NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trauma, Dreams and the Healing Power of Somatic Experiencing

Many people, who know about mind-body psychotherapy, know that Somatic Experiencing is one of the most effective and safest ways to work through traumatic memories. But not everyone knows that Somatic Experiencing is also a very effective form of therapy for doing dreamwork on traumatic dreams.

Trauma, Dreams and the Healing Power of Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing and Dream Work
Usually, when we tell our dreams, we give the narrative and we skim the surface of the emotional content of the dream. Even when I've worked psychoanalytically with dreams, which was my original training, dreams came alive and clients felt healed, but dreams tended to get reduced to various associations related to clients' histories. 

But using Somatic Experiencing to work through dreams related to trauma, we work the dreams using emotional resources that were not part of the original dream. Rather than reducing dreams to certain limited associations, we reenter the dream using the mind-body connection in a resourceful way and we expand the possibilities for reworking the dream to heal the trauma.

Somatic Experiencing as Gentle Therapeutic Treatment for Trauma 
Somatic Experiencing is a gentle therapeutic treatment modality developed by Peter Levine, Ph.D. 

Whether the therapist is working on a traumatic memory or a dream related to the trauma, Somatic Experiencing emphasizes the need for the client to work through the trauma with emotional resources that s/he probably didn't have during the trauma event or in the nightmare about the trauma. 

Rather than going directly to the worst part of the trauma memory or the nightmare (called T-0), Somatic Experiencing starts gently with a more benign part, working its way to T-0 with the emotional resources that were missing before.

What do I mean by this? 

Well, for example, even though we know what actually happened during the traumatic event or in the nightmare and we're not trying to pretend that anything different occurred, working the memory or dream slowly and feeling your emotions in the body in a tolerable way, we experience what it might have been like to have had the emotional resources we needed and didn't have. 

And we experience this in the here-and-now. For instance, what might it have been like to have a trusted loved one, mentor or pet there? Is there something different you would have liked to do in this memory or dream?

You might ask: What good is that going to do if that's not the way it happened? 

The answer is, surprisingly, that when you tell your dream or memory in the present tense, but this time experiencing the narrative with emotional resources you needed at the time, you create a new symbolic memory for yourself and this is healing. 

Of course, you still know what actually happened, but your mind and body experience the healing AS IF it happened the way the dream or memory occurred with these much-needed resources.

I have found Somatic Experiencing to be a gentle, effective and nuanced way of helping clients work through traumatic memories and nightmares.

To Find Out More About Somatic Experiencing
To find out more about Somatic Experiencing, you can read Peter Levine's latest book, In an Unspoken Voice, and his earlier book, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist. 

I work with individual adults and couples.   

Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis, and EMDR are among the treatment modalities that I use in working 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.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Psychotherapy: You're Not Defined By Your Diagnosis

As a psychotherapist in New York City, I see many clients who have been in psychotherapy before. People who have a lot of experience with psychotherapy will often start their initial session by saying, "I'm depressed" or whatever they've been told their diagnosis might be. Whenever I hear this, I often have an internal experience where I feel the weight of this client carrying around this identification and self concept, in some cases, for many years.

You're Not Defined By Your Diagnosis

It's Useful to Know There's a Name for What You Feel
Now don't get me wrong: I'm not completely against diagnoses. If you're a person struggling with depression (or some other diagnosis), it's useful to know that. Knowing that there's a name for what you feel and thousands of other people have similar experiences can be comforting and indicates that you're not alone.

...But Your Diagnosis is Not Your Identity
But taking on a diagnosis as a permanent identity is a different story.  When you say, "I'm depressed" almost like you're saying, "I'm Mary" (if that's your name),it's almost as if you're claiming the symptoms of depression as part of your permanent identity as if it's never going to change. Now, we know that, depression, for instance, can be overcome with treatment, whether it's psychotherapy or the combination of psychotherapy and medication. It's not a permanent part of your identity that can't be changed like, possibly, your ethic background or some other unchangeable part of who you are as a person.

Your Diagnosis Isn't Your Identity

When you strongly identify with and embrace your diagnosis by saying "I'm depressed" as opposed to "I'm a person with depression," you're giving yourself a message that this is who you are and it's not going to change. And the more you say it, the more ingrained it becomes in your mind.

What I'm proposing in this blog post is NOT that people should be in denial about what they're experiencing. Instead, I'm proposing that your relationship to your diagnosis doesn't have to be a permanent one. If the reason you come to therapy is to change, if you're constantly giving yourself the message that you are your diagnosis, it's going to be that much harder to change because you've accepted that this is who you are on the most basic and core level. It's giving yourself the message that you're not going to change.

What I'm discussing, about how people label themselves with diagnoses, is more than semantics. it's a way of thinking and holding onto something that you say you want to change by coming to therapy. So, in a way, the internal message that you're giving yourself contradicts what you're trying to change, so you're at odds with yourself.

It's like the opposite of saying self affirmations. Instead of giving yourself positive messages, you're giving yourself a negative message--over and over, so it becomes part a habitual negative thinking.

