power by WikipediaMindmap

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

How Trauma Affects Intimate Relationships

Emotional trauma can affect intimate relationships in ways that might be confusing or difficult to understand for both the trauma survivor as well as the partner or spouse of the survivor (see my articles: Overcoming Trauma With Experiential TherapyOvercoming a History Childhood Trauma That Impacts Adult Relationships,Before and After Psychological Trauma, How Past Psychological Trauma Lives on in the Present, and Untreated Trauma is a Serious Issue With Negative Consequences).

How Trauma Affects Intimate Relationships

How Trauma Affects Intimate Relationships
A person with a history of trauma can have one or more of the following symptoms:
  • A lack of interest or a decrease in physical and/or emotional intimacy
  • Emotional numbing and withdrawal
  • Ambivalence about the relationship
  • Difficulty trusting others, including loved ones
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self doubt
  • Compulsive behavior, including an eating disorder, substance dependency, compulsive gambling, sexual acting out, etc.
  • A decrease of interest or avoidance of social situations
  • An increase in arguments and problems finding resolutions to problems
  • An inability to talk about problems
  • Nightmares and/or problem sleep
Getting Help in Therapy or Couples Therapy
If you or your partner have been traumatized, it's important to understand that it's not about "being weak" or a matter of "snapping out of it."

These symptoms don't go away on their own.  They require help from a licensed mental health professional who specializes in trauma.

A trauma therapist can help the traumatized individual work through trauma, whether it's a one-time event or developmental trauma which occurred in childhood.

Without help, the traumatized individual can continue to spiral down, which might can lead to the demise of the relationship due to the trauma-related symptoms.

In addition, traumatized individuals often tend to unintentionally pass on their traumatic symptoms to their children.

There are effective forms of trauma therapy, including EMDR therapy and Somatic Experiencing which can help individuals to overcome trauma so they can lead more fulfilling lives as individuals and in their relationship (see my articles: What is EMDR Therapy? and Somatic Experiencing: Allow Yourself to Feel Your Sadness).

Getting help in a timely manner can make the difference between saving or ending your relationship.  

About Me
I am a licensed NYC trauma psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and Emotionally Focused therapist who works with individuals and couples (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Therapy).

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.

Dating: Why Do Some People Prefer to Text on Dating Apps Instead of Meeting in Person?

I've written several articles about dating and the early stages of being in a relationship (see my articles: Dating: Is It Time to Have "the Talk"?Dating Again in Your 40s, 50s, 60s and Beyond, Are You and Your Boyfriend on the Same Wavelength About Your Relationship?

Dating: Why Do Some People Prefer to Text on Dating Apps Instead of Meeting in Person?

In this article, I'm focusing on one of the biggest complaints I hear about dating apps, which is that there are many people who would rather just text endlessly than meet in person.  They might come across as pleasant and personable in their text messages, but when the subject of meeting comes up, they end of ghosting whoever they've contacting via text.

Among the people who are averse to meeting in person, both men and women seem to do it, and this becomes frustrating for people who actually want to meet in person and eventually get into a relationship.

