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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Trying to Decide Whether or Not to Reconcile with Your Parents

There is a common misconception about psychotherapy that it's all about coming to complain about your problems, blaming everything on your parents, and that's where it ends. However, in reality, when you begin psychotherapy, looking at your relationship with your parents, if it's relevant to your problems, is only the beginning of trying to understand the origin of the problems. It's not the end by any means.

Emotional Reconciliation with Your Parents
Reconciliation Between Father and Son
At some point, as an adult, especially if you're in your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, you might face the possibility of reconciling certain aspects of your relationship with your parents. Depending upon your particular circumstances, this might be a question of direct reconciliation with one or both of your parents. Under certain circumstances, if they're too impaired physically or emotionally or if they're no longer alive, or if it would be emotionally detrimental to you or to them, it might be a matter of your own internal emotional reconciliation. By this, I mean you own emotional coming to terms with these issues so that you can heal and be at peace with yourself.

Reconciliation Between Mother and Daughter
Only You Can Decide if Reconciliation is Right For You
I realize that this is not an easy topic for some people, and it often elicits uncomfortable responses, especially for people who are in the throes of a difficult time with their parents. So, it's important to understand that only you can decide what works best for you given your particular history and under your particular circumstances.

As a psychotherapist, I've seen many middle-aged clients who are struggling to come to terms with their relationships with their parents. For clients who are in their 40s and older, this might mean that they had difficult relationships with one or both parents when they were younger and now their parents are old and frail and need their help. When their parents were younger and independent, there might have been an emotional estrangement between them and their parents. And there can be so many reasons for this estrangement. Maybe their parents were emotionally or physically abusive when they were growing up. Maybe their parents were emotionally neglectful. Maybe there was some other form of betrayal or trauma.

Whatever the reason for the ongoing resentment or estrangement, after many years, you might find yourself facing an emotional dilemma. If your parents are still alive and elderly, one or both of them might need help. Maybe you've received a call from your siblings that your parents are not well or that your siblings can no longer take care of your parents on their own and need your help. Or, maybe you're the one who has assumed the brunt of the responsibility for your parents and feel overwhelmed physically and emotionally, especially if you're still harboring resentments towards them and you need help. Or, maybe your parents are dead and you were unable to have any type of reconciliation with them before they died. You might feel that, since they're gone, it's no longer possible to reconcile your feelings. But, when you're ready, there are ways in psychotherapy to work through, reconcile your feelings and let go of longstanding anger, hurt and resentment.

Reconciliation Can Be Healing For You
The important thing to understand is that, in many cases, you're doing this mostly for yourself. If your parents are still alive and healthy enough, and it's possible to have a mutual reconciliation that brings peace to you as well as to them and you can do this without compromising your own or their well-being, so much the better. I've heard from so many clients that when they see their parents now as elderly and frail people, it's hard to believe that these were the same parents who were abusive or neglectful. In reality, they might have changed and you might have changed a lot over the years, and maybe you and they are no longer the same people that you once were.

I realize that the emphasis of this post has been focused on dealing with parents who might have been abusive or neglectful. But I also realize that it's not always one way--it's possible that you might feel the need to make amends with your parents for things you might have said or done. This can also be challenging but, if it's possible to do without emotional harm to yourself or to them, can be so freeing.

Reconciliation Might Be Your Own Internal Work
Like any type of working through, forgiving, and letting go, whether you come to terms directly with your parents or you do your own internal emotional work about it without involving your parents, you'd be doing this mostly for your own peace of mind and well being.  For some people, it might do more harm than good to reconnect with one or both parents.  Then, the reconciliation is within yourself.

It might be difficult to imagine, but when you're ready, letting go of the burden of hurt, anger, and toxic resentment can be so freeing.

Getting Help in Therapy
EMDR and clinical hypnosis can be effective tools in dealing with these emotions and, when used by an experienced practitioner, they often work faster and more effectively than regular talk therapy.

