NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Psychotherapy and Spirituality

Searching for Meaning and Purpose
During this holiday season, amid the noise and haste, it's the time of year when many people search for meaning and purpose in their lives . Some people approach these questions through their spiritual practice. Others consult with psychotherapists. And many use both their spiritual practice and their psychotherapy sessions to explore these important questions. Psychotherapy and spirituality approach these existential questions in different ways . And yet, there is significant overlap between psychotherapy and spiritual questions.

Psychotherapy and Spirituality

People usually go to psychotherapists when they're in emotional pain. It might be an immediate crisis, a longstanding problem, grief, loss or trauma that brings them to a psychotherapist office. Whatever the initial problem might be, often, questions about the meaning and purpose of their lives becomes a part of the treatment. Most people want to feel they're leading meaningful lives, and when they're in emotional crisis, doubts and fears can arise about the direction of their lives. If they're in a particularly difficult life transition, they might question their goals and priorities. The loss of a loved one can test their faith in themselves, humankind, and their God or Higher Power.

Psychotherapy and spirituality both address these issues. As a psychotherapist, I help clients to navigate through these complex and vital questions. As I see it, part of the psychotherapist's job is to help clients to search for and find meaning in their lives. Just living from day to day without purpose or meaning isn't satisfying for most people. Yet, finding purpose and meaning can be elusive. Although emotional crisis can throw us off balance, it can also open us up to new possibilities, including transitions that help us define who we are as individuals and who we want to be.

When I refer to spirituality, I use that term in its broadest sense. For some people, spirituality means a formal religion. For others, it might be the sense of transcendence they feel in nature, music, art, their A.A. meetings or the love they feel for their families or for humankind. However you define spirituality, what all of these things have in common is they give us a sense that there's something greater than ourselves that we're responding to and from which we feel nurtured.

A Purpose-Filled Life
As I see it, it doesn't matter how each of us defines our particular spirituality because, however we see it, the root of it is the same. A purpose-filled life is a life with meaning, hope and direction. It provides us with an internal compass to help us during troubled times. As a psychotherapist, I often help people to find or reclaim their purpose in life. Many clients come to me to explore transpersonal questions in their lives. For some, they're searching for a way to express their yearning for spirituality that might be different from what they might have grown up with as children. Or, they might want to reclaim the spirituality they grew up with, but explore their beliefs as adults with an adult understanding to spiritual questions. As a psychotherapist who is not a minister or spiritual leader, my job isn't to lead them in any particular spiritual direction. Rather, my job as a psychotherapist, is to help them to find the answers within themselves, whatever they might be.

During the early days of Freudian psychoanalysis, in my opinion, a false dichotomy developed between psychotherapy and spirituality. I think that was very unfortunate. However, more and more, psychotherapists who work in a more client-centered, contemporary way are seeing that there is significant overlap between psychotherapy and spirituality. A holistic approach to psychotherapy includes an understanding that mind, body and spirit come together in each person, even though they are expressed in many different ways and on different paths.

I believe psychotherapists can be instrumental in helping clients find meaning and purpose in their lives. Psychotherapists can also learn a great deal by listening to clients as they explore these existential questions.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist. I work with individuals and couples. My approach is holistic, and I emphasize the mind-body connection. 

I provide psychotherapeutic services, including psychodynamic psychotherapy, EMDR therapy, hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing, AEDP therapy, and Emotionally Focused couple therapy.

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.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Relationships: Confusing Sexual Attraction with Love

Confusing Sexual Attraction with Love
During the early stage of a romantic relationship, many people confuse sexual attraction for being in love. Sexual attraction can be so strong during the initial part of a dating relationship that you can get swept away by the power of these feelings and believe yourself to be in love. This is certainly not to say that you can't be both sexually attracted and also genuinely love someone. But the point is that, whereas sexual attraction can occur in a second, mature love develops over time.

Confusing Sexual Attraction With Love

Starting a Relationship Based Only on Sexual Attraction

Often, people start a relationship based on the heady feelings of sexual attraction--believing that they love each other.

This isn't a solid foundation for a relationship. When the sexual passion begins to wear off a little, these people often find they either have little in common or that their feelings aren't strong enough to sustain the inevitable ups and downs of a mature relationship.

Learning to Distinguish Between Love and Lust
It takes time to get to know one another. I often tell individual clients and couples that it can take at least two years of dating to get to know each other well enough to know if you're compatible enough to be in a relationship.

It's right around that time that the initial heady, sexual attraction decreases somewhat (as compared to the initial passion). So, being aware of this, it makes sense to take your time to get to know one another.  Over time, you learn to distinguish what might only be lust from love.

This helps you to avoid making life plans with someone you don't really love and the disappointment you might feel when the sexual attraction begins to wane.

Sexual attractions can be fun. Often, love can develop from these sexual attractions. We can't always know in advance when this will occur.

There are also many couples who develop deep feelings of mature love who also maintain the passion in their relationships. This is a wonderful thing! Many other couples need to make more of an effort to maintain that sexual passion, but that's a subject for another blog post.

Be Aware, Be Patient, Allow Things to Unfold and Develop 
The point is that, early on, we want to be aware that strong feelings for someone at the beginning are not the basis for a committed relationship. Be patient and allow things to develop and unfold before making a commitment. In the long run, you'll be glad that you took your time.

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

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my websiteJosephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

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

Perfection vs "Good Enough"

Are you a perfectionist? Do you stress yourself out trying to do things perfectly? Do you feel like you've "failed" unless the things you do are 100% what you think they should be? 


Are you imposing these perfectionist standards on your loved ones? 