Why Do Some People Prefer to Text on Dating Apps Instead of Meeting in Person?
Let's take a look at some of the possibilities as to why there are certain people only want to text:
  • They're Married or in a Committed Relationship: It will come as no surprise that many people are on dating apps, like Tinder or Bumble, are actually married or in a relationship, which they don't reveal.  They like to fantasize about meeting someone online, but they won't actually do anything about it because they want to remain in their relationship.  So, they will string potential dates along with endless texting and eventually ghost them.
  • They Just Want the Attention:  Some people are flattered that they can get so many people to "like" them on a dating app, but they're not interested in actually meeting in person.  Texting endlessly is enough for them. This is another example of people who like to string others along.
  • They're in an On-Again/Off-Again Relationship:  Similar to being married or in a committed relationship, the person who's in an on-again/off-again relationship uses the dating app when there are problems in the relationship knowing full well that they're going to be back in the relationship again.  It makes them feel good to know that there are other potential dates out there should their actually relationship end, but they have no intention of meeting in person for the time being.
  • They Can't Tolerate More Than a "Texting Relationship:" On their profile, they say they want to be in a relationship but, in reality, being in a real relationship is more than they can tolerate emotionally, so they engage in endless texting because they like the attention and the feeling that they're connecting with someone that "likes" them enough to text back.
  • They're Ambivalent About Actually Meeting Someone: As opposed to people who know from the outset that they have no intention of meeting anyone in person, the person who is ambivalent about dating can't make up his or her mind about whether they want to actually meet someone or not.  They give mixed messages in their texts or calls and, often, ultimately decide that they're not ready to meet and disappear.
  • They're Afraid to Meet People in Person: Similar to the people who are ambivalent, the people who are fearful of meeting in person--even in a public place--feel comfortable texting, but meeting in person is too much for them to handle.  So, when the other person tries to get them to make a plan, they disappear.
  • They're Scammers: Unfortunately, are a fair amount of scammers on dating apps.  They often steal other people's pictures (often models or actors) and set up a fake profile.  They will lavish a lot of attention on you with texts, but they always seem to have a "reason" why they can't meet in person.  Usually these people come on strong and like to say that the two of you are already in a relationship--even though you haven't even met yet. Some people fall prey to this manipulation because they're lonely and an online "relationship" is better than no relationship to them.  Eventually, if you continue to engage with these scammers, they will try to manipulate you into giving them money ("My mother needs a medical procedure, but we don't have the money.  Can you wire me the money and I'll pay you back?").  Unsuspecting people have been bilked out of thousands of dollars this way.  Even after these scams are reported to the dating app, the scammers are hard to track down.  They close out their accounts and set up another fake account.

How to Deal With People Who Only Want to Text on Dating Apps
  • After a few texts and a phone call or two, if the person is unwilling to make a plan to meet in person, you might be dealing with someone who only wants to text.
  • It might seem like they're paying a lot of attention to you if they're texting you 10 times a day and asking you about the minutea of your day ("Did you sleep well?" and "How is your day going?"), but they're actually wasting your time.
  • If you can't get someone to make a plan to meet in person after a week or two, wish them well and move on.  There are plenty of people who actually want to meet and eventually get into a relationship without you wasting time on people who only want to text.
  • Whatever you do, don't send money to people who pretend that they're in a relationship with you even though you've never met in person.
  • If you do get into a situation where the other person texts you and eventually ghosts you, as frustrating and disheartening as this might be, don't take it personally.  After all, they don't know you, so it's not you that they're rejecting.  Whatever is going on with them is about them.
About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypntherapist, EMDR, AEDP 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, February 10, 2020

The Psychological Benefits of Storytelling

Storytelling has become a popular activity at many venues in New York City as well as around the world.  Not only is it popular, it's also a powerful form of communication since ancient times, and there are many psychological benefits to telling and listening to stories.

The Psychological Benefits of Storytelling

The Psychological Benefits of Storytelling
  • We are hardwired for storytelling.  We tend to think in terms of stories, and it's how we make meaning of our lives. 
  • Listening to a story engages the imagination, and the brain processes the images and emotional experiences related to the story in the same way as it processes "real life" lived experiences.
  • Whether the stories are about ancient myths, archetypes, relationships, overcoming adversity, or personal transformation, to name only a few storytelling topics, storytelling has a psychologically integrative function for the individual telling the story as well as for the listener.  
  • Storytelling engages on an emotional level in a collaborative way as the storyteller makes him/herself emotionally vulnerable by telling a personally meaningful story. As the audience listens to the story, they often open up in an empathetic way to the storyteller and the story. 
  • In developing and narrating the story, the storyteller discovers psychological connections from the past to the present and from one part of the self to other aspects of the self. 
  • Storytelling helps to connect us in universal ways as the listener identifies with the storyteller and discovers aspects of him/herself in the story.  A personally meaningful story often transcends the boundaries of race, gender, age and other identities that often divide people.
  • From an early age, most people are raised on stories. Young children love stories and they will often ask to hear the same story over and over again because it's soothing. Adults also find stories to be emotionally engaging.  There is also something soothing about anticipating and experiencing the structure of a story with a beginning, middle and an end. The audience anticipates that there will be an arc to the story with a resolution at the end, which is so comforting and satisfying to the mind.

Storytelling and the Moth
The Moth, a nonprofit group based in New York City, was founded in 1997 and it's dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling.  Currently, the Moth hosts storytelling events all over the United States and the world.  

The poet and novelist, George Dawes Green, and the original Moth storytellers wanted to recreate the atmosphere of telling and listening to stories on the porch where moths buzzed around in the evening light.  They began by calling themselves "the moths" and the organization has grown substantially from its origins more than 20 years ago.