This is all aside from the fact that, even though there are diagnostic categories, no two people with depression (or any other diagnosis) are the same. And, of course, you're a whole person who is much more than a diagnosis. So, to limit your self identification to your diagnosis is like putting yourself in a small box. What about all the other wonderful parts of you that aren't related to the diagnosis? It becomes easy to overlook all of those positive aspects when you become overly identified with your diagnosis.

It might take a while to develop this type of awareness about yourself but, in the long run, it's much more affirming to who you are as a complete person, beyond labels.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist with expertise in Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis, EMDR, and psychodynamic psychotherapy.

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.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Feeling Stuck in the Middle: What to Do If Your Spouse and Your Parents Don't Get Along

One of the most challenging problems that you can face as a married person is when your spouse and your parents don't get along. This situation puts you in a very awkward position, especially if you're close to your parents and you really love your spouse. You're caught in the middle between them. 

Your Spouse and Parents Don't Get Along

It can be very hard to understand why, if your spouse loves you and your parents love you, they can't get along.  This can place a strain on your marriage and on your relationship with your parents.  Holidays, birthdays, the birth of a child, and family visits can become very stressful for you and everyone involved.  So how you deal with this and maintain your sanity?

First, as much as you can, step back and try to be objective, as if you were a disinterested person observing this situation. 

Are there really clear cut reasons why there's animosity? For instance, do your parents dislike your spouse because he or she is mistreating you?

If your daughter or son were in a similar relationship, would you feel the same way? 

Alternatively, are your parents being unreasonable or are they being too intrusive or overstepping boundaries in your relationship, which is stable and healthy?

These can be difficult questions to ask, especially since there might be things that you don't want to see about your spouse or your parents.

Recognizing that this is a common problem can help you when you feel alone, desperate, and unsure of what to do. 

Whenever two or more people get together, there's the potential for personality conflicts. Just because you love your parents and you love your spouse doesn't mean they'll necessarily love each other.

Obviously, one blog post can't address every possible scenario or permutation of this type of problem, but let's take a look at one possible scenario, which is a composite of many accounts with all identifying information changed:

Lorna was in her early 30s when she and Tom got married. They met through friends, and dated for a couple of years before they decided to get married. They were very in love. Lorna had never met a man who was so kind and considerate of her. They had similar values and they wanted similar things in life.

Overall, they were very happy together. But the one big stressor in their lives was that Lorna's parents disapproved of Tom because he was raised in a different religion. Before they even met Tom, when Lorna talked to them about Tom and they found out he was not raised in their religion, they were upset. Although Lorna had anticipated that they might have concerns, she was surprised by their reaction, especially since neither Lorna, her parents or Tom were active participants in their religions.

Lorna was very close to her parents, and she wanted them to like Tom. Before Lorna and Tom got married, it took a while before her parents agreed to meet him. Then, they were cool and standoffish with him, which hurt Lorna and angered Tom. She hoped that once her parents met Tom, they'd let go of their misgivings and embrace him, as Tom's parents embraced her. But it was a strange and awkward dinner at the restaurant, and her parents made an excuse to leave before dessert, leaving no doubt about how they felt.

After that, it was an uphill battle. When Lorna told her parents that she and Tom were getting married in a civil, non-religious ceremony, at first, her parents refused to come, which upset Lorna very much. It also put a strain on her relationship with Tom and led to arguments when she asked him to consider converting to her religion so they could make peace with her family. This made no sense to Tom, since neither he nor Lorna were spiritual people, and he refused to do it.

Two months before the wedding, Lorna's parents relented and, with heavy hearts, they agreed to come to the wedding. After all, Lorna was their only child. But they let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that they felt Lorna was making a big mistake by marrying outside of her faith, and nothing Lorna could say or do would change their minds.

Fast forward a couple of years: Lorna and Tom moved out of state because of their careers. Lorna had just given birth to their first child, a healthy baby boy, and Lorna's parents were coming to visit. The old issue about religion came up again, as Lorna's parents pressed her as to which religion, if any, Lorna and Tom planned to choose for their child.

Lorna dreaded talking to her parents about this, especially since it wasn't important to her or Tom. Once again, it created tension between Lorna and Tom. 

She tried to convince him, once again, to convert and to raise the baby in her parents' religion. But Tom didn't agree, and he was frustrated that Lorna still couldn't stand up to her parents. And this is what brought Tom and Lorna into marriage counseling. S

he felt torn between her husband and her parents. She was overjoyed with being a new mother, but this ongoing conflict cast a shadow on everything for her.

During their marriage counseling sessions, Lorna and Tom worked out to be more supportive of one another. 

Lorna also learned, with a lot of effort, how to make Tom and the baby a priority and to stand up for herself and for Tom with her parents. 

Once she saw the situation in a clearer way, she felt less conflicted about it. 

Her parents didn't like what she had to say, but they didn't want to lose their only child, so they accepted the situation reluctantly. 

After Lorna stood up to her parents, she felt better about herself and it helped to strengthen her marriage.

Getting Help in Therapy
As I mentioned earlier, the types of conflicts that cause can tension between your spouse and your parents can vary widely. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you're caught between your spouse and your parents, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional to help you or you and your spouse to work it out.

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

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Mind-Body Connection: What is Your Body Telling You?

As a psychotherapist in New York City who is interested in the mind-body connection, I often see clients who want to participate in a mind-body oriented psychotherapy like Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis or EMDR therapy.