If you've said "yes" to these questions, it would probably be helpful for you to stop and consider what's driving you to have such perfectionistic standards for yourself and others before you exhaust yourself and alienate your loved ones.

What's Causing You to Strive for Perfection?
If you tend to be a perfectionist, you might want to stop and ask yourself what's causing you to strive for such unrealistic standards. 

For some people, a deep sense of inadequacy can drive them relentlessly to push for higher and higher standards--no matter what the issue is or the cost.

"Good Enough" Can Be More than Adequate
But in certain situations "good enough" is more than adequate without driving yourself crazy. Of course, everyone has their own ideas about what's "good enough."

If you're a perfectionist, only perfection might be "good enough." When you're trying to change this pattern, it will take a lot of practice and, possibly, a reality check from people you trust to let you know if you're still pushing yourself for perfection.

Hiding Behind Perfectionism
Often, a need to be "perfect" hides a sense of "I'm not good enough."

Once you stop trying to be perfect, some of these feelings of inadequacy might come to the surface. This is usually difficult to overcome on your own.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're struggling with being a perfectionist, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who can help you overcome these deep seated issues.

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

I work with individuals and couples.

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

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

Also, see my article:  Overcoming Perfectionism

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mindful Eating

The holiday season can be a challenging time for managing stress and overeating. In this blog post, I'll be focusing on how to eat mindfully and avoid overeating.

Why Do We Overeat During the Holidays?
One of the reasons that we tend to overeat during the holidays is that there's so often much more food around us during this time. If we work in an office, there are office parties with cakes, cookies, chips and many other types of high caloric foods. Family gatherings also have many of the same types of calorie-laden foods. It's so easy to fill up our plates and gorge ourselves on heaps of food without even realizing.

Mindful Eating, Instead of Overeating, During the Holidays

Whether we're stuffing ourselves out of anxiety, loneliness or other uncomfortable emotions or we're distracted by our conversations with others, it's very easy to overeat without realizing it. Considering that we can often attend several parties, dinners or other social gatherings over the holidays, we can end up gaining a lot of weight around the holidays.

So what's the answer? Should we avoid all social gatherings until the holidays are over? Should we starve ourselves and avoid eating until the holidays are over? Clearly, these aren't practical strategies. So what should we do? One viable strategy is to eat mindfully.

What is "Mindful Eating"?
What do we mean by "mindful eating"? Well, mindful eating means eating with awareness. Rather than being distracted while we eat or zoned out, we deliberately choose what and how much we're eating and thoroughly enjoy it. Rather than completely depriving ourselves, which often leads to overeating when we feel too deprived, we carefully choose our food, appreciating the color, texture, aroma, and all the other sensual aspects of the food. When we place the food in our mouths, we enjoy the taste and feel of the food, slowing down to thoroughly appreciate everything about it.

Remember the Meaning of the Holidays
The other factor to keep in mind is that the holidays are about more than food and overeating. If we're fortunate, the holidays are about getting together with loved ones, remembering those who are less fortunate than ourselves and the spiritual significance of the holidays if that's meaningful to you.

So, rather than focusing on food, it's more meaningful to focus on the meaning of the particular holiday. Even if you're alone for the holidays and you're not part of an organized religion, you can have a meaningful experience for yourself and make the holiday brighter for others by volunteering your time over the holidays.

This could mean joining a carolling group at a local hospital, serving food at a local homeless drop-in center, visiting a home bound elderly neighbor, or countless other volunteer activities that are available to you over the holidays and throughout the year. Participating in any of these activities has the potential to expand ourawareness of the meaning of the holidays.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist and Somatic Experiencing therapist. As part of my therapeutic work with individuals and couples, I use mindfulness techniques.

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.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Relationships: Knowing When to Stay and When to Go

Knowing when to stay and try to work things out versus when to end a relationship can be challenging, especially when there have been longstanding problems. Often, people feel they've invested so much in the relationship that they want to do everything they can before giving up. But, for many of these relationships, both people feel they've exhausted their internal resources and they don't know what to do to make things better. They might flounder for months or years in an emotional stalemate.

Relationships: When to Stay and When to Go

Staying for the Sake of the Children?
Many people decide that even though the relationship no longer works for either of them, they will stay together for the sake of the children. This rarely works. I've had many adults clients tell me in their psychotherapy sessions that they wish their parents had divorced rather than staying together for the sake of the family. Usually, they say that they and their siblings sensed that something was wrong between their parents, even though the parents thought they were hiding it well. This creates a great deal of tension in the household with the parents attempting to keep their problems a secret and the children feeling confused about what they're sensing.

Relationships: When to Go and When to Leave.  Staying Together for the Children?

Wanting to Escape When Things Get Tough
There are those people who tend to want to escape from relationships when things get rough. Often, they haven't learned the necessary skills to stick with it and work through normal, everyday problems. Most of the time, these people didn't grow up in families where they saw good communication and problem solving modeled so they're at loss about what to do.

Relationships: When to Stay and When to Leave.  Escaping When Things Get Tough

Staying Because You're Afraid of Being Alone
Other people are on the other end of the spectrum: They don't know when the relationship has run its course. They keep trying to salvage the relationship, even when nothing works any more. In some cases, they fear being alone. In other cases, they don't want to feel they've "failed" in their relationship. There can be so many reasons.

When to Stay and When to Go.  Staying Because You're Afraid of Being Alone

Doing Some Soul Searching
Knowing when to stay or when to go can be daunting. It can take a lot of soul searching on your part as well as open and honest communication between you and your partner.