In 2009, the Moth began a popular and critically acclaimed podcast and established a national public radio show. 

Since its inception, thousands of people have told their personal stories at the Moth all over the world.

My Storytelling Experiences
I came to the storytelling experience through improvisation.  If anyone had told me, even just a few years ago, that I would be involved in improv or storytelling, I would have been shocked.  

But when a trainer told me about his experiences with improvisation and on the same day I received an email from my professional social work listserv about Applied Improvisation as it relates to clinical social work, I was more than just a little curious about the timing of this interesting synchronicity.

As a psychotherapist for over 20 years, I listen to many clients' stories and, when I think it's clinically appropriate, I also tell them stories that I think would be helpful to their process.

Applied improvisation has helped me to improve my therapeutic skills with clients.  It has also enhanced my creativity.  And aside from these great benefits, improv and storytelling are fun!  

How You Can Get Involved With Storytelling
There is an art and a craft to storytelling that you can learn.  

If you live in New York City, there are many schools and individual storytellers that teach storytelling.

The Magnet* is a school in New York City where you can learn improv and/or storytelling in a collaborative and supportive environment.  

Being in a classroom where other people are developing their storytelling skills and presenting stories about their transformative experiences has been one of the most moving experiences for me.

Over time, the students in the class develop trusting relationships with each other, which is fostered by the instructor, in order to be vulnerable enough to tell their stories and get feedback.  

At the conclusion of the storytelling class series, the class puts on a show where each storyteller gets up in front of an audience to tell his or her personal story.

There is an energetic flow between the storytellers and the audience, and this, in itself, is transformative for both the storyteller and the audience.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP 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.

*Disclaimer: I am not on the faculty of the Magnet and I receive no compensation or benefit of any kind from them for mentioning them in this article.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Erotic Countertransference: The Therapist's Sexual Attraction to the Client

In an earlier article, Psychotherapy and the Erotic Transference: Falling "In Love" With Your Psychotherapist, I discussed clients' erotic feelings (also known as transference) for the therapist, the struggle that clients often have with these feelings, and how these feelings can be worked through with the therapist in a way that furthers the work in therapy.  As mentioned in the earlier article, a client's erotic feelings for his therapist is a common issue in therapy.  In this article, I'm focusing on the therapist's erotic feelings (also known as countertransference) for the client.

The Erotic Countertransference: The Therapist's Sexual Attraction to the Client

Psychotherapists who have been trained psychoanalytically are aware that they can develop erotic feelings for some clients. Knowing in advance that this will occur at some point and being trained on how to deal with it in an ethical way helps therapists to be prepared for these encounters, and it allows them to handle these issues in a way that isn't harmful to the client or their work together.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that psychotherapists know that it would be a serious boundary violation to get sexually/romantically involved with the client whether that involvement occurred during their work together or even after the client terminated therapy.  Unfortunately, although the vast majority of therapists are ethical, there are some therapists who act unethically.  Fortunately, they are in the minority (see my article: Boundary Violations and Sexual Exploitation in Therapy).

A therapist who has in-depth psychoanalytic experience, knows how to attune to what's going on in her internal world, with the client, and in the intersubjective space between the client and therapist.

She is also able to  momentarily dip into her own subjective experience in a way that's useful for the therapy (see my article: Psychotherapy: A Unique Intersubjective Experience).

For instance, as an example having nothing to do with sexual attraction, while she is listening to the client, a particular song might pop into the therapist's head, and she would ask herself if this song has any relevance to the client or the therapy session. She would ask herself if this is a way for her unconscious mind to give her more information that she might not be picking up on consciously? (see my article: Making the Unconscious Conscious).

There can be many reasons why a therapist might feel sexually attracted to a client.  On the most basic level, some people, including clients in therapy, naturally exude a certain sexual magnetism.  Since part of the therapist's job is to be attuned to the client, she could be picking up on this magnetism.

Another common reason is that the client might be flirting with the therapist as part of a defense mechanism to divert the conversation from things that make him uncomfortable in the session. For an experienced therapist, this is usually easy to see and would need to be addressed by the therapist in a tactful way.

Another issue might be that the therapist might be at a point in her personal life where she is not romantically, sexually or emotionally fulfilled.  As a result, she might experience these unfulfilled needs in the therapy room with the client.  This is why it's so important for psychotherapists to be attuned to their own personal needs so that they don't make ethical mistakes.