Mind-Body Connection: What is Your Body Telling You?

Often, this is a new experience for clients and they need guidance as to how to tune into their bodies to discover what their bodies are trying to tell them. With some practice, most people can learn to tap into the mind-body connection, which is usually a deeper and more reliable source of inner wisdom than just relying on what we think.

Tapping into the Inner Wisdom of the Mind-Body Connection
When clients begin to tap into the inner wisdom of their mind-body connection, they're often amazed at what they discover about themselves. To a certain extent, most of us have accessed this connection at some point in our lives. When we say, "I had a 'gut feeling' " about a certain situation, whether we realize or not, we're tapping into our mind-body connection to access our inner emotional world where we often know intuitively what's right for us.

Somatic Experiencing and EMDR
When we learn to use Somatic Experiencing, with practice, we can often tune into internal images, colors, symbols, and meanings that aren't usually available to us in regular "talk therapy." 

Depending upon what problems clients are coming in to work on, of course, "talk therapy" can be valuable in helping them resolve their issues. However, I usually find that Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, and clinical hypnosis are much more effective in working with trauma than just "talk therapy" alone.

If you're interested in learning more about Somatic Experiencing, I recommend reading either of Peter Levine's books,  In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Dr. Levine writes in an interesting and accessible way. You can also go to the Somatic Experiencing website: Somatic Experiencing Training Institute to get more information.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist with expertise in clinical hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing, and EMDR.

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.

Are Your Workplace Stressors Stressing Out Your Family?

In my prior two blog posts, I discussed the bullying boss (Career: Are You a Bully at Work? and Dealing with a Difficult Boss) and how to use Square Breathing (Learning to Relax: Square Breathing) as one way to de-stress at work. Now, I'd like to focus on what you can do if your work stressors are having a negative impact on your family because you're coming home feeling irritable, cranky, worried or in a bad mood. 

Are Your Workplace Stressors Stressing Out Your Family?

Bringing Home Your Work Stress Without Even Realizing It
Without even realizing it, you could be bringing home your work stress in such a way that, without you even saying a word about your job, your spouse and your children are picking up that you're either angry, worried or frustrated and this might be affecting their moods as well. Of course, this isn't your intention. So, what can you do about it?

Are You Bringing Home Your Work Stress Without Even Realizing It?

There's no one-size-fits-all solution to try to inoculate your family from the detrimental effects of your workplace stress. Of course, managing your own stress is optimal with regard to taking care of yourself and your family. 

But what about those times when you come home after a stressful day, and you haven't had time to go to the gym or yoga class before coming home? You get home, you're tired and stressed out and the moment you walk in the door, your spouse, your children, and your barking dogs are all vying for your attention. 

At that point, you might feel so overwhelmed that you're tempted to go right back out the door and keep walking. So, what do you do?

If you're already on your "last nerve," you might lose your temper or do something that you'll regret later. 

Even if you manage to be responsive to your family, you can still feel overwhelmed and they'll often sense your irritability or anger. 

Your anger, frustration and irritability often have nothing to do with them. But you might, unintentionally, take it out on them, adversely affecting your relationships.

Transitional Time Between Work and Home
When clients talk to me about this sort of scenario, I often suggest making an agreement with their families to allow them a certain amount of time to transition from work to home. 

This can mean different things to different people. It usually starts with your being mindful that you've left your workplace and now you're home. 

I know that's not as simple as it sounds, especially since you're walking around with the same mind that's feeling anxious or frustrated by workplace stressors. But being mindful of where you are now--at home--is a start. It's bad enough that you might be under a lot of stress at work, you don't need to prolong it by carrying it around with you and bringing it back home.

So, the transition starts in your own mind. Then, make an agreement with your family agree that, barring an emergency, you need some "time out" before you're bombarded with whatever is going on at home. 

This might mean that you take a calming shower or bath or you spend a few quiet minutes to yourself--or whatever works best for you. The point is that whatever helps you to distinguish, on an emotional level, between when you were at work and where you are now, at home, will allow you to take that space that gets you through the transition.

When you're discussing this "time out" that you need, being specific about the amount of time (15 minutes? a half hour?) is better than giving vague notions about what you need. And don't expect that you or they will get it perfectly the first few times. Habitual patterns are often difficult to change. You might need to tactfully reinforce your agreement with reminders.

The Importance of Self Care
Now, you might wonder why, if I started this blog post by discussing how your workplace stress could be affecting your family, I've been focusing on you and not your family. 

Well, the point is that you need to take care of yourself first before you take care of your family. It's just like when you're on a plane and flight attendants demonstrate safety measures: They always tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before you put the mask on your child. 

Why? Because you'll be absolutely no good to your child if you haven't taken care of yourself first. So, the same applies in the workplace vs home situation: Take care of yourself first by de-stressing and you'll be better able to help your family.

Not only will you be accomplishing your intention of de-stressing yourself and taking care of your family, you'll also be showing by example that taking care of oneself is important and there are simple and effective ways to do it.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist with expertise in clinical hypnosis, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing. 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.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Bullying Management Style Creates a Negative Work Environment

When clients come to see me about work stressors, one of the most common complaints I hear is that they work in stressful and negative work environments with bullying managers. In addition to hearing about bullying managers, I also see clients who are in managerial positions who feel frustrated with employees. 

