NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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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

About Me
I am a licensed New York City 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.  

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

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.

About Me
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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

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 New York City 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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours 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.

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.

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 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 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?

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.

About Me
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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

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

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tips to Cope With 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, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

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

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

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.

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 (see my article: How Parts Work Therapy Can Empower You).

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 too bossy 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 unresolved trauma, depression, anxiety or problems that you're unaware of because they're unconscious.

Getting Help in Therapy
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.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT 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 (917) 742-2624 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.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

How to Improve Communication in Your Relationship

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.

How to Improve Communication in Your Relationship

  • 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.

When to Get Help in Therapy
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 New York City. 

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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me 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 (917) 742-2624 during regular business hours 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

Grief: Coping with the Loss of a Loved One

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.

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.

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 New York City 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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Common Reactions to the Loss of a Loved One

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 New York City 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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

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.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To set up a consultation,  call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Benefits of 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.

The Benefits of Meditation

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.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City 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, feel free to call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also see my article:  Safe Place Meditation

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 in Therapy
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.

You Can Overcome Low Esteem

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours 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.

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.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hour or email me.

What Are the Effects of Low Self Esteem?

In a prior article, I described low self esteem and gave some examples of what people with low self esteem might think and feel about themselves.

What Are the Effects of Low Self Esteem?

What Are the Effects of Low Self Esteem?
People with low self esteem often:
  • avoid making friends
  • avoid social situations
  • perform poorly at work or at school
  • be unable to defend themselves from criticism or abuse
  • drink excessively or abuse drugs
  • overspend
And so on.

Low self esteem can be caused by circumstances related to childhood issues or it can be caused by stressful life circumstances, like losing a job, losing a house, financial problems, abusive relationships, the death of a loved one, and so on.

So, we begin to see that low esteem can be a serious problem. 

In future posts, I'll address what can be done about low self esteem.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you feel like you are struggling with low self esteem, you might benefit from getting professional help.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

What is Low Self Esteem?

Self esteem is a big topic. I'll be covering this topic in a few posts.

What is Low Self Esteem?

To understand what low self esteem is, let's define what we mean by self esteem.

Self esteem is how we see and feel about ourselves.

Low self esteem is when we have a low opinion of ourselves.

Ask yourself:

Have I ever described myself as being weak, stupid, unlovable, or powerless?

Do I tend to compare myself unfavorably to others?

Do I have negative feelings about my appearance? Do I think that people won't like me because I feel too fat or too thin?

Do I tend to engage in negative self talk?

When I go to a party or some other social event, do I feel that I won't have anything interesting to say and that the other people there won't want to meet me?

If you have answered "yes" to two or more of these questions, you might be struggling with low self esteem and you might benefit from psychotherapy.

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

To set up an appointment call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

See my articles: 
What is Low Self Esteem?
Is Your Relationship Damaging Your Self Esteem?
Low Self Esteem? Take Steps to Increase Your Sense of Self Worth

Why is Empathy Important in Psychotherapy?

A therapist's empathy is such an important aspect of psychotherapy.

Why is Empathy Important in Therapy?

What is empathy?
There are so many definitions for empathy. For our purposes, empathy in psychotherapy refers to the therapist's ability to:
  • listen reflectively
  • enter into the client's experience to sense how the client feels
  • reflect back these feelings back to the client in a way that enhances the client's understanding and allows the client to feel understood
Why is empathy important in psychotherapy?
When the therapist is being empathetic, the therapist gives the client his or her full attention.

If the therapist has perceived the client's meaning accurately and reflects this back to the client, the client will often hear what he or she is saying, possibly in a new way.

The client has an opportunity to gain a better understanding. It also helps a client to improve their problem solving skills.

For a client who grew up feeling not heard at home, being heard and understood by the therapist can be such a healing experience.

It helps a client to feel that he or she is not alone.

I believe that empathy is a very important and necessary part of psychotherapy. Empathy can create trust and build a rapport between the therapist and the client.

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

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

To make an appointment, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.