When to Stay and When to Go.  Doing Some Soul Searching

Needless to say, if you're going to try to work things out, both people must be willing to make the effort.

Getting Help
When you and your partner aren't sure if the relationship can be salvaged, you could benefit from seeing a couples counselor. An experienced couples counselor, who is objective, can help you and your partner sort through the current emotional stalemate to either work things out or end the relationship in an amicable way.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who sees individuals 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.

Relationships: Having the Courage to Admit When You Made a Mistake

Many relationships would benefit if one or both people could admit that they made a mistake, make amends for the mistake, and then move on. Instead too many couples end up having long drawn out arguments where nothing gets resolved and both people end up feeling resentful. These are the kind of arguments that tend to erode relationships and often lead to their demise.

Relationships: The Courage to Admit When You've Made a Mistake

Many people feel that to admit a mistake is a sign of weakness. This might be due to messages they received from their family when they were growing up. But, in fact, to be able to admit you're wrong or, at least, that you had a part in creating the problem takes strength and a certain amount of faith that your spouse or partner will forgive you.
Making Amends

We all make mistakes at one time or another. That's what makes us human. Rather than get caught up in an endless cycle of making excuses or deflecting the blame, it's better for you and your relationship to acknowledge your error, apologize, and make amends.

Avoiding Power Struggles
When you're able to admit that you've made a mistake, you also make it easier for your partner to do the same. Rather than getting into power struggles, you can both rely on the sense of integrity that you each feel towards each other and the relationship to carry you through the difficulties that come in any relationship.

Getting Help
If you and your spouse have gotten to the point where you can no longer resolve arguments on your own, you might benefit from couples counseling. An experienced couples counselor can help you to improve communication between you and restore a healthier dynamic in your relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Relationships: When Expressing Your Feelings Turns into Verbal Abuse

Often couples who have problems communicating with each other make the mistake of believing that expressing their feelings means they can say whatever they want, in whatever tone or volume all in the name of "being honest." 

Relationships: When Expressing Your Feelings Turns into Verbal Abuse

This distortion in reasoning often leads to an escalation in arguments and more misunderstandings.

Making Excuses for Verbal Abuse
As a psychotherapist and couples counselor in NYC, have heard people say over and over again, "I was just expressing my feelings" as a way to rationalize abusive verbal behavior. Often, the underlying intent of this "honesty", whether the person realizes it or not, is to hurt or one-up the other person.

Relationships: When Expressing Your Feelings Turns Into Verbal Abuse

Stop and Think Before You Speak
If you stop to think about what you're about to say before you say it, you can catch yourself before you become mean spirited with your spouse or partner.

There's no reason for honesty to come with a sledge hammer. It's often better to take the time to cool down and come back to the discussion later rather than saying something rash in the heat of the moment.

Then, you can focus on what you're really trying to communicate rather than getting side tracked because you're too angry to think straight.

Getting Help
Learning effective communication skills with your spouse or partner takes practice. If you find yourself falling into the same pitfalls, you might benefit from couples counseling.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individuals 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:

Home for the Holidays

Being with family for the holidays can be challenging for many people. We see images of happy families in ads, TV programs, and movies, which can leave us feeling that something is wrong with us or our families if our family doesn't measure up to these happy images. However, the holidays can be very stressful, especially if we have unrealistic expectations of our families or ourselves.

Home for the Holidays

Rather than putting unnecessary pressure on yourself and your family, here are a few tips to help you during these holiday get togethers:

  • Try to keep the day light. Steer clear of topics that might be contentious or that could create tension. This is not the time to debate politics if you know the discussion will become heated.
  • Try to have reasonable expectations of friends and family. If Uncle Bob tends to be grouchy at family gatherings, there's no reason to expect that his personality will change this year.
  • Watch your alcohol intake. Alcohol tends to amplify emotions and if you drink excessively, you might find yourself saying and doing things at the family gathering that you might regret.
  • Don't take the bait if a relative becomes difficult. Try not to personalize his or her behavior.
  • Plan in advance.  If you know in advance that a family gathering will be difficult, "book end" the visit by planning in advance to talk to a trusted friend or loved one before and after the visit so you feel supported.
  • Do keep in mind the meaning of the holiday. So, for instance, Thanksgiving is a day to acknowledge all that we have to be grateful for.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individuals and couples.

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

Moving Beyond the "Blame Game" in Your Relationship

As a psychotherapist in New York City who sees individuals and couples, I see many clients who can't move beyond the "blame game."

What is the "Blame Game"?
What I"m referring to when I discuss the "blame game" is a dynamic in a relationship where the two people involved are so busy blaming each other and deflecting attention from their own behavior in the relationship that they end up getting caught in an endless cycle of arguments where nothing is resolved. Getting caught up in the "blame game" doesn't allow you to really listen to your partner and understand what he and she is trying to tell you and, if both people are doing this, communication suffers. This type of dynamic often becomes habitual in relationships so that, no matter what the argument is, this dynamic plays out in a destructive way.

Relationships:  Moving Beyond the "Blame Game"

The first step in overcoming the "blame game" dynamic is becoming aware that this is the a style of communication that you're caught in. Both people have to be willing to develop awareness of this dysfunctional way of communicating and be willing to change it.

The following short fictionalized vignettes are examples of this "blame game" communication cycle:

Mary and Joe:
Mary can't stand it when Joe leaves his dirty plate on the counter instead of putting it in the sink. They've had countless arguments about this. She can't understand why Joe doesn't just put the dish in the sink. When she sees the dish, she calls out to Joe, who is in the living room watching TV, "How many times have I told you not to leave dirty dishes on the counter!" Inwardly, Joe feels embarrassed that he hasn't broken out of this habit, but he's annoyed that Mary is taking a superior tone with him, so rather than saying this, he shouts back sarcastically, "Oh yeah, right--like you're such a great housekeeper." From there the argument escalates to the point where Mary and Joe stop talking for a few days, and the issue remains unresolved.