A Bullying Management Style Creates a Negative Work Environment

There's no doubt that managers often have to deal with difficult employees. However, very often, these same managers have no insight into how their negative style of management and communication affects their dynamic with employees.

A Bullying Management Style Creates a Negative Work Environment
One of the biggest mistakes managers make with employees is having dictatorial or bullying style of management. Managers who are bullies usually think the only way they can get their employees to work is through intimidation. They create a negative work environment by treating their employees like they're children. Often, they have no awareness or insight that this is what they're doing until we begin discussing in their therapy sessions why their employees seem unmotivated and less effective than employees in other units.

Bullying Often Results From Emotional Security 
More often than not, their own emotional insecurity is what drives their bullying style of management. They don't feel confident that they can get the best from their employees unless they use their position of authority to try to infantilize their workers. Without a doubt, this creates resentment, which leads to a demoralized and unmotivated staff. Not only is it counterproductive with regard to what the manager is trying to accomplish, at times, in the worst case scenarios, it can lead to lawsuits for the manager and the company in the more egregious cases. It's usually a lose-lose situation.

Bullying is an Ineffective Management Style
In the short term, a bullying or negative manager might be able to intimidate employees to do what he or she wants, especially during this protracted recession where there's a shortage of jobs. But, in the long term, bullying and intimidating employees is not an effective way of creating a productive and positive work environment. And, even for the most hard boiled manager, who might not care if the work environment is positive or not, it's usually not effective with regard to advancing his or her own career with senior management if the manager perceived as someone who bullies employees.

So, if this negative and punitive style of management tends to be ineffective in the long run, why do certain managers persist in doing it? Well, there are so many reasons that one blog post is insufficient. But one reason, as I mentioned previously, is that this style usually comes from a deep sense of personal inadequacy. The bullying manager tries to cover up his or her emotional insecurities by trying to intimidate subordinates.

Bullying and "Divide and Conquer" Tactics
Another reason is that, rather than taking the long view with regard to creating a positive work environment, which requires more of an effort as compared to barking out orders to employees, the bullying manager is short sighted. His or her goals are short term. Rather than focusing on team building, the bullying manager will often engage in "divide and conquer" tactics among employees. These managers often have deep seated fears that creating a team approach would lead to a "mutiny" against him or her.

The Bullying Boss as "Lord of the Manor"
Lack of the appropriate skill set and inexperience are also contributing factors that contribute to a bullying style of management. Often, the inexperienced or unskilled manager feels that the only thing he or she has to rely on is the managerial title. He or she behaves like the "lord of the manor" engaging in a feudal style of management. Too often, senior management doesn't invest the time, money or effort involved with training these managers. As a result, a bullying manager often relies on the only thing he or she knows when it comes to authority relationships--the parent-child relationship. Of course, this leads to resentment. In the worst case scenarios, it leads to sabotage, both overt and covert.

Bullying Managers and Personality Disorders
Bullying managers often have personality disorders where they come across as inconsistent, verbally provocative, unable to manage their anger, engaging in black and white thinking and, in the worst cases, being emotionally unstable. When a personality disorder, like borderline personality or narcissistic personality, is involved, this is a much more serious problem. A manager who lacks expertise in managing employees, theoretically, can go for training. But a manager who has a personality disorder needs professional psychological help. In companies where there are numerous complaints about a bullying manager, senior management will often mandate this manager to seek professional help or risk losing his or her job.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have a bullying style of management and training has not been effective in helping you to change, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional. 

If you're motivated to do the personal work required to change, you can work through the underlying issues that contribute to an ineffective, bullying style of management.

If you're an employee who has a bully for a boss, you could use the support of a licensed mental health professional, especially if this situation is triggering old unresolved trauma, to feel empowered to take action.

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.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Relationships: Have You and Your Partner Stopped Having Sex?

As a New York City psychotherapist who sees both individuals and couples, one of the biggest complaints I hear from people who are in long term relationships is that the passion has gone out of their relationships (see my article:  Relationships: Overcoming Sexual Incompatibility).

Relationships: Have You and Your Spouse Stopped Having Sex?

Of course, we know that relationships change and that, for instance, a 20 year marriage usually doesn't have the same kind of sexual excitement as when the couple first met. The familiarity of seeing each other every day, dealing with life's ups and downs and settling into daily routines takes away from the early romantic idealization and excitement.

After many years, couples need to find new ways to keep their sexual lives interesting. But this isn't what I'm referring to in this blog post. What I'm talking about is the marriage or long term relationship where sex is completely gone. There is no sexual intimacy and the couple are living like roommates or brother and sister.

Why Does Sexual Passion Disappear in Long Term Relationships?
Why does sexual passion disappear in so many long term relationships and marriages? Well, as you can imagine, there are probably nearly as many "reasons" as there are relationships.

Often, when couples come to see me about this problem, one person in the relationship is very unhappy about this and the other is okay with it. To begin with, this in itself is a problem because, for the person who is okay with a sexless relationship (and might even be relieved not to be having sex any more), there's often little motivation to change. The one possible motivation is that he or she doesn't want a breakup.

