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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Psychotherapy, Balance and Gratitude

A common myth about psychotherapy, especially among people who have never been in in-depth psychotherapy before, is that clients primarily "complain" to their psychotherapists about their families and their lives or come in to "fix" a particular problem. 

This is a very narrow view of psychotherapy and does not take into account the full richness and experience of the in-depth psychotherapy process as a place where clients, in addition to resolving particular problems, often find balance and gratitude in their lives, their relationships and for themselves as well.

During this Thanksgiving season, when we tend to be more aware of the people and things in our lives that we are grateful for, I'd like to focus in this post on how in-depth psychotherapy often leads to a greater sense of balance and gratitude.

Often, when people first begin psychotherapy, they either come for a particular problem or they have a sense that "something is wrong" in their lives, but they don't know what it is. In our culture, our tendency is to approach problems in a logical, linear way: identify the problem, analyze the various options, chose an option, fix the problem, and the process is finished.

There's nothing wrong with this approach and, in many instances, it works very well. It also often works well for some specific problems in psychotherapy and hypnosis, like smoking cessation or overcoming a particular fear or phobia. However, in-depth psychotherapy can be so much more than this for people who are interested in finding a greater sense of balance and contentment in their lives.

How Contemporary Psychotherapy Has Evolved Over the Years:
As psychotherapy has evolved over the years, there has been more of an emphasis on cultivating and building a more balanced sense of self. As opposed to more classical ways of working in psychotherapy where the emphasis was primarily on uncovering and working through problems, contemporary psychotherapists also help clients to build a stronger sense of self.

This is done, in part, through the development of clients' internal resources. These internal resources can take many different forms. Sometimes, they're coping abilities that clients have had all along but have been overlooked and under utilized. Often, they're internal resources, or parts of ourselves, that are discovered and developed during the psychotherapy process.

When people are depressed or anxious, it's common to focus on what's wrong or missing in their lives. This is understandable. Often, under these circumstances, their view starts out being narrow until they begin to feel some relief from their anxiety-related or depressive symptoms in a supportive psychotherapy treatment environment.

In contemporary in-depth psychotherapy, clients can begin the process of building a stronger sense of equanimity: a greater capacity to soothe themselves, love and value themselves more, appreciate subtle and richer aspects of themselves, and develop a stronger sense of identity.

With a greater sense of balance for themselves often comes an increased capacity to value and have a greater sense of gratitude and compassion in their relationships, their work, and other important areas in their lives. So, what might have started as a narrow view at the start of psychotherapy begins to open up and broaden to include a more holistic and nuanced view of themselves and others: Not just what's wrong--but what's right too.

Keeping a Gratitude Journal:
I often recommend to clients that they keep a gratitude journal as a way to start developing a greater awareness and appreciation for the positive things that occur in their lives on a daily basis. The gratitude journal can be a simple list of two, three or more things that you feel grateful for each day. Over time, cultivating a sense of gratitude, even for the small things in life, can help to create a greater sense of balance, appreciation, and compassion in how we see our world as well as how we see ourselves.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

I am a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in NYC. I have helped many clients to develop a greater sense of self and an increased sense of balance and gratitude in their lives.

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: josephineolivia@aol.com