The Erotic Countertransference:  The Therapist's Erotic Feelings For the Client
The following fictional vignette is based on many different clinical cases.  It illustrates how the therapist attunes to her own internal experience and how she uses this attunement to discover the meaning of her experience and how it relates to the work with the client.

Gina, who was an experienced psychotherapist, realized that she felt a sexual attraction for Jim, after their first session together.

As a seasoned psychotherapist whose original training was in psychoanalysis, Gina knew that it was common for both clients and therapists to have attractions for each other.

Not only had she learned about the erotic countertransference in her original analytic training and in her extensive supervision, she also experienced this occasionally with other male clients.  She and her colleagues also discussed this phenomenon in their peer supervision group.

Although she was clear that she wouldn't act on her attraction based on ethical and clinical reasons, there was something different about this experience as compared to other earlier experiences that concerned her.

So, rather than ignoring her sexual attraction, she paid attention to it, and after her second session with Jim, she thought about whether there was something familiar about him that might be triggering these feelings.

She also talked to her own psychotherapist about this sexual attraction in her next therapy session.  Since her therapist, Ruth, knew Gina well from having worked with her in her analysis for over 15 years, Ruth listened intently as Gina described the sexual feelings that came over her during the first two sessions with Jim.

As Ruth listened to Gina describe this attraction, she realized that Jim had similar characteristics to Gina's husband, who died several years before.  She knew that even though Gina had gone through a period of grief and mourning, she still missed her husband a lot.  She also knew that Gina had been unable to motivate herself to begin dating again even though several years had passed, which left Gina feeling lonely.

As they talked about the similarities, including appearance, between Jim and Gina's late husband, Gina felt a deep sadness come over her that she had not felt since Jim died unexpectedly.  Although she saw the striking similarities between Jim and her late husband, Gina also saw the differences, and as she began to differentiate the two men and her feelings towards them, she began to feel a little better.

These feelings for Jim were also a signal to Gina that she needed to take better care of herself and that her loneliness signaled that she might be ready to explore dating again--even though she had mixed feelings about it.

During her next several sessions with her therapist, Gina explored her ambivalence about dating.  Part of her hesitation was that she continued to feel loyal to her late husband, and she wasn't sure how she would feel dating someone new.

But she agreed with her therapist, Ruth, that she could take it one step at a time, and she was under no obligation to date anyone.  So, she thought of her foray into dating as a way to explore her own feelings and the next step in her mourning process, which included an acceptance that her husband would never come back.

This acceptance that her husband was gone forever brought a new and deeper wave of grief for Gina. She knew from her own training and clinical experience that this was a normal part of grief and mourning as time went on.  So, she continued to talk to her therapist to address her own emotional needs in her therapy and separate out these needs from her work with her client, Jim.

As Gina took care of herself emotionally by talking to her therapist about her emotions and to her friends, who were also colleagues, about her attraction to Jim, she noticed that her attraction began to diminish.  Her work with Jim continued without interruption to his clinical process in sessions, and the therapy was going well.

A few weeks after Gina started seeing Jim as a therapy client, she noticed that she no longer felt an attraction to him.  She could see the resemblance and similarities to her late husband, but she also saw Jim clearly for himself as an individual.

Four months later, Gina began dating again.  She met a man who was also a widower and who understood her mixed feelings about dating.  As she continued to see him, she realized that her feelings for her late husband would never change, and there was room in her heart for both her late husband and for the new man that she was beginning to really like (see my article: A New Relationship: Understanding the Loyalty Dilemma For Someone Whose Spouse Died).

As her emotional needs were met in her therapy, with friends and colleagues and with the new man that she was dating, Gina felt more emotionally fulfilled.  With time, her client, Jim no longer reminded her of her husband because, although there was a physical resemblance, she could now differentiate more clearly that they were two very different men.

She was glad that she took care of herself and used her resources in therapy and among friends and colleagues to deal with the countertransference issues related to her therapy with Jim.  She recognized that, in many ways, it was similar to what occurred occasionally with other clients in the past, but she also saw why her feelings were so heightened with the similarities to her husband.

Both clients and therapists can develop sexual attractions for each other.  It's usually related to transference for the client and countertransference for the therapist.

Therapists have an ethical responsibility to be aware of their feelings and, for the sake of the client and the integrity of the therapy, not to act on their feelings.