Bob and Nick:
Bob opened the American Express bill and felt a jolt in his stomach when he saw the amount owed. Just last month, he and Nick had agreed to cut back on their expenses because they were living beyond their means and Bob's position as an adjunct professor was not secure. Bob approached Nick with the credit card bill and said, "We've talked about this before--we've got to cut back on our expenses. Look at this bill." Nick took a look at the bill and noticed that they both had charged bigl ticket items, "Well, I see that you've run up the bill as much as I have, so don't blame me." Bob responded, "But you know that I had extra expenses last month and everything that's on there was necessary." Feeling increasingly annoyed, Nick snapped back, "Are you saying that your needs are more important than mine?" From there, the conversation spiraled down. Instead of having a constructive conversation about how they can work together to deal with the problem, neither of them listened to each other and each one continued to blame the other.

Susan and Betty:
Susan and Betty are expecting Susan's parents for the holidays. They both find her parents difficult to deal with. Instead of discussing how they can work together to deal with this holiday stressor, they get into an argument as soon as Betty sees the email from Susan's parents about when they plan to arrive. Betty puts on a long face when she reads the email and says, "I really wish your parents would stay home this year. Can't you make some excuse so they don't come?" Feeling defensive, Susan says, "I know they're annoying, but they're still my parents. And you don't help the situation by sulking when they're around." Betty responds, "Well, why don't you do something about it? It's your fault--you allow them to come each year." From there, rather than discussing the situation openly and trying to come up with a solution that would be mutually agreeable, they end up pointing fingers at one another.

The "Blame Game" Doesn't Work
In the three scenarios above, we see that each person is so busy accusing the other person and defending him or herself that the issue isn't addressed directly. Instead, they get caught up in blaming one another and they move further and further away from trying to work out the problem.

Very often, in longstanding relationships, couples have a long history of engaging in this type of dynamic and they can bring up other unrelated and hurtful things to get back at their partner. If this goes on long enough, it becomes the predominant pattern for communicating--to the point where each person dreads bringing up issues, knowing that the discussion will devolve quickly.

Fair Fighting: Speaking from Your Own Experience
One of the principles of fair fighting in a relationship is that each person speak from their own experience rather than blaming the other person. So, for instance, in the scenario between Susan and Betty, rather than responding to Susan's parents' email by making a face and blaming Susan, Betty could have found a quiet, calm time to speak with Susan to tell her that her parents' visits make her uncomfortable and she's anticipating that there will be problems. Since Betty would be speaking from her own experience, Susan is less likely to get defensive. She might even feel free to admit that her parents can be difficult. From there, they could talk about what they would like to do, with each of them listening to what the other has to say.

Getting Help in Therapy
There are times when the "blame game" pattern of communicating is so ingrained in a relationship that it's too difficult for the couple to change on their own. They might need the help of a couples or marriage counselor to help them to overcome this problem.

If you and your partner are caught up in the "blame game," acknowledge that this is what's happening in your relationship and have a heart-to-heart talk about how this is adversely affecting your relationship. If you can't work it out on your own, seek the help of a licensed mental health professional who works with couples before it's too late.

About Me
I am a licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, and SE therapist in New York City. I work with individuals and couples. I have helped many couples to overcome the "blame game" dynamic in their relationship.

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 or email me.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friendship: When to Give Advice and When to Just Listen

As adults, we've all been in the position, at one time or another, when we hear from a friend who is upset about a personal situation or a situation at work. It is sometimes difficult to know when our friends just need a sounding board, when we should give advice and when we should refrain from giving advice.

Friendship: When to Give Advice and When to Just Listen

Our Natural Inclination is that We Want to Help Friends
For most of us, our natural inclination is to try to help our friends, if we can. When a friend is upset, it's especially tempting to rush in with advice because we want to relieve the friend's suffering or offer comfort. 

But, without realizing it, we might be stepping into a very tricky situation, especially if the friend is calling about problems in his or her relationship. Although there are no hard and fast rules about this, there are some steps that we can take to ensure that, in the long run, we don't end up causing resentment later on or even ruining the friendship.

Ask Your Friend What She Needs
The first step that we can follow, after we have listened empathically to our friend's problems, is to ask what he or she is looking for from us. This might sound so simple, but in a situation where someone close to us is upset, it's easy to forget and lose sight of this. 

Now, you might say that if your friend is calling you and he or she is upset, of course, your friend is looking for advice. But this isn't always the case, and if you rush in, you might discover that you've misunderstood and you're not at all on your friend's wavelength.

By asking, we're letting our friend know that we want to be helpful in a way that is meaningful to him or her. We're not making any assumptions about what our friend needs or wants--no matter how long we've been friends or how well we think we know the friend. In a moment of upset, our friend might not be able to say what he or she needs, but this question can help him or her to clarify and organize his or her thoughts to be able to reflect on what's needed at that point.

Does Your Friend Want Advice or a Sounding Board?
If what's needed is for you to be a sounding board and nothing else, then your friend is letting you know that he or she just wants to vent and advice is not being sought. 

If your friend is looking for advice, if you choose to give advice, which can be tricky, there are tactful ways to approach this. Most important of all, we can never assume that we know exactly what might be right for our friends.

