife says I'm too irritable" or "I'm calling because my family did an intervention last week and told me that I have a drinking problem" or "I'm calling because my boss said, 'Either get help with your anger management problem or you'll be terminated" or "I'm calling because my boyfriend, my mother, my father and my sisters have all told me that they're worried that I'm a compulsive overspender, but I don't think I have a problem. "

Developing Internal Motivation to Change in Therapy

At the point when these prospective clients are calling, they're often not sure they need to change. Sometimes they're angry. Sometimes they're attempting to comply with what's being asked of them but they feel that it's not their problem--it's the other people's problem. Or they're hoping to come for one session so I can tell them that they don't have a problem and they can go back to family or friends with that information. And, of course, there are times when it's apparent that this person doesn't need to be in therapy and only comes in for a few sessions.

Developing Internal Motivation to Change in Therapy


When there seems to be some truth to what others are telling a client, I try to help the client to put aside the initial resentment or anger and develop the ability to look into his or her own internal world to see if, maybe, deep down, he or she has some awareness that there is a problem. It might start out as a small and vague sense of awareness, which is fine because most change is a process and it takes place over time. As this awareness develops and grows, the next step is usually some form of acceptance and ownership for the presenting problem, aside from what others may or may not be saying. This step takes courage. And, as you might expect, this isn't a linear process and people often go back and forth in their process between acceptance and denial.

Finding the internal sense of motivation to change when the call for change comes from the outside and it's in an area where we might have a "blind spot" about ourselves can be a daunting process for some people. And, yet, for other people, it can be very liberating to finally admit that there's a problem and feel good about taking steps to change it. They feel that they've had a breakthrough and now they can open up, let go of their denial and free themselves of traits or habits that have been holding them back, often, for many years.

I'm a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and EMDR therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples. 

I have worked with many clients who, initially, start with only external motivation and learn to develop their own internal sense of motivation to change.

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

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




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