Occasionally it happens that a therapist, who sought help in her own therapy, in supervision and among colleagues, is still unable to handle the countertransference, she has a ethical responsibility to refer the client to another therapist rather than act on her feelings or continue to be in conflict about them.

It's of utmost importance that therapists have a strong sense of self awareness and engage in self care so that they don't compromise a client's therapy.  As in the fictional scenario above, this means that the therapist must have the necessary skills and training to self reflect on her own internal process and do what she needs to do to take care of herself.

Although it was not discussed in this article, there are times when both the therapist and the client have a sexual attraction for each other.  In those cases, even if the client behaves in a seductive way, it's the therapist's responsibility not to cross a boundary with a client.  She must analyze her own feelings as well as the clients to understand the root of the issue for each of them and then proceed in an ethical manner to do what's best for the client while taking care of herself.

Getting Help in Therapy
Most well-trained psychotherapists are aware that they will occasionally feel an attraction for a client.      This is a common experience.  Most of them will also know that this probably has less to do with the client than it does with whatever is or isn't going on in their life.

Although sexual boundary violations do occur from time to time, most therapists take their Code of Ethics, which states that therapists cannot be in a dual relationship with a client, seriously.  They know it would be devastating to the client, their work together and it would also jeopardize their professional license if they crossed this ethical boundary.

If you're already in therapy and some of the issues in this article resonate with you, you would probably benefit from discussing them with your therapist or, if you're not comfortable with that, seeking a consultation with a different therapist to discuss what's going on in your therapy.  Most of the time these issues can be worked out, but if you tried and they can't be resolved, you can also seek help from another licensed therapist.

We all need help at some point in our lives.  If you're not in therapy and you're struggling with unresolved issues that are creating obstacles in your life, you deserve to get help from an experience licensed mental health professional.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and Emotionally Focused therapist, also known as EFT (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work 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.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Why Do Core Emotional Issues Get Triggered in Romantic Relationships?

When you're involved in a serious romantic relationship, you are at your most emotionally vulnerable.  So, it's no surprise that core emotional issues often get triggered when you're in love (see my article: Relationships: Fear of Being Emotionally Vulnerable).

Why Do Core Emotional Issues Get Triggered in Romantic Relationships?
Of course, there are usually many positive emotions that come up too when you feel loved and cared about and when you feel the same way for someone else.  But many people discover that several months into the relationship (and sometimes even before that) they begin feeling vulnerable as they realize just how important their partner is to them and how hurtful it would be if it didn't work out.

This emotional vulnerability is usually felt even more acutely when either one or both people have experienced emotional trauma from the past, including family of origin issues, prior breakups or earlier losses.  These old wounds tend to get triggered in the current relationship--even though the relationship might be going very well.  And, if it isn't going well, the current problems can trigger old emotional wounds even more.

Many people find the periods of time in a relationship when it's unclear if the relationship will go to the next level the most anxiety provoking.  These transitional times can include going from casual dating to a monogamous dating, from monogamous dating to being in a committed relationship and the period from a committed relationship to living together or getting married.

If one of both people are ambivalent about the next step, it can be unnerving as each person weighs the risk of remaining emotionally open to the other.  It helps a lot if the couple can talk about it openly.  But if they can't or if their talks are unproductive, they could benefit from couples therapy.

Clinical Vignette:  Why Do Core Emotional Issues Get Triggered in Romantic Relationships?
The following fictional clinical vignette illustrates how core issues are triggered as a romantic relationship transitions from casual dating to a more committed relationship:

Ann and Ted
After they met at a party, Ann and Ted, who were both in their mid-30s, began dating casually about once a week.  During the initial few weeks, they enjoyed each other's company, especially since they had so many common interests.

Two months into the relationship, Ann realized how much she cared for Ted, and she wondered if he was seeing other women.  She wasn't sure how to bring this up. On the one hand, she didn't want Ted to think she was being too demanding of his attention but, on the other hand, she was becoming increasingly worried that as she began to really like him, he might become interested in someone else.

When her worries became greater than her fear of appearing demanding, she broached the topic with Ted over dinner.  Initially, she felt anxious and she feared taking the emotional risk of making herself vulnerable when he might not feel the same way.  But she knew she needed to address this issue, so she told Ted she thought they needed to have a talk about their relationship (see my article: Dating: Is It Time to Have the Talk?).