Does Your Friend Want Advice or a Sounding Board?

So, it's usually better to frame whatever you say by first saying that this is what you would do if you were in this situation (assuming that you have an opinion about it), and this may or may not be what is best for your friend. 

By saying this, you're letting your friend know that you're not assuming that you know what's right for him or her. You're also putting the responsibility for the decision back with your friend, where it belongs. But even this can be tricky. When a friend is calling about relationship problems, it can be especially tricky.

The following fictionalized account illustrates a common scenario where a friend calls for advice:

Susan and Pat:
Susan and Pat were close friends for several years. Pat was in a rocky relationship with Jim for the last two years. Usually, Susan avoided getting caught up in giving Pat advice because she knew that Pat wasn't ready to leave her relationship with Jim, no matter how much Pat complained about it. 

But on this particular day, without realizing it, Susan got caught up in Pat's emotions. Pat was calling for the third time in two weeks to say that Jim was verbally abusive and he wouldn't listen to her when she tried to discuss this with him. Usually, he would walk out and not call her for several days. Then, they would get back together as if nothing had happened.

As Susan listened to Pat crying on the phone, she felt exasperated. It really bothered her to see Pat in so much emotional pain. Before she realized what she was doing, Susan began telling Pat, "You've got to get out of this relationship! He's making you so unhappy. This keeps happening over and over again. He's not going to change." Pat responded by saying that Susan was probably right and, soon after that, she ended the conversation.

After that call, Susan didn't hear from Pat in several days, which was unusual. She left Pat a few messages, but she didn't hear back from her, and Susan began getting concerned. When she finally reached Pat, Pat was terse and aloof with her. At first, Susan couldn't understand what was going on with her friend. When Pat tried to get off the phone quickly, Susan asked Pat if she was angry with her.

Pat was silent for a moment, and then she said that she didn't think they could continue to be friends any more because she felt that Susan didn't like Jim. Susan was stunned and speechless for a moment, still not understanding what was going on. 

Then, Pat reminded Susan about the advice that she had given Pat about leaving Jim. Pat said, "I just couldn't believe that you would say that to me, knowing how much Jim and I love each other. I thought you were my friend, but I feel like you betrayed me. When I told Jim what you said, he got really mad and he said he didn't think you were much of a friend to me. And, you know, Susan, I have to agree with him." And with that, Pat hung up, leaving Susan feeling shocked and hurt.

Use Good Judgment
The scenario above is a common occurrence. In the heat of the moment, a friend calls in distress and complains about a boyfriend. Afterwards, especially if this friend is caught in a dysfunctional pattern, she reverts back to her habitual way of being in her relationship. She might even feel guilty for complaining about her boyfriend. 

Then, she thinks about the conversation where her friend tells her to leave the relationship, and she feels angry with her friend. Let's say, she's no longer in her upset state. She has already reconciled with her boyfriend. At that point, it's easy to blame her friend and feel betrayed rather than reflecting on the dysfunctional cycle that she keeps getting caught in with her boyfriend. I've seen this happen so many times.

Does Your Friend Need Professional Help?
In situations like this, you could understand how someone like Susan might feel exasperated, especially after listening to her friend complain over and over again. 

But, rather than react, it's better to step back after listening and ask your friend how you can be supportive. And if your friend is caught in a dysfunctional cycle and you know that by allowing her to vent to you, she just lets off steam and gets right back into the same cycle, the best thing that you might do is to let her or him know that you're not a professional, and it might be better for your friend to seek professional help with a licensed psychotherapist. 

Not only might this stop the cycle of her complaining to you and then just going right back into the same dysfunctional situation, but by getting professional

It's not always easy to know what to do when friends call on us for help, but by taking a moment to reflect on the situation and asking a friend what he or she needs from us, we can avoid crossing boundaries with our friends that could ruin a friendship.

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

I work with individuals 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.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Relationships and the Joy and Challenge of Vacations

Summertime is here, and it's the time for many people to go away on vacation. Most people look forward to going on vacation and couples often look upon it as a time to relax, rekindle their relationship, and take a break from the normal routine. But as relaxing as a vacation can be together, it can also present some challenges. With some forethought and pre-planning, some of these challenges and stressors can be avoided.

Relationships and the Joy and Challenge of Vacations

When we plan vacations with our spouses or partners, we often don't take into account that, as individuals, we respond differently outside of our normal routine. 

Even though many people complain that they feel like they're in a rut in their regular routine, that routine often provides a sense of structure and security. Without realizing it, at times, when we're outside of our regular routine and habits, it can be stressful. 

But for other people, it's an opportunity to thrive on novelty. So, if you're part of a couple where you thrive on having new experiences but your spouse likes the same-old-same-old, you could find yourself at odds with each other.

I hear many couples complain that one of them is the planner and the other one just wants to wing it. The planner might be reading travel guides a year in advance and going online to get the best travel deals, while the person who wants to wing it couldn't care less. 

Often, the complaint from the planners is that they feel like they're doing all the work while the person who isn't a planner reaps the benefits without contributing to the effort. The complaint from the people who like to wing it is that they feel badgered by the planners, and they couldn't care less to look at a travel guide until they reach their destination (if even then).

Relationships and the Joy and Challenge of Vacations

My suggestion to both types of people is to try to lighten up. Usually, the planner enjoys doing the planning and getting a sense that he or she is immersed in vacation locale long before they even arrive. 

So, for planners, enjoy the process and try not to be disappointed if your spouse isn't as enthusiastic as you are. 

