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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Psychotherapy Blog: Developing Internal Resources and Coping Skills

Whether you realize it or not, you have internal resources and coping abilities that you can tap into when you're facing a challenging situation or life event. Very often, the question is how to access these internal resources and coping abilities when you need them the most.

Developing Internal Resources and Coping Skills

As a psychotherapist in NYC, I see many clients who are overwhelmed after trying to deal with problems on their own. Often, by the time they come to therapy, they're feeling emotionally depleted and defeated by their problems. As a psychotherapist, I treat each client as an individual and I don't have a standard way of working with all clients. However, often, as a start, I find it useful to help clients to access their own confidence, internal resources and coping abilities to deal with whatever obstacles they're facing.

What Are Internal Resources?
Our internal resources are made up of the various internal aspects of ourselves that have the emotional strength, compassion, confidence and overall wherewithal to deal with the issues that we're facing. When we're able to remember and re-experience these internal aspects in a deep way, we can use them as part of our coping strategies to face our problems. This might not be enough to actually resolve our problems, but it's a good way to start.

Examples of Internal Resources:

Remembering a time when you felt the inner emotional fortitude to deal with a particular problem or fear with courage and confidence.
This might have been a time when, initially, you didn't think you could find it within yourself to deal with this problem but, ultimately, you did, and you felt good about that. How can you take that experience of yourself and use it to deal with whatever problem you're facing now?

Remembering someone special in your life (e.g., a teacher, mentor, friend, family member, psychotherapist, coach) who helped you when you faced a particular obstacle.
This might involve recalling some advice this person gave you or how supported you felt when this person helped you. What might this person say to you now in your current situation?

If you can't think of anyone in particular that helped you in the past, you can also think about other people that you admire, possibly people in your every day life, a character from a movie or a historical figure, and ask yourself what that person might do.
You could close your eyes and imagine what that person might tell you or what it might feel like to be that person in the particular situation that you're dealing with now.

Developing Internal Resources and Coping Skills

What If You Can't Access Your Internal Resources?
Sometimes, just remembering that you've faced similar or worse problems in the past or remembering how an important person in your life might have helped you, is enough to help you access your internal resources and coping skills.

However, there are other times when you might feel so "stuck" in your particular problem that just the act of remembering these experiences on your own is not enough to help you. At those times, it's often helpful to work with a licensed mental health professional who can help you to rediscover your internal resources and coping abilities so that you can overcome the problems that you're facing.

How I Work to Help Clients to Access Their Internal Resources and Coping Abilities:
As I mentioned before, as a psychotherapist, I see each client as a unique person, and I don't have a particular approach that I use with all clients. However, I often find it very helpful to use Richard Schwartz's Internal Family Systems model to help clients to overcome internal conflicts and rediscover their coping abilities.

The name "Internal Family Systems" can be misleading, and you might think that it involves bringing your family into treatment. However, this is not the case.

The main idea in Richard Schwartz's theory is that we all have internal parts (or aspects of ourselves) that we can access and use to help us. When I use the term "internal parts," I'm referring to our inner emotional world.

We often see these internal parts when we're having a debate with ourselves about a particular problem or question: "A part of me wants to sleep later in the morning, but another part of me knows I feel better when I get up early and go to the gym."

One of the reasons why I like the Internal Family Systems model is that it's a gentle, positive, optimistic, strengths-based theory. As opposed to many other psychological theories that look at what's wrong with a person, Internal Family Systems looks at what's right. It also puts us in touch with our internal core selves.

When I'm helping clients to access these internal parts, I will often help them to get into a relaxed meditative state or I use clinical hypnosis.

I've discussed clinical hypnosis in detail in prior posts (see post dated May 31, 2009). As a reminder, I'll reiterate that when you're seeing a licensed mental health professional who is trained in hypnotherapy, clinical hypnosis is a safe and very effective tool in therapy.

You maintain dual awareness of the here-and-now as well as whatever you're working on in hypnosis, and you're in complete control at all times. Clinical hypnosis can help you to access your internal resources because it allows you to experience your unconscious mind where your internal resources are located.

For more information about Richard Schwartz's Internal Family System, you can visit his web site: http://www.selfleadership.org/.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you feel like you're stuck emotionally and you're unable to overcome the emotional challenges that you're currently facing, you could benefit from seeing a licensed psychotherapist.

Getting Help in Therapy

I'm a licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in NYC who works with individuals and couples. I have helped many clients to access their own internal resources and coping abilities to overcome their problems.

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

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

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