Common Reasons Why Couples Stop Having Sex 
Some of the more common reasons why couples stop having sex include: unresolved anger and resentment by one or both people, power struggles in the relationship, problems with children, financial struggles, unresolved childhood sexual abuse, infidelity, sexual incompatibility, medical problems, anger about in-laws, and so on.

If the lack of sexual intimacy has gone on for a long time, one or both people might start to question whether there is still a viable relationship and if they should stay together. Of course, there are many things that create a bond between two people in a committed relationship. It's not all about sex. But the lack of any sex is often an indicator that something might have gone awry in the relationship.

Ruling Out Medical Problems
If you and your spouse are in a sexless relationship and this is bothering one or both of you, you owe it to yourselves to seek help. Ruling out any medical causes, such as erectile dysfunction (ED)for men or pain during sexual intercourse for women is usually a good place to start. Very often, medical problems can be related to emotional problems, so it's not an either-or situation.

Getting Help from a Licensed Mental Health Professional
But once medical problems have been ruled out, seeking the help of an objective licensed mental health professional, who works with couples, is the next step.

An objective professional with expertise in working with couples will have no particular agenda in terms of a couple staying together or breaking up. I mention this because people often think that couples counselors always try to keep couples together.

Have You and Your Spouse Stopped Having Sex?  Get Help

But most couples counselors work to help the couple come up with the best possible solution for the couple, whether this is staying together or working out an amicable separation. The point is not to continue to drift on in a state where one or both people in the relationship are unhappy but do nothing about it.

About Me
I'm a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

I've helped many people to resolve problems, including lack of sexual intimacy, in their relationships, so they can have more fulfilling relationships.

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.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Want to Change? Start By Accepting Yourself As You Are Right Now

It might sound counterintuitive, but the best way to achieve lasting change is to accept yourself as you are right now. After all, you might say, you can't change and remain as you are at the same time. But, if you think about this for a moment, you might see that this isn't what I mean. The key words in this blog post title is "start by accepting."

Accepting Yourself As You Are Now

What Does It Mean to Accept Yourself as You Are?
But what do we mean when we talk about "accepting" who we are? Does this mean we're complacent and we're not exploring ways to improve? Does "accepting" mean we've given up or we feel hopeless? Not at all! If anything, it's just the opposite! But why?

When we accept ourselves at a certain point in time, we're acknowledging what is. We're not in denial or pretending that things are different. We're not wallowing in self hatred or calling ourselves a "failure" because we're not where we want to be. On the contrary, we're starting at the point where we're saying, "This is where I am right now. I'd like things to be different, and I'll work towards that goal. But, for now, this is where I am."

Why is It So Important to Accept Yourself as You Are?
So, you might ask why it's so important to start by accepting yourself as you are? Well, for one thing, if we want to make changes we need to acknowledge the current situation. Otherwise, how will we know what we're changing from? We need a starting point. 

Secondly, very often, when we don't start by accepting ourselves as we are, we become so negative about ourselves that we sabotage our own efforts to change. The "voice of negative prediction" starts to haunt us: "You'll never change. You've tried it before and you failed. You'll fail again because you're a failure."

Let's take a common example: As part of their New Year's resolutions, many people make a commitment to lose weight. One of the obstacles that gets in the way is that people who want to lose weight start out by being very self critical about their body image. They berate themselves for being overweight, compare themselves unfavorable to others, and then dwell on all the reasons why they're not going to succeed. This negativity and self criticism sets them up to fail because they get to the point where they say to themselves, "Why bother?"

How much different it is when a person comes from a place of self acceptance. Instead of being self critical and feeling shame and self loathing, they feel nurturing towards themselves. With this positive attitude, they're much more likely to be nurturing towards themselves, thereby increasing the likelihood that they'll stick with their healthy weight loss plan.

Self Acceptance Can Be Challenging
Getting to the point of self acceptance can be challenging. Ingrained negative ways of thinking can be hard to change. 

If you're struggling to make positive changes, but you're stuck in old negative patterns, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional who has expertise in helping clients overcome these obstacles.

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

I work with individual adults and couples, and I've helped many clients overcome obstacles to living a more fulfilling life.

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.

Overcoming Creative Blocks with Clinical Hypnosis

As a New York City psychotherapist, I often work with artistic clients who are trying to overcome creative blocks. Writers, actors, composers, and artists often struggle with blocks in their creative endeavors. The tendency is usually to struggle and try to push yourself through this phase. 

Overcoming Creative Blocks

Sometimes this works for some people but, often, it backfires because the more you push yourself, the more frustrated you become. And the more frustrated you become with your creative block, the more likely you'll become self critical. The more self critical you are, the less likely you'll be able to overcome your creative block.

We often associate creativity with artists and writers, but we're all creative beings no matter what we do. We use our creativity everyday to problem solve or come up with ideas in our personal lives and at work.

The Odyssey
I just finished rereading The Odyssey (Homer). When I read it the first time as a teen, I didn't appreciate it nearly as well as I did this time around. 

Aside from the fact that my current reading of it was from a much better translation (Fagle), as an adult who has had much more life experience than the teen I was when I read it the first time, I appreciate so much more Odysseus' spirit to survive, his wily nature, and the wonderfully creative solutions he comes up with whenever he encounters life and death situations. His creative nature saved his life as well as the lives of his loved ones.