For the people who like to wing it, I recommend that you show some appreciation and interest for the work that the planner is doing. You can tactfully let him or her know that while you appreciate it, it's not your thing. But I think it would be a good idea to make up for this in other ways. Maybe you take care of other aspects of the trip or you make reservations at your spouse's favorite restaurants while you're away.

You might have to deal with other compromises during your vacation, including whether you want to visit your family or your spouse's family while away, whether or not to take the children, what type of hotel you go to, and how much time to spend in different places. Be willing to negotiate and compromise.

Remember that the purpose of the vacation is to spend time together, relax and reconnect with each other romantically. So, plan on having time together to rekindle your relationship. Also, be open to being spontaneous sometimes. Sometimes, an unplanned walk off the beaten track can bring the unexpected pleasure and joy of discovering new people and places.

Another factor on vacations is that some people like to rise early and see all the sights while others view the vacation as a time to sleep later and rest. If you haven't talked about it beforehand, one or both of you might feel irritable and disappointed.

Although vacations are meant to be relaxing, they can also be stressful. Traveling by plane has become more complicated and stressful than it used to be. There are departure delays. The seating might be tight. There might be missing luggage when you get to the other end. Many people can take this in stride as a part of modern travel but, for others, it can test their patience to the breaking point.

Before you travel, it's good to know what kind of traveler you and your spouse each tend to be and talk about this and plan for it beforehand. For example, you might come to an agreement beforehand about how you'll spend your time. If you're an early bird who likes to beat the crowd to the local museums on your vacation, but your spouse would rather sleep late, rather than dragging your spouse out of bed to go somewhere where he or she doesn't want to go or arguing about it, agree in advance that each of you might want to spend the morning doing different things. You can agree to meet afterwards for a romantic seaside brunch.

If you know in advance that you each have different styles and preferences when you go on vacation and you discuss this in advance, you're more likely to enjoy your time together.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many individuals and couples of overcome obstacles so that they could lead more fulfilling lives.

Aside from talk therapy, I also provide hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing, and EMDR therapy.

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.

Seeing Small Wonders All Around Us If We Take the Time to Notice

When I stop to notice, I'm often surprised and delighted at the small wonders that are all around us. Recently, I was crossing the street, on my way to the subway, when I noticed a mother and her small son stop to pick up something in the street.

Small Wonders Al Around Us If We Take the Time to Notice

The mother reached down and picked up what looked to me, at first, like a very pretty, orange, transparent piece of paper. But when I looked closer, I saw that it wasn't a piece of paper at all--it was a beautiful butterfly that had been lying in the middle of the street for some unknown reason.

As the mother gently picked it up by its wings and placed it carefully in the palm of her hand, the butterfly remained motionless.

Small Wonders All Around Us If We Take the Time to Notice

I feared that it had been run over by a car, and might have been dead. The little boy peered at the motionless body of the butterfly as the mother said, "Let's let it rest here" as she put it gently on a plant leaf in a nearby garden. Suddenly, the motionless butterfly came back to life, as if it had been temporarily stunned, spread her beautiful wings and flew away.

It was such a simple thing, and yet I felt my spirit lifted as I watched the butterfly revive and fly away. I felt so grateful to the woman who noticed it, picked it up, and rested it gently on the leaf until it could revive itself. It really made my day. The mother and her son were also delighted.

A few months ago, I was on my way to yoga class early on a Saturday morning when, from the corner of my eye, I noticed something floating in the air. I was passing a local Greek Eastern Orthodox church and against the background of the church's dark stone structure, I saw a beautiful, small, white, diaphanous silky strip of cloth come spiraling down in the air.

I couldn't imagine where this silky strip of cloth could have come from. Then, suddenly, I saw a sparrow fly over and, without skipping a beat, like poetry in motion, she clasped the beautiful strip in her mouth and flew up to her nearby nest that she was building.

It all happened in a matter of seconds. I stood there for a moment, delighted and grateful to watch this magical sight. Had I walked by a moment or two before or after, I would have missed it.

So often, there are small wonders all around us if we're open to seeing them.

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

I work with individuals 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.

Creative Imagination and Dream Work for Writers

In my prior blog post, I wrote a post entitled, "Working with Dreams to Develop Your Creative Imagination" (

Creative Imagination, Dream Incubation, and Dream Work to Overcome Creative Blocks:
In this blog post, I will focus on how creative imagination and dream work can be a source of inspiration for writers. As I've mentioned before, among the clients that I work with in my psychotherapy private practice in NYC, I work with writers, actors, musicians, composers, and other people who are in the creative arts.

Creative Imagination and Dream Work For Writers

In any creative endeavor, it's not unusual to develop a creative block that gets in the way of doing the work. Dream incubation and the subsequent dream work that is possible from incubated dreams is often very helpful for writers who are experiencing creative blocks or at an impasse in their work.

For instance, if a writer is struggling with a particular character or a scene in a story, he or she can incubate a dream to overcome this impasse. As I mentioned in prior blog posts, to incubate a dream, you can either give yourself a suggestion before going to sleep that you want to have a dream to overcome this impasse or you can work with a psychoanalytically trained psychotherapist who is trained in Embodied Imagination dream work (developed by Robert Bosnak) to help you.

When we do Embodied Imagination dream work for incubated dreams, we not only have access to our own experiences in the dream, we also have access to the experiences of the other characters in the dream.

As I've mentioned before, in Embodied Imagination dream work, we start with our own experiences, but we don't stop there. We also access the experiences of the other characters in the dream. Now, I realize that this might sound odd, but one of the basic concepts of Embodied Imagination is that we make no assumptions about where the dream is coming from or who the other characters are in the dream.