I'm a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and EMDR. I've helped many clients find healing and peace with their parental relationships.

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

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

Also, see my article:  Does Forgiving Mean Forgetting?

photo credit: gmayster01 on & off ... via photopin cc

photo credit: rockygirl05 via photopin cc

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Learning to Relax: Square Breathing

For many people learning to relax can be a real challenge. If they have very busy personal and work-related lives, they might not even realize just how overwhelmed with stress they are because feeling this way has become a "normal" way of life.

Learning to Relax: Square Breathing
When I talk to people about de-stressing, some of them tell me that they don't have time to go to the gym or to yoga class. Some of them say they don't even have time to go for a short, brisk walk to de-stress. When clients in my psychotherapy private practice tell me this, I tell them about a simple technique that helps most people to calm down relatively quickly, even when they feel overwhelmed with anxiety. This simple technique is called Square Breathing.

What is Square Breathing?
Square Breathing is a technique that people often learn in meditation or yoga class or when they come to see a mind-body oriented psychotherapist. When clients who are anxious come to my psychotherapy private practice in NYC, I often teach them to do Square Breathing:

Breathe in slowly to the count of four. Feel your lungs filling up with air.

Hold your breath to the count of four.

Breathe out slowly to the count of four. Feel your lungs emptying.

Hold your exhalation to the count of four

Repeat until you feel calmer.

Even though it's such a simple technique, Square Breathing helps most people to calm down and feel better. And you don't need to go to the gym or to a class to do it. You just have to remember to have the presence of mind to do Square Breathing when you feel anxious.

In order to cultivate that presence of mind, it's best to practice doing Square Breathing even when you're not feeling anxious or overwhelmed so that you'll be familiar with this technique and can use it when you need it without having to think too much about how to do.

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

I work with individual adults and couples.

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

To set up an appointment for a consultation, you can call me at (212) 726-1006.

photo credit

Friday, August 7, 2009

Becoming a Successful Nonsmoker

Do you want to stop smoking?

Have you tried to stop smoking before, stopped for a while and then relapsed?

Becoming Successful Nonsmoker

Clinical hypnosis can be a very effective tool to help you stop smoking without the side effects of the drugs, nicotine patches and other methods used to stop smoking.

Noticing Your Smoking Patterns:
When clients come to me to become successful nonsmokers, I ask them to start by noticing and tracking their smoking patterns and triggers:

For each cigarette smoked in a day:

What was your emotional state at the time? (angry, anxious, sad, happy, etc)

What was going on at the time?

Who were you with at the time?

Where were you? Location: at work, at home, walking the dog, in the car?

What is your smoking style for each cigarette? How much of the cigarette did you smoke? How many in a row?

Of the times that you smoked, which times would be easiest to give up? For instance, would it be easier to give up the cigarette you have with your morning coffee? Would it be more difficult to give up the cigarette that helps you to calm down when you're angry with your supervisor?

Breaking the Smoking Pattern:
At the start of treatment, I also ask clients to start by changing one particular habit involved with their smoking. So, for instance, they can change their cigarette brand, change when they smoke (if they usually smoke after meals, maybe they would smoke before a meal) or make another change, no matter how small.

This is called pattern interruption and, when you're trying to break a habit, it's usually very effective as a way to start breaking the habitual patterns. This can also work for other habits that you want to break.

Smoking History:
I also want to get a smoking history during the first session:

When and how did you start smoking?

How long have you been smoking?

With whom do you smoke (e.g., spouse, smoking buddies)?

Are there people who are close to you that smoke?

Has there been anyone close to you who got sick or died from a smoking-related illness?

Have you successfully quit smoking before for a while? If so, for how long? What worked?

What triggered the relapse?

What successful experiences have you had in breaking other habits before?

Why do you want to stop?

How do you think that becoming a successful nonsmoker will affect your life?

Are there certain people who will not be happy if you stop smoking (smoking buddies, spouses who want to continue smoking with you)?