When we're blocked, for whatever reason, it's hard for us to think "out of the box." We're too stuck to explore and discover new ways to look at a situation or a problem, and we might not know what's keeping us stuck. 

Maybe it's an unwillingness to look at a situation from a different perspective. Maybe we're in a rut and can't see beyond the immediate circumstances. Often, we don't know why we're creatively block.

Clinical hypnosis, also known as hypnotherapy, can be very helpful in overcoming creative blocks. Hypnosis helps us to access our creativity on an unconscious level. And the best part is that we don't even need to know the reason why our creativity is blocked for hypnosis to work.

If you're experiencing a creative block that you've been unable to overcome on your own, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional who is trained in clinical hypnosis.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, 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 a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Relationships: Overcoming Fear of Rejection

As a psychotherapist in New York City, I see many people who would very much like to be in romantic relationships, but their fear of rejection keeps them from getting close to potential partners. It's an emotionally painful place to be--wanting to be in a loving relationship, but too overcome with fear (see my article: An Emotional Dilemma: Wanting and Fearing Love).  This ambivalence keeps many people "stuck" and unhappy.

Overcoming Fear of Rejection

It's not unusual for people who fear rejection from potential romantic partners to have a family background where they were emotionally neglected or abused.

Often they don't realize that their fear is based on memories of what happened to them as children in an either neglectful or abusive household.

The fear is so strong and feels so immediate that they believe that their fear is based on the here-and-now rather than the past.

Other people repeat their childhood experiences in their adult life by unconsciously choosing romantic partners who were hurtful and rejecting of them.  They don't realize that they're repeating this old pattern.

After getting hurt several times in different relationships, they become too fearful to get involved again.

Overcoming Fear of Rejection

Fear of Rejection and Lack of Self Confidence
Their fear often keeps them from socializing, so added to their fear of rejection is a lack of self confidence about interacting with others because they haven't developed the necessary social skills.

As a result, when they do make an effort to meet others, they come across as socially awkward and uncomfortable.

This, in turn, causes others, who pick up on their discomfort, to feel uncomfortable with them and also, possibly, causes people to shy away from them, which brings about the self fulfilling prophecy that they will be rejected.

Psychotherapy Can Help You to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection
Psychotherapy can be helpful to break this cycle, which begins with fear of rejection.

Overcoming Fear of Rejection

If you find yourself trapped by your own fear of rejection, you owe it to yourself to work with a psychotherapist who has expertise in this area.

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

I work with individual adults and couples.

I've helped many clients to overcome their fear of rejection.

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

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

Monday, January 2, 2012

Are Your Fears of Being Alone and Lonely Keeping You in an Unhealthy Relationship?

Fear of being alone and fear of loneliness can very powerful emotions. When we make decisions, or fail to make decisions, based on fear of being alone, our emotions can cloud our judgment. Unfortunately, many people stay in unhealthy relationships because they're afraid to be alone. These same people often unconsciously choose unhealthy partners because they want someone who will be dependent on them and who won't leave them.

Are Your Fears of Being Alone Keeping You in an Unhealthy Relationship?

The following scenario is a fictionalized account of many similar accounts with all identifying information changed:

When Tom met Carol, he felt a strong instant attraction to her. Looking back on it years later, he realized that part of this attraction was that he saw her as a "damsel in distress" and himself as the "knight in shining armor" who could rescue her. Carol was attractive, smart and funny. They clicked immediately, and they began dating shortly after they met. Tom knew, even then, that their was something very familiar about Carol, but he wasn't sure at the time what it was.

Almost immediately, Carol revealed that she was living on the edge. She had a good job, but she didn't know how to manage her money. She was behind in her rent and her landlord was threatening to evict her. Her credit card bills were piling up, but she always had a new outfit. In short, her life was a mess, but Tom was sure he could help her.

Within six months, Tom convinced Carol to move in with him. At first, they were both very happy. Tom began managing Carol's money and paying off her bills. When her creditors wouldn't extend her any more credit, Tom placed her name on his credit cards. When she decided to start her own consulting company, he encouraged her to quit her job and he financed her business. He took care of the financial responsibilities so she could focus on the creative aspects of her business.

But after a while, it became evident that Carol wasn't working on her business. Instead, while Tom took on extra projects at work to help support them and finance her business, Carol spent most of her time on the Internet instead of working on her business. She was easily distracted and had many excuses for not doing work, which began to annoy Tom.

He tried very hard to get Carol to focus on her business. He even started networking among his friends and colleagues to try to drum up new business, which he was successful in doing. He hoped that by showing Carol that these efforts produced results, she would become motivated herself. But although she appreciated his help, she continued to make excuses for not making more of an effort. Worse still, Tom's colleagues began complaining to him that Carol wasn't following through on their projects.

After a while, Tom felt that he was making all the effort to support them, keep their apartment tidy, and advance Carol's business, and she was making almost no effort. He felt resentful and angry. They began to argue. Then, in exasperation, Tom suggested that they seek professional help, but Carol refused to go. So, Tom went on his own.