Rather than assuming that the characters are a part of ourselves, as we might in Gestalt or other types of psychotherapy, we make no assumptions. We allow the other characters to have their own "lives" in the dream. This frees us up to experience these characters from their own perspectives. Needless to say, I'm not referring to the type of hallucinations that people with schizophrenia or some other delusional or psychotic disorder might have. All I'm saying is that, for the purpose of doing the dream work, we suspend disbelief in the service of doing the creative dream work and using our imagination. For a fuller explanation of this phenomenon, I recommend that you read Robert Bosnak's book, Embodiment.

So, for example, a writer might incubate a dream about a particular character that he or she is not satisfied with in the story. The dreams that are the result of this incubation would include valuable information about the character, sometimes coming from the character's own mouth.

When we're dreaming, generally, we're in a more relaxed state than in our regular waking experience. This allows us to have access to a deeper sense of our imagination than when we're awake. In these dreams, characters and scenes "come alive" in ways that they often don't in our usual waking consciousness. And it takes no extra time since we would spend the same amount of time sleeping whether we incubated dreams or not.

I also find that, like with most things, maintaining a sense of humor helps with the creative process.

About Me
I am a licensed psychoanalytically trained psychotherapist. I am also a hypnotherapist, Somatic Experiencing therapist, and an EMDR therapist.

I work with individuals and couples, and my office is convenient located in Manhattan.

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.

Working with Dreams to Develop Your Creative Imagination

Dreams and Your Creative Imagination:
I love working with dreams, my own dreams as well as clients' and friends' dreams. Dream work provides us with a unique opportunity to access our creative imagination in ways that are often not accessible to us in the normal waking state.

Working with Dreams to Develop Your Creative Imagination

What Do We Mean by "Imagination"?
The word "imagination" has gotten a bad rap in modern times, especially for adults. Often, when we hear the words "imagined" or "imagination," it has a negative connotation. We often think of these words as meaning something that is false, as in: "It was just his imagination." 

But the word "imagination" has a much broader meaning. When we can open up to our imagination, we open ourselves to our internal world of images, ideas, emotions, and our felt sense about ourselves and the world around us. 

We use our imagination to learn new things and to understand and develop new concepts. We also use our imagination to come up with creative solutions to everyday problems and in our creative endeavors. Most inventions were created with the inventor using his or her imagination to come up with new ideas. Often, these inventors came up with creative ideas through their dreams.

Children are usually much better attuned to their imagination and can enter into and out of imagined states or play with ease. They know the difference between imagination, play and everyday waking reality. But, somehow, for many of us, when we become adults, we often get the message that imagining and play are things that are left behind in childhood for the logical reality of adulthood. Even for some children who are scolded for daydreaming or "making up stories" from their imagination, they lose this precious skill early in life.

Remembering Your Dreams:
In order to do dream work, you must first remember your dreams. For most people who are motivated to remember their dreams, a simple suggestion before going to sleep as well as keeping a note pad and pen close at hand to jot down dreams is often enough to help you remember your dreams. It's important to write down your dream in the present tense as soon as you wake up.

We often think that we'll remember a dream only to have it slip away like vapor as soon as we focus on something else. Even if what you remember is only a snippet of part of a dream, write it down. By writing down even a snippet of a dream, you're giving your unconscious mind the suggestion that dreams are important. Usually, over time, snippets will develop into more in-depth memories of dreams.

Keeping a Dream Journal:
I recommend keeping a dream journal where you record your dreams. Keeping the dream journal in a safe and private place will allow you to feel free to write down your dreams without censoring yourself. Giving each dream a date and dream title and keeping an index is also very helpful in many ways. 

First, by giving titles to your dreams, you're giving your unconscious mind the suggestion that dreams are meaningful stories that you want to remember. Second, having an index of dream titles helps you to look back on particular themes.

How Does Dream Work Help Us to Access Our Creative Imagination?
When I do dreamwork with clients, I help them to get back into the dream state (also called the hypnogogic state) of the particular dream that we're working on. In this dream state, you have access to the images, emotions, and the felt sense of the dream.

A psychotherapist who is experienced with doing this type of dream work, such as Embodied Imagination, can help clients to access not only their own experiences in the dream but also tap into the experiences of the other characters in the dream. I've written about Embodied Imagination and Robert Bosnak in prior blog posts: ( I also recommend reading Robert Bosnak's book, Embodiment, available in paperback.

If you want to develop your creative mind while dreaming, you can also give yourself a suggestion before going to sleep to have creative dreams about the issue that you want to work on. This takes some practice, motivation, and patience. Using evocative imagery just before going to sleep is often helpful to incubate dreams on a particular issue.

When I work with clients who want to incubate dreams to come up with creative solutions for a particular problem or issue, I help them get into a relaxed state to use their imagination. This might involve having them focus on their emotional experience and desire related to this issue. 

I help them to sense into their experience using their five senses, as well as their imagination, emotions and felt sense. Then, before they go to sleep, they practice what we did in our therapy session for a minute or so before going to sleep in order to incubate dreams. Often, these experiences can be revelatory, accessing a deep sense of creativity that is not usually available to them in normal waking life.

I recommend working with a psychotherapist who has a psychoanalytic background and who has experience using Embodied Imagination to get the full experience of using your imagination and developing your creativity. But you can also benefit from paying attention to your dreams on your own to develop your creativity.

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

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.

Clinical Hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing: Tapping into Your Creativity

As a psychotherapist in New York City, I work with many clients who want to tap into their creativity--whether it's for writing, acting, painting, enhancing their personal lives or careers, or every day problem solving. Clinical hypnosis, also known as hypnotherapy, is an excellent form of psychotherapy for tapping into your creative unconscious mind.

