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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 (212) 726-1006 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 individuals and couples.

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

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

"Good Enough" Might be More than Adequate
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" Might 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
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.

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 (212) 726-1006.

Also, see my article:  Overcoming Perfectionism

photo credit: Jose Luis Mieza Photography  via photopin cc

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recovery: Staying Sober During the Holidays

Staying sober during the holidays can be challenging.  Holiday parties and family gatherings often include alcoholic beverages. Also, the stress of the holidays can be trigger cravings to drink. But with some forethought and planning, you can help ensure that you continue along a positive path in your recovery.

Recovery: Staying Sober During the Holidays
Plan Head to Maintain Your Sobriety
If you're aware that you're going to be facing situations where you'll be tempted to drink and compromise your sobriety, you can plan for these situations by being more diligent in your recovery efforts.

Attending Extra A.A. Meetings
During the holiday season, it's a good idea to attend extra Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, even if you have many years of sobriety.

It's easy to become complacent during this time of year by underestimating the challenges and overestimating your ability to overcome temptations to drink.

Also, maintaining regular contact with your sponsor during the holidays can help you to avoid relapsing. It's often a good idea to "bookend" a challenging event, like a party where alcohol will be served, by planning in advance to speak to your sponsor before and after the event. Knowing that you'll have extra support can help you avoid picking up a drink.

Beware of "Stinking Thinking"
It's also important to be aware that "stinking thinking" can creep up on you during the holidays. An example of "stinking thinking" is when you tell yourself, "I can handle just one drink."

This is also a form of denial. When we want to convince ourselves that we can handle situations that are, in reality, beyond our control, it's easy to lull ourselves into a false sense of reality. Being aware in advance of this possibility, you can avoid falling into this trap.

Recovery: Staying Sober During the Holidays

If You Relapse Get Back on Track
But what if, despite your best efforts, you relapse? Is everything lost? The answer, in most cases is a resounding "no." Rather than engaging in "black and white" or "all or nothing" thinking, make positive efforts to get back on track.

By getting in touch with your sponsor, attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or calling someone from the A.A. meeting list, you can get yourself back on track and avoid having your relapse turn into a protracted slide.

By being aware, admitting to yourself that holiday season can be challenging to your recovery, and taking positive action to maintain your recovery, you help to ensure that you'll have a safe and more satisfying holiday.

I am a licensed NYC 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 (212) 726-1006 or email me:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mindful Eating During the Holidays

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.

Beware of "Trigger" Foods
If there are certain "trigger" foods that we know will lead to our overeating, we make conscious choices about these foods. So, for one person, having one potato chip often leads to eating 50. To another person, having one piece of chocolate could mean eating half a box. We have to be honest with ourselves and aware of our eating patterns. If we know that we tend to overeat certain foods and we're more vulnerable to do so over the holidays, we might decide to avoid those foods and substitute others in their place.

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.

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 (212) 726-1006.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Healing Power of Clinical Hypnosis

As a hypnotherapist in NYC, I have worked with many clients who have come for smoking cessation, trauma, phobias, and creative endeavors of all kinds. Hypnotherapy is often successful because it works on a much deeper level than talk therapy. Clinical hypnosis helps you to access your unconscious mind where you can make changes on a much deeper level.

A Relaxed State of Dual Awareness 
When you are in a hypnotic trance, you're in a state of dual awareness: You're in a relaxed state and aware of everything around you at the same time.

You're in Control When You're in the Hypnotic State
You're in complete control. If you needed to, at any time, you could come out of the hypnotic trance.

An Upward Spiral
One of the things that's interesting about hypnosis is that, often, when you make one change in your life, it often leads to an upward spiral in other areas of your life.

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

To find out more about hypnosis, visit the ASCH website:
 ASCH - American Society of Clinical Hypnosis

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

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