NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Relationships: Are You and Your Spouse Constantly Arguing About Money?

Are you and your spouse constantly arguing about money? If you are, you're not alone. Arguments about money often bring couples into couples counseling when the couple can't find a way to compromise on their differences. It's one of the main reasons why people come to see a couples therapist. It's also one of the main causes of breakups and divorce.

Arguing About Money

What I'm referring to is not the occasional disagreement that many couples have from time to time about money. I'm talking about a pattern of ongoing arguments where there are fundamental differences in values and major differences in how each person relates to money.

People Often Don't Talk About Money Before They Get Married
Often, before people get married or enter into a committed relationship, they neglect talking about money and each of their particular views about it. It's very easy to get so caught up and swept away by romantic feelings that money issues might seem too mundane to talk about at that point. 

 For many people, talking about money is still somewhat taboo. So, both people enter into the marriage blissfully unaware that they might have completely different philosophies about money.

For instance, one person might be more of a saver while the other person is more of a spender. Until you live with someone and share bills, you might not really see certain patterns they have with spending or saving money. But once you're together, these issues start to come up pretty quickly with regard to both short-term and long-term money issues. 

 It's not unusual for a spouse to discover shortly after being married that his or her partner has a lot of credit card debt that was never mentioned before. There have been times when I've been amazed at the lengths that one spouse has gone to, even long into the marriage, to keep large debts a secret until they've become really out of control.

Money Can Take on Different Symbolic Meanings
Money often takes on different symbolic meanings for people. For many people, money is symbolic of self worth. The more money they have, the better they feel about themselves. 

 Conversely, having less money (either due to a job loss or other reversals in fortune) erodes their self esteem. To rely on how much money you have to determine how you feel about yourself is a very slippery slope. 

 When one or both people feel this way in a relationship, it becomes a big problem when they experience a financial downturn, and this often leads to arguments. Without strong internal resources, an over identification of money and self esteem is often a recipe for disaster.

Arguing About Money

For many couples, where one person relies on overspending to shore up an otherwise poor sense of self, hidden emotional insecurities (that were formerly kept out of conscious awareness by overspending money to feel good) come to the surface in unexpected ways when he or she can't continue overspending due to financial problems. When overspending money is no longer available as a quick fix habit to feel good, this often leads to arguments. The person who is overspending might not even realize that being unable to rely on this quick fix is causing him or her to feel irritable and unhappy.

In many couples, one or both people feel that when a spouse spends a lot of money on them, it's symbolic of how much they are loved. If they have to cut back on their spending, it feels like the spouse loves them less. Most of the time, these are unconscious feelings and they can be very powerful. At that point, the couple is challenged to find something more intrinsically meaningful in their relationship. Of course, this isn't such an all-or-nothing problem most of the time. It can be much more subtle than that. But it can still be a problem.

Getting Help in Therapy
When couples are unable to work out their differences about money, they often find it helpful to seek couples counseling. 

 A couples counselor won't provide you with financial advice, but he or she can help you to understand the emotional aspects of your problems and how to negotiate and compromise about money issues. A skilled couples counselor can also help you to see the underlying emotional issues that might be fueling your problems.

I've only touched the surface in this blog post with regard to all the different problems couples often have around money. The important thing to realize is that arguments about money, although unpleasant, are not unusual, and many couples are helped in couples counseling to overcome these problems.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist. 

 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.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Overcoming Emotional Trauma with Somatic Experiencing Therapy

As a psychotherapist in New York City, I see many clients who are seeking help to overcome emotional trauma. Many of these clients have already tried conventional talk therapy, but they've experienced little if any relief from that treatment, and they're interested in experiencing a mind-body oriented psychotherapy, like Somatic Experiencing, EMDR or clinical hypnosis.

Overcoming Emotional Trauma With Somatic Experiencing

Emotional Trauma is Stored in the Body
Conventional talk therapy often helps clients to become intellectually insightful about their trauma. However, in many cases, it doesn't help clients to heal from the trauma, which is why I prefer using mind-body oriented treatment modalities, like Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis or EMDR, which I have found much more effective in helping clients to heal.

In prior blog posts, I've described Somatic Experiencing in detail, so I won't focus on that here. For anyone interested in finding out more basic information about Somatic Experiencing, I recommend Peter Levine's books, Waking the Tiger - Transforming Overwhelming Experiences and In an Unspoken Voice as well as the Somatic Experiencing website: Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute.

Feeling Cut Off from the Body Due to Emotional Trauma
In this blog post, I want to focus on a common problem that traumatized clients have when they begin treatment, which is feeling cut off or dissociated from their bodies. The degree to which a client might feel cut off varies. Some clients, depending upon the depth of the trauma, might feel significantly out of touch with sensory experiences in their bodies most of the time. Other clients might feel out of touch with sensory exeriences at times and with. only certain parts of their bodies.

Dissociation Can Go Unnoticed in Traditional Talk Therapy
Very often, in traditional talk therapy, this dissociation goes unnoticed, especially for very intellectualized clients who can talk intellectually about their problems with the therapist, but who might be emotionally and physically cut off from their trauma. If the therapist is not trained to notice what's happening physically in clients, this dissociation is often not apparent to them.