Hypnotic States Are Common:
There's nothing unusual or magical about being in a hypnotic state. Hypnotic states are a natural and normal part of everyday living. They're very common. 

Whether you realize it or not, you enter into and out of hypnotic states at least several times a day on most days. You might not think of yourself as being in a hypnotic state, but when you're "zoning out" when you're relaxed, staring out into nothing in particular, or feeling bored, you're often in a hypnotic state.

Clinical Hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing: Tapping Into Your Creativity

Using Clinical Hypnosis for Developing Creativity:
When you work with an experienced hypnotherapist to tap into your creativity, generally, you're in a very relaxed emotional state. The hypnotic state is usually deeper than the meditative state. You're also in a dual state of consciousness, which means that you're aware of the here-and-now as well as having access to your unconscious mind. While in a hypnotic state, at any time, you could come out of the hypnotic state to be completely in the here-and-now if you needed or wanted to be.

How I Work With Hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing to Access Your Creative Mind:
When I use clinical hypnosis with clients, I often combine hypnosis with Somatic Experiencing to help clients to have deeper access to thoughts, images, and emotions that they usually would not have access to during their normal waking state. 

You can more easily access the mind-body connection during a hypnotic state when hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing are combined. Your unconscious mind, combined with your emotional felt sense in your mind/body, often produce creative ideas and solutions to everyday problems that your logical mind alone cannot access.

If you're debating between two or more possible solutions to a problem or a creative challenge, using clinical hypnosis with Somatic Experiencing often helps you to discover which solution is right for you because you can feel the "rightness" of a particular solution. 

Being in a relaxed hypnotic state also allows you to put aside all the anxious chatter in your head that might be keeping you "stuck" with your mind going around in circles. The combination of clinical hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing helps you to focus on what's most important and allows you to have a "gut feeling" about what's right for you.

Many of my clients are often amazed at how quickly and effectively they can access creative solutions for themselves--whether they are artistic challenges or everyday problems.

Choosing a Hypnotherapist:
I strongly recommend that, when choosing a hypnotherapist, you make sure that the person you choose is a licensed psychotherapist who has the necessary clinical skills, as opposed to a hypnotist who might have learned some hypnotic techniques, but who is not a psychotherapist and does not have clinical skills. Whereas a hypnotist can only get you so far with hypnosis given the limited skills that they have , a hypnotherapist can help you to access a deeper part of yourself and will also have the clinical expertise to help you with any emotional problems that might come up during hypnotherapy.

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

I work with individuals and couples.

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

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

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Books Imagination and Medicine

At any given time, I'm usually reading at least three or four books during the same period of time. Currently, one of the books that I'm really enjoying and recommend is called Imagination and Medicine edited by Stephen Aizenstat and Robert Bosnak.

Books: Imagination and Medicine

Stephen Aizenstat is a clinical psychologist, marriage and family therapist and founder of Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. Robert Bosnak, as I've mentioned in prior blog posts, is a Jungian psychoanalyst, also in California. Both Stephen Aizenstat and Robert Bosnak are also co-founders of the Santa Barbara Healing Sanctuary in Santa Barbara, California.

My favorite articles in this book include Robert Bosnak's "The Physician Inside," Marion Woodman's "Coming to a Door," Kimberley C. Patton's "Ancient Asklepieia: Institutional Incubation and the Hope of Healing," and Ernest and Katherine Rossi's "How the Mind and the Brain Co-create Each Other Daily."

I had the pleasure of participating in an Embodied Imagination dreamwork intensive recently with Robert Bosnak. To find out more about his dreamwork, visit the website:

If you're interested in reading about cutting edge work with regard to medicine and the mind-body connection, I recommend this book, which is out in paperback.

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

I work with individuals and couples.

To find out more about this book and similar books, go to: http://www.springjournaland

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.   I work with individual adults and couples.

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

Somatic Experiencing: Tuning Into the Mind-Body Connection

Often when we're trying to come up with solutions to personal problems, our logical minds, while important, can be limiting in terms of coming up with new and novel solutions. 

Our logical mind might be conditioned by automatic negative thoughts that get in the way. 

Using Somatic Experiencing, you can tune into the mind-body connection and you'll often be surprised at what you come up with that was not accessible to you when you only relied on your logical mind.

Somatic Experiencing:  Turning Into to the Mind-Body Connection

The Limitations of Using Only the Logical Mind vs the Mind-Body Connection:
It's not that logic doesn't have a role. But whose logic are we talking about? What you consider to be logical might not be what I think. Logic has a place but, amazingly, the combination of the mind and body often provide us with answers that we would never come up just relying on logic alone.

Using the combination of mind and body, we can get images, sensations, flashes of ideas and so much more from a deep part of ourselves that isn't usually as accessible from a purely logical place. Using Somatic Experiencing, solutions are often more creative, and you get a "gut feeling" if it's right for you.

Somatic Experiencing:  Tuning Into the Mind-Body Connection

Working with a Somatic Experiencing therapist, you learn to become more attuned to yourself in an intuitive way. I have experienced this for myself when I ask myself, "What does my body say that I need" when considering a problem.

Clients who come to me for Somatic Experiencing often say the same thing--that they have tapped into a deep source of knowing.

About Me
I am a New York City licensed psychotherapist, Somatic Experiencing therapist, EMDR therapist, and hypnotherapist.

I work with individuals and couples.

To find out more about Somatic Experiencing, visit the website: 
Somatic Experiencing Training Institute

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.