NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Trying to Decide Whether 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.

Trying to Decide Whether to Reconcile with Your Parents

Emotional Reconciliation with Your Parents
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.

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.

About Me
I'm a licensed New York City 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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also, see my article:  Does Forgiving Mean Forgetting?

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.

About Me
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 (917) 742-2624 or email me.

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.

About Me
I'm a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing. 

I work with individual adults and couples, and I have helped clients to become successful nonsmokers.

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.