It didn't take long for Tom and his therapist to draw parallels between his relationship with Carol and his earlier relationship with his mother, who was a severe alcoholic and nearly always in crisis. At a young age, Tom took on many adult responsibilities, especially after his father left the family.

By the time he was a teenager, his mother was almost completely dependent on him. It was not unusual for Tom to help his mother walk home from the bar, help her to get into bed, and then cook and tend to his younger siblings.

Tom's biggest fear back then was that something bad would happen to his mother, something that, even with all his efforts, he couldn't prevent. Given the severity of his mother's drinking, this wasn't an irrational fear.

Somehow, through Herculean efforts, he managed to take care of his mother and younger siblings, work part time and get good grades in high school. He was often exhausted, but he was determined to do whatever he could to rescue his mother and his brothers and sisters.

Shortly after he graduated college, his mother got into a fatal car accident while she was in a drunken stupor. In the past, Tom had always managed to hide the car keys from his mother. But on this particular day, he forgot and left them in plain sight. After he left the house, his mother found the keys, went out for a drive alone and crashed the car into a pole.

For years after that, Tom blamed himself with many "if onlys." His worse fear came true and he felt he didn't do enough to prevent it.

When he began dating, he tended to choose women who "needed" him. These relationships usually ended in a lot of emotional pain and frustration, and he usually blamed himself for not doing enough. He hated being alone, and he'd usually get involved again fairly soon to avoid feelings of loneliness.

Now that he was in therapy, Bob had to confront his fear of being abandoned and the codependent dynamic in his relationship with Carol. He began attending Al-Anon for additional support. And he and Carol started couples therapy.

With much hard work, both individually and as a couple, they changed the dynamic in their relationship. Carol took on more responsibilities, and Bob learned how not to over-function for Carol. Over time, he also worked through his childhood trauma and his fear of being abandoned.

Fear of abandonment can bring about many unwanted consequences in relationships. Many codependent relationships are based on fear of abandonment.

Getting Help
If you suspect that you might be suffering from fear of abandonment, you owe it to yourself to get professional help.

Getting help from a licensed mental health professional, who specializes in working with trauma, can free you from your fears.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist. I work with individual adults and couples.

I've helped many individuals and couples overcome their fear of abandonment so they could lead fulfilling lives.

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 regular business hours or email me.

Friendships: Losing a Friend After Giving Advice

One of the wonderful things about close friendships is the mutual support you provide to each other. Recently, a personal acquaintance told me how she lost her best friend after giving her advice, and she gave me permission to use her story, if I change her name, because she felt it might benefit others. Over the years, I've heard many versions of this story, and I've come to realize how common it is.

Yvonne (not her real name):
Yvonne and Sally were best friends since high school. They grew up in the same town, got married to their high school sweethearts with a couple of months of each other, and they continued to live close by even after they got married. They saw each other frequently, spending time with each other together as well as with their husbands. Over the years, they shared their secrets, hopes and dreams with each other. They thought of each other as sisters.

Sally and Yvonne Were Best Friends

It was not unusual for Yvonne and Sally to ask each other for advice. So, Yvonne thought nothing of it when Sally came over for coffee one day and told her that she needed Yvonne's advice. Sally told Yvonne that she suspected that her husband might be having an affair with his secretary.

At first, Yvonne thought Sally was joking. Everyone thought that Sally and Bob were the happiest couple in town. But when Yvonne realized that Sally was serious, she got over her initial shock and listened attentively to what Sally had to say.

Sally told Yvonne about all the telltale signs of Bob's infidelity: staying out late after work, sexually the provocative text messages on Bob's phone that Sally found when she became suspicious and searched his cell phone, and the sudden lack of sexual interest that Bob was showing for her.

They had been planning a vacation to Hawaii for months and now, suddenly, Bob wasn't sure if he wanted to go. As Sally told Yvonne all of this, she lowered her head and began to cry. She asked Yvonne, "I've been thinking about confronting Bob about this. What do you think should do?"

Yvonne told me that, at this point, her mouth had gone dry, and she hardly knew what to say. She had never seen Sally so upset in all the years they'd been friends. Her heart went out to Sally, and she wanted to help her. So, after a few moments of silence in which she composed herself, she told Sally she thought she should confront Bob. When Yvonne told me this part of the story, she said, "I would do anything now to take back those words."

A few days later, Sally came to see Yvonne. Sally looked like she hadn't slept in days. Her eyes were red and puffy with dark circles and she looked exhausted. Yvonne was shocked to see Sally in such a state.

After they sat down with cups of coffee, Sally told her that she confronted Bob. At first, he denied it. Then, after arguing about it for a few days, he admitted everything: He and his secretary were having an affair and he had no intention of giving it up. He felt ashamed, but he was also relieved because he hated lying to Sally.

At first, he thought his affair was only a passing thing. But after Sally confronted him about the affair, he had time to think about it. Before she confronted him, he said, he was going to break it off. But his arguments with Sally forced him to think about it more, and he realized that he was really in love with his secretary and he wanted to marry her. He apologized profusely to Sally, and then he asked her for a divorce.

As Yvonne sat there in stunned silence, Sally told her she couldn't help feeling that if she had not taken Yvonne's advice, Bob might have broken off his affair and all of this would have blown over. Maybe they would've had a chance to save their marriage.