What problems are you anticipating (e.g., weight gain, switching to other habits)?

After I have information about your smoking triggers, smoking patterns, and smoking history, I develop an individualized plan that will be most effective for you as an individual client.

Many people have become successful nonsmokers using clinical hypnosis.
If you want to become a successful nonsmoker, you could benefit from clinical hypnosis. If you've been thinking about stopping but you've been putting it off, consider the benefits of becoming a successful nonsmoker to your health, your overall well being, the health of those around you, and your wallet (cigarettes have become increasingly expensive, as I'm sure you know).

Becoming a Successful Nonsmoker

For more information about the health benefits of smoking cessation, visit the American Cancer Society website:

Consider all these factors and make a decision to get help today.

I'm a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing. I help clients to become successful nonsmokers.

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

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

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How the Mind Develops

Have you ever wondered how our minds develop?

I've begun re-reading Dr. Daniel Siegel's book, The Developing Mind, which I highly recommend. He presents research and case examples of how our early relationships affect the development of our minds. He discusses how the brain develops, how emotions develop in infancy, and how we create memories, both implict and explicit.

Implicit memories are memories that we form before we have language (pre-verbal) and explicit memories are memories that we form after we can express ourselves verbally. This is one explanation as to why we don't have explicit memories of early infancy, although we might have memories of those times that we carry in our minds and bodies and that might get triggered under certain circumstances. He also reviews extensive infant research on attachment theory--how we are affected by the quality of our early bonding with our caregivers (whether it's a secure attachment or not) and what a powerful effect this has, often unconsciously, later in life in our personal and work-related relationships.

It's a fascinating book and hard to put down once you start.

For more information about Dr. Daniel Siegel and his work, I suggest you visit his web site ( which is also filled with interesting information.

I am a psychotherapist in NYC who incorporates the mind-body connection in my work with clients.

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

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

Maintaining a Sense of Wonder as an Adult

If you've ever watched small children when they've discovered something new--whether it's an animal they've never seen before at the zoo, a new toy or game, or watching the stars--they have such a sense of wonder about the world. 

Children's Sense of Wonder

Children tend to be open, and curious. They use their imagination to play and create fantastic new stories and just about anything seems possible to them. It's a magical time.

What Happens to that Sense of Wonder For Adults?
Have you ever wondered what happens to that sense of wonder for so many people as they get older? Some people, especially artists, are able to maintain that sense of wonder about the world and are able to use it in their creative endeavors. They still have the ability to "play," whether it's with ideas, words, or objects. But for most people, unfortunately, that sense of wonder all but disappears. Some people lose it early on, especially if they grow up in a critical environment. For others, life's disappointments take away that receptivity and curiosity about the world.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could maintain that sense of wonder throughout our lives? Well, we can--if we have the right attitude about it and keep our hearts and minds open to the many big and small wonders in every day life. Every day there are countless wonders around us, if we just take the time to notice them.

Have you ever had a day when you knew that you were going to discover something new and unexpected? Usually, when this happens, it's most likely to occur on days when you're feeling light hearted and receptive to new people, thoughts, or ideas.

On those days, you're more likely to feel intuitive and discover interesting "coincidences," like thinking about an old friend and then hearing from her, or thinking about a new idea and suddenly seeing things related to it around you, or discovering a new and interesting place unexpectedly as you walk down the street with something that fascinates or inspires you.

Are these really "coincidences" or are these things really there all the time in front of us, but we only notice them when we're receptive?

A couple of years ago, I attended a concert at Town Hall where Oleta Adams ( sang a beautiful and inspiring song called "I Hope You Dance" written by Lee Ann Womack ( I don't know what inspired this song, but as I was listening to it, I could imagine a mother singing it to her young child. The words were so uplifting.

I Hope You Dance
"I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance

And when you get the chance to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a real and constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)"

I hope you find inspiration in all the big and small wonders all around us.

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

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

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