Upon hearing Ann's words, Ted's expression shifted and Ann could see that he looked worried, "Is everything okay between us, Ann?"  In response, Ann took the risk and told Ted that she really liked him and she would prefer it if they could date each other exclusively rather than dating other people.

When she heard Ted laugh, Ann was confused until he said, "Oh...You looked so serious--I was worried that you were going to say that you didn't want to see me anymore. I'm not dating anyone else and I feel the same way that you do."

During the next few weeks, after they talked about how much they both cared for one another, their relationship deepened, and they spent more time together than before.  With the deepening of their relationship, they enjoyed each other's company even more and made vacation plans for the summer.

However, soon after that, Ann became worried again because she realized she had fallen in love with Ted, and she worried that if their relationship didn't work out, she would be devastated.  She thought about her last long term relationship where she and her fiancĂ© had plans to get married, but their relationship fell apart just a few months before the wedding after he got "cold feet" and ended the relationship.

Even before that engagement, Ann tended to be skeptical about relationships.  Her parents divorced when she was only six months old.  Since her father disappeared from her life after the divorce, Ann never had a relationship with him.  Her mother, who never remarried or even dated after she and Ann's father were divorced, had very negative views of men.  She would constantly warn Ann not to trust men, and she even tried to discourage Ann from dating.

Although Ann rebelled against her mother's negative views about men and began dating in high school, she never felt completely free of her mother's views.  Even though she liked boys and she wanted to be in a relationship, she feared that her mother might be right.

When her fiancĂ© left her, Ann couldn't help feeling that this was a sign that her mother might be right that she shouldn't trust men.  It took Ann a couple of years to overcome the pain of that loss. She was very hesitant to get involved again, but she didn't want to resign herself of a life of being alone.  So, when she met Ted, she decided to give dating another chance.

But as her feelings for Ted grew, her fear also continued to grow.  Aside from this, she wanted to have children, and she feared that if she waited too long, she might have problems getting pregnant.

There were days when she almost wanted to end the relationship rather than face the possibility that at some point in the future he might leave her.  On a rational level, she knew that there were no signs of this but, on an emotional level, her fear became overwhelming.

They were now dating exclusively for six months, and Ann knew that Ted wouldn't initiate a conversation about where they were in their relationship.  He seemed to be content with the way things were going between them.  So, she knew she would have to do it, but she was even more fearful than she had been the first time they talked.

One night when they were out to dinner, Ted noticed that Ann was much quieter than usual, and she was just pushing the food around her plate, so he asked her, "Is something wrong, Ann?"

Ann's initial inclination was to try to smile and say that there was nothing wrong, but she couldn't do it.  She was barely holding back tears.  She knew that Ted was aware of how devastated she felt when her engagement ended suddenly because they talked about their history of relationships soon after they started dating.  But she wasn't sure if he knew about the lasting effect it had on her and how it was affecting their relationship.

With much effort, Ann told Ted about her fears of getting hurt in their relationship and how it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to cope with those fears.  While she was telling him about this, she could barely look at him because she felt so ashamed.  She was sure that he would think she was being ridiculous and that her fears would push him away.

But, to her surprise, Ted listened and he was very understanding.  Although he had never experienced the kinds of losses that Ann experienced, he was deeply moved by her fears and sadness.  He gave her the time and space she needed to express her feelings without being judgmental.  Then, he assured her that his feelings for her had deepened over time and he had no intention of leaving her.

Ann was momentarily relieved to hear this, but her fears continued to mount.  She was afraid that her fears would bring about the end of the relationship, so she suggested that they go to couples therapy.

At the recommendation of a friend, who attended Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, Ann and Ted began couples therapy.  With the help of their EFT couples therapist, they developed a better understanding of their attachment styles and how these attachment styles affected their relationship (see my article: What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) For Couples?).

After the EFT couples therapist recommended that Ann attend her own individual therapy to deal with the loss of her father, which was getting triggered in her current relationship, Ann started individual therapy.  In her individual therapy, Ann was able to separate out her family of origin experiences and losses (including the negative views about men that her mother attempted to impart on Ann) and her current experiences with Ted.

Both Ted and Ann discovered in EFT that they had different communication and attachment styles, and they learned how to communicate better (see my article: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship).

Most importantly, they learned how to be emotionally vulnerable with each other in order to ask for what they needed from one another and to enhance their relationship (see my article: EFT Couple Therapy: Learning to Ask For What You Need From Your Partner).

