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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Psychotherapy and Spirituality

Searching for Meaning and Purpose
During this holiday season, amid the noise and haste, it's the time of year when many people search for meaning and purpose in their lives . Some people approach these questions through their spiritual practice. Others consult with psychotherapists. And many use both their spiritual practice and their psychotherapy sessions to explore these important questions. Psychotherapy and spirituality approach these existential questions in different ways . And yet, there is significant overlap between psychotherapy and spiritual questions.

Psychotherapy and Spirituality:  Searching for Meaning and Purpose
People usually go to psychotherapists when they're in emotional pain. It might be an immediate crisis, a longstanding problem, grief, loss or trauma that brings them to a psychotherapist office. Whatever the initial problem might be, often, questions about the meaning and purpose of their lives becomes a part of the treatment. Most people want to feel they're leading meaningful lives, and when they're in emotional crisis, doubts and fears can arise about the direction of their lives. If they're in a particularly difficult life transition, they might question their goals and priorities. The loss of a loved one can test their faith in themselves, humankind, and their God or Higher Power.

Psychotherapy and spirituality both address these issues. As a psychotherapist, I help clients to navigate through these complex and vital questions. As I see it, part of the psychotherapist's job is to help clients to search for and find meaning in their lives. Just living from day to day without purpose or meaning isn't satisfying for most people. Yet, finding purpose and meaning can be elusive. Although emotional crisis can throw us off balance, it can also open us up to new possibilities, including transitions that help us define who we are as individuals and who we want to be.

When I refer to spirituality, I use that term in its broadest sense. For some people, spirituality means a formal religion. For others, it might be the sense of transcendence they feel in nature, music, art, their A.A. meetings or the love they feel for their families or for humankind. However you define spirituality, what all of these things have in common is they give us a sense that there's something greater than ourselves that we're responding to and from which we feel nurtured.

A Purpose-Filled Life
As I see it, it doesn't matter how each of us defines our particular spirituality because, however we see it, the root of it is the same. A purpose-filled life is a life with meaning, hope and direction. It provides us with an internal compass to help us during troubled times. As a psychotherapist, I often help people to find or reclaim their purpose in life. Many clients come to me to explore transpersonal questions in their lives. For some, they're searching for a way to express their yearning for spirituality that might be different from what they might have grown up with as children. Or, they might want to reclaim the spirituality they grew up with, but explore their beliefs as adults with an adult understanding to spiritual questions. As a psychotherapist who is not a minister or spiritual leader, my job isn't to lead them in any particular spiritual direction. Rather, my job as a psychotherapist, is to help them to find the answers within themselves, whatever they might be.

A Purpose Filled Life
During the early days of Freudian psychoanalysis, in my opinion, a false dichotomy developed between psychotherapy and spirituality. I think that was very unfortunate. However, more and more, psychotherapists who work in a more client-centered, contemporary way are seeing that there is significant overlap between psychotherapy and spirituality. A holistic approach to psychotherapy includes an understanding that mind, body and spirit come together in each person, even though they are expressed in many different ways and on different paths.

I believe psychotherapists can be instrumental in helping clients find meaning and purpose in their lives. Psychotherapists can also learn a great deal by listening to clients as they explore these existential questions.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist. I work with individuals and couples. My approach is holistic, and I emphasize the mind-body connection. I provide psychotherapeutic services, including psychodynamic psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, EMDR, hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing.


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.


photo credit: Preconscious Eye via photopin cc

photo credit: leesean via photopin cc