But now she felt everything was lost. Bob moved out the day before to live with his new girlfriend, and he told her they should sell their house. Then, taking no responsibility for her own decision to confront Bob, Sally told Yvonne that she felt Yvonne's advice ruined her marriage and she wanted nothing to do with her ever again. And, with that, Sally walked out, leaving Yvonne in tears.

By the time Yvonne told me this story, five years had passed. True to her word, Sally wanted nothing to do with Yvonne. She ignored Yvonne's phone calls and email, and she refused to open the door when Yvonne tried to see her. In a few months after their last conversation, Sally sold her home and moved out of state. Yvonne never heard from her again.

Hindsight is 20/20
Hindsight is 20/20, and Yvonne had important insights over time. She came to see that, even though they were in their 30s, her friendship with Sally was somewhat adolescent and enmeshed. At the time, when Sally asked Yvonne for advice, Yvonne didn't have enough distance, due to their enmeshment, to stop and think about it before she gave advice.

She said that, if she could do it all over again, she would've told Sally that she couldn't advise her what to do and Sally should seek the help of someone impartial, like a mental health professional. She realized that, under most circumstances, no one can tell a friend what to do about his or her marriage.

Although time had passed and Yvonne was over the initial stage of hurt and anger for Sally blaming her and ending the friendship, she said she will never forget the important, painful lesson she learned. As I mentioned earlier, I've heard variations of this story many times. It can be a very painful lesson to learn that, even when a close friend asks for this type of advice, giving them advice about their marriage or relationship can backfire.

More importantly, we can never know what's right for another person's relationship. Even most experienced therapists don't give advice--they help clients to come to conclusions that are right for the individual clients.

So, the next time a friend seeks personal advice about serious problems in his or her relationship, unless you fear for your friend's physical safety, rather than risking the friendship, provide a comforting ear and a sounding board, but resist telling your friend what to do. Suggest that your friend seek professional help fro a licensed psychotherapist so your friend can figure out what's best for him or herself.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Exp 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 or email me.

Infidelity on Social Media Sites

Infidelity that starts on social media sites is growing at an alarming rate. It starts out innocently enough: Former high school sweethearts discover each other on the social media site, Facebook. They're both married to other people now. They "friend" each other on Facebook or Instagram. 

Infidelity on Social Media Sites

How Affairs Start on Social Media Sites
At first, they only contact each other occasionally. Then, over time the frequency grows. Before long, they're sending direct messages to each other everyday. Fantasies of what "might've been" also grow. Then, they meet for a drink, and before you know, they're having an affair. In most cases, neither person intended to have an affair, but corresponding on social media sites, which are great for staying in touch, make it easy for affairs to blossom and grow.

More and more, I'm hearing from clients in my psychotherapy private practice about these affairs that start on social media sites, like Facebook and other sites. Both the people who are cheating and the people being cheated on are in distress about how these encounters online are ruining their relationships.

Wives and husbands are shocked to find pictures posted online on other people's Facebook sites showing their spouses romantically involved with someone else. Often, these pictures are hard to explain away by the spouse having the affair. Often, the spouse who's cheating is just as shocked to discover that the "other woman" or "other man" would be so indiscrete as to post these pictures online for millions of people to see, including the unsuspecting spouse.

Many of these romantic encounters remain online fantasies without any physical contact. Clients who are involved with an ex in this way often try to say that the lack of physical contact means that it's not cheating. But if these online encounters are taking time and energy away from your marriage or primary relationship, it IS cheating.

In a long-term relationship, it's easy to become bored. Seeing your ex's picture and remembering the ideal romantic times with your ex can be very seductive. It's easy to imagine how much happier you'd be with your ex and get carried away.

On a Slippery Slope to Destroying Your Relationship by Cheating Online
If you find yourself on this slippery slope and you want to save your relationship, you need to start by admitting that you've made a mistake--no matter how innocently it began. 

Of course, it would be better to have the foresight to be honest with yourself and your ex and not start down the slippery slope at all. But if you're already involved, whether strictly online or if it's progressed to a sexual affair, take responsibility for your actions. Be aware that there are, potentially, at least three or more people who could get hurt in this situation.

Getting Help if You're Cheating Online
Above all, whoever you are in this type of situation, get help. It can be one of the most difficult times in your life as you try to sort this out. 

If you're the person having "secret" contact with an ex, even if you feel sure you were "meant to be" with your ex, you'll need the objective help of a licensed mental health professional to work this out. 

Things are not always as they seem. Many people who felt sure they wanted to leave their marriages for an ex become sorely disillusioned when the reality of the new relationship doesn't meet the fantasy.

Getting Help if You're the Spouse of the Person Who is Cheating Online
If you're the spouse of the person cheating online, this can be a devastating time. Infidelity often breaks up marriages--but not always. 

Before you make any rash decisions you owe it to yourself and your marriage to consider carefully what you want to do. A professional mental health practitioner who deals with these issues should never try to steer you in one direction or the other. His or her role is to help you determine what's best for you.

About Me

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist. I've worked with many clients, on an individual basis as well as in couples therapy, to deal with online infidelity and other forms of infidelity.

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.

Also see my articles:
Coping with Infidelity

Your Relationship: Should You Stay or Should You Go?