At the same time, Ann got more comfortable with trusting that, even though she knew there were no guarantees, things would work out between them, especially once she was no longer triggered.

Core issues, including emotional insecurities, old emotional wounds, and negative beliefs about oneself, often get triggered in romantic relationships because people are most vulnerable when they open themselves to loving another person.

When there is a history of loss and emotional trauma, it's not unusual for these issues to enter into the relationship and cause one or both people to become fearful of getting hurt.

Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples, which has been well researched, is an effective couples therapy to work out these and other relationship issues.

When one or both people have previous trauma that is affecting the current relationship, it's often beneficial to also seek help in individual therapy.

Getting Help in Therapy
Fear due to previous losses and trauma often have a significant negative impact on romantic relationships.

Being able to separate out the trauma from the past from the current relationship is difficult to do when someone is being triggered.  It takes the expertise of a trained trauma therapist or EFT couple therapist to begin to help people to uncouple these issues.

Understanding that you and your partner might have different attachment styles and how these attachment styles affect your relationship is an important component of EFT couples therapy.

If you're having problems in your relationship, rather than allowing your relationship to deteriorate, you owe it to yourself and your partner to get help so you can have a more fulfilling, loving relationship.

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

I am trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples and I have found it to be an effective modality for helping couples to overcome their problems.

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, September 17, 2019

Self Compassion: Loving Yourself Even in the Places Where You Feel Broken

In a prior article, I discussed the concept of self compassion (see my article: Psychotherapy and Compassionate Self Acceptance).  In this article, I would like to expand on this topic and explore why self compassion is so important.

Self Compassion: Loving Yourself Even in the Places Where You Feel Broken

As I mentioned in the prior article, many psychotherapy clients come to therapy being harsh and punitive with themselves.  This harsh sense of self usually develops at an early age due to traumatic childhood experiences and, without therapy, continues into adulthood.

If this harsh sense of self goes unaddressed by the psychotherapist, it will become an obstacle in the therapeutic work.  This is due to the fact that a harsh sense of self often comes with a negative belief  of "I don't deserve to feel better."

If this negative belief of not deserving to feel better goes undetected and unresolved in therapy, it will undermine the client's and therapist's work together.

Even though, initially, clients might be unaware of feeling undeserving of compassion, if a therapist explores this possibility with clients, most clients, who have this unconscious negative belief, are able to identify it.

Identifying a negative belief about oneself is only the first step, but it's an important step.

Certain forms of experiential therapy, like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, ask the client for the negative belief with regard to the presenting problem.  Discussing the negative belief about oneself is an essential part of the therapy (see my article: Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR Therapy, Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs and Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Regular Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma).

However, if the negative belief about oneself remains unconscious, the therapist needs to use therapeutic techniques to get to this unconscious level because just asking some clients won't be enough.  This is because talking about the negative belief is addressing to the client's prefrontal cortex, which is the logical part of the brain.  But trauma "lives" deeper in the brain in the limbic system of the emotional part of the brain, so the therapist needs a method of getting to this unconscious level if the client is unable to access it through a discussion.

In those instances, the therapist needs to use a form of experiential therapy to get to a deeper level.  The Affect Bridge is one technique to get to this deeper unconscious level (for an explanation of the Affect Bridge and how it works, see my article: Bridging Back to Heal Old Emotional Wounds).

The next step is working directly with this negative belief and its associated emotions.  In doing so, the therapist provides the client with the psychoeducation that the negative belief/emotions are just one part of him or herself--not the whole self (see my article: Understanding the Different Aspects of Yourself That Make You Who You Are and Parts Work in Therapy).

It's usually a relief to clients to realize that this problem is only one aspect of themselves and that they continue to have access to the healthier parts of the self to do the therapeutic work.

Once the negative belief/emotions have been worked through in therapy, the client usually has a greater capacity for self compassion, which contributes to the healing experience and the working through of the trauma.

A lack of self compassion is usually indicative of early unresolved childhood trauma.

The child internalizes the negative beliefs/emotions that his or her caregiver imparts--whether this is done consciously or unconsciously.

Unless the child receives therapy to overcome the trauma, these negative beliefs/emotions will follow him or her into adulthood and have a significant negative impact on self perception as well as interpersonal relationships throughout life.

When negative beliefs/emotions present themselves as an obstacle in adult trauma therapy, the trauma therapist must have the necessary therapeutic tools and techniques to identify and work through them.

Whereas experiential therapy, like EMDR therapy, gets to the deeper part of the brain, the limbic system where the trauma "lives," talk therapy usually does not get to this level.  Even though talk therapy can provide intellectual insight into unresolved trauma, it often doesn't result in healing or change on an emotional level.

When the client is able to develop self compassion, this becomes part of the healing and working through of the trauma.

Getting Help in Therapy
Unresolved psychological trauma is very difficult, if not impossible, to resolve on your own.

To overcome traumatic experiences and develop self compassion, you need the help of an experienced trauma therapist.

Once you have worked through the trauma, you can free yourself of your traumatic history and lead a more fulfilling life

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and Emotionally Focused therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome trauma.

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

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

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Are You Thinking About Canceling Your Therapy Session Because You're Having a Good Day?

In a prior article, I discussed scenarios where clients left therapy prematurely before they completed their work in therapy (see my article: When Clients Leave Therapy Prematurely).  In this article, I'm focusing on clients who think about canceling their therapy session when they're having a good day.

Are You Thinking About Canceling Your Therapy Session Because You're Having a Good Day? 

You might wonder why it would be a problem to cancel your therapy session when you're feeling good, and this is a legitimate question, especially for people who are new to therapy.

The following factors will help you to develop a deeper, more comprehensive perspective about therapy, which goes beyond being in crisis, and why canceling when you're feeling good might not be a good idea:
  • Many people only seek help in therapy when they're in an emotional crisis.  Once the crisis is over, they leave therapy.  But even though you might not be in an emotional crisis anymore, if you have only focused on the latest crisis, you've only touched the surface of the problem.  Beyond developing insight into the problem, you need time and help to integrate and consolidate what you've learned about yourself and the situation.  You also need assistance to maintain new healthy coping strategies that you just learned in therapy.  If not, you're likely to find yourself in a similar (if not exact) emotional crisis again soon.  The people, places and particular circumstances might be a little different with the new crisis, but the underlying issues, which haven't been resolved, are probably the same (see my article: Remaining in Therapy Beyond the Immediate Crisis).
  • When you consider canceling a session, you might be avoiding issues in therapy that are emerging and that are frightening to you.  Rather than avoiding these issues, speak to your therapist about it.  A discussion with your therapist could help you to understand what's frightening you.  It will also help your therapist to understand that you might not be ready to tackle these issues head on but, instead, you might need some preparation and the development of additional coping skills to be able to, eventually, work through the issues that are frightening you.  If your therapist is a trauma therapist, she can help you to break down the work into manageable pieces so that you're not delving too deep into the worst aspects of the problem before you're ready.
  • Having a "good day" is often a welcomed relief, especially if you've had many emotionally challenging days before that.  However, one "good day" doesn't mean that your problems are all worked out, and "feeling good" isn't a good measurement by itself of your progress in therapy.  Change often comes by taking two steps forward and one step back, so a "good day" or two is often followed by a setback.
If you think you have worked through the problem that brought you into therapy, discuss this with your therapist rather than just leaving without telling her (see my article: Why Ghosting Your Therapist is Harmful to You).

Of course, the decision to stay or go is up to you, but your therapist can shed light on the process and help you to terminate therapy in a way that's healthy and helpful to you.

Getting Help in Therapy
Many people have outdated views of the therapy process (see my articles:  Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Going to Therapy Means You're Weak and Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Therapy Takes a Long Time).

Although there are certain people who enjoy coming to therapy, learning about themselves and having a time and place that's dedicated just to them to talk about what's going on in their lives, some people come to deal with a specific issue.  They might want to remove obstacles that are getting in the way of making changes, develop insight into certain emotional patterns or deal with an unresolved trauma that is affecting them now.

Psychotherapy has evolved over the last decade, and there are now experiential therapy modalities, like EMDR therapy, AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy), Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis and other experiential therapies that tend to be more effective than regular talk therapy.

If you're unfamiliar with these newer experiential therapies, feel free to browse the articles in my blog that discuss how and why these types of therapy are more effective (see my articles: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Regular Talk Therapy and Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR Therapy, Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs).

Rather than waiting until a problem develops into an emotional crisis, you owe it to yourself to seek help from a licensed mental health professional.

Once you have worked through your problems, you will have freed yourself from your history, and you will be free to live a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and Emotionally Focused (EFT) therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

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.