 A client can go through years of conventional therapy in this state, gain intellectual insight, but not still not overcome the trauma. At the conclusion of what the therapist perceives as a "success" therapy, the client is often left wondering why he or she still feels as traumatized at the end of treatment as he or she did at the beginning. Some clients end up blaming themselves for this, which could be a life long pattern due to a history of trauma.

Somatic Experiencing as a Gentle and Effective Therapy
So, if traumatized clients are often, to some degree, dissociated from their emotions and their bodies, you might wonder how they could participate in Somatic Experiencing.

The answer is that, initially, for clients who are significantly out of touch with their emotions and physical sensations, the Somatic Experiencing therapist helps them to start getting these experiences back "online." There are Somatic Experiencing techniques that gently and safely help clients to overcome their dissociation.

As an example, one technique that Somatic Experiencing therapists use is helping clients to become more aware of tension in their muscles.

 For people who are cut off from the sensory experiences of their bodies, they often don't realize how tense their muscles are. 

Their muscles have become like body armor without their even realizing it. Helping clients to learn how to relax their bodies is one way to begin the process of reacquainting them with their bodies and gradually bringing various parts of their bodies back "on line" again.

Often, the parts of the body that are dissociated are the parts that "hold" all or part of the emotional trauma. Somatic Experiencing is a gentle and safe way to help clients to reintegrate emotionally and physically.

 The Somatic Experiencing therapist is observing and tracking what's happening for the client on an emotional and physical level. Before any work is begun, the therapist ensures that the client has the internal emotional resources for doing the work. If not, the therapist works with the client to develop those skills.

My original training after graduate school was in psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy. 

Early on, when clients with significant trauma came to me, I found that psychodynamic therapy had its shortcomings in helping clients overcome trauma, which is why trained in various mind-body oriented treatment modalities, like clinical hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing, and EMDR.

 I still use psychodynamic psychotherapy with some clients, but I now use it in a much more dynamic and contemporary way.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you are seeking to overcome trauma, you could benefit from attending treatment with a Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapist. 

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist. 

I provide psychotherapy services, including Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis, EMDR and contemporary talk therapy to 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, February 26, 2012

Workplace: If You Want Your Employees to Treat Customers Well, Treat Your Employees Well

It seems it should just be common sense that, as a boss, if you want your employees to provide good customer service, you should model this behavior by treating your employees well. And, yet, many workplace managers just don't get it. There's a big disconnect between the behavior they model with employees and their expectations about how they want these same employees to treat customers.

If You Want Your Employees to Treat Your Customers Well, Treat Your Employees Well

As a psychotherapist, I hear from clients all the time about managers who are verbally abusive or who mistreat employees in other ways. These managers model bad behavior towards their employees, but they expect their employees to turn around and provide excellent customer service to customers.

When I refer to treating employees well, I'm not necessarily referring to giving employees big salary increases. Of course, it's always great to get a raise.

 But, based on what I hear from clients, money is important, but it's even more important to be treated, at the very least, with basic respect and common courtesy. This should be a no-brainer, but for many managers, it's not.

As a consumer, I often observe this phenomenon for myself in many different kinds of stores. You can often tell when you walk into a store (or any other workplace setting) whether employees are being treated well.

 Employees who are being treated well by management tend to be more open and helpful with customers. They often want to go the extra mile with customers. In those same work settings, there's usually an overall pleasant and professional environment.

In workplaces where employees are not being treated well by management, you can almost always feel it in your interactions with employees.

For instance, a cashier, who is belittled and demeaned by the boss, frequently doesn't make eye contact with customers. He often seems harried. The overall environment is usually tense and unpleasant. The owner might be ingratiating with customers, but if you observe his behavior with employees, it's often gruff and condescending. It's not unusual to see him standing over them and micro-managing their work.

As a customer, this is a very unpleasant experience. When I encounter this, I don't want to linger to browse--I want to get out of there as soon as possible.

I can remember times, years ago, when I was a human resources manager, when employees in these types of workplaces would offer me their resumes when the boss wasn't around.

They would tell me how unhappy they were, and they'd asked me if I had any openings or if I knew of anyone who had job openings. My heart went out to them, but I didn't have jobs to offer them.

Aside from how indicative this is of poor employee morale, what does this say about management? My sense was that these employees' supervisors, who weren't treating employees well, were also not being treated well by their managers.

There's an old Italian saying, which my grandmother used to say in situations like this, "The fish rots from the head down." Often what you observe on the lower echelons of management, with some exceptions, you will find on the upper end as well.

I realize this is a generalization, but poor management often cascades from the top, especially where mistreating employees is tolerated. In well-run organizations, managers who don't know how to maintain good employee relations with the staff are let go.

Well-run organizations don't tolerate a manager's bad behavior towards employees, if they know about it. And if they don't know about it, they should.

 In a well-run organization, top management knows that how they treat their employees will affect the bottom line. They don't have to be altruists to know that reasonably satisfied employees usually reflect their satisfaction in their work and interactions with customers. It just makes good business sense.

When I was in my 20s, I worked for an exceptional manager who took an interest in the career goals of each person who worked for him. We were part of a hospital, which gave the same across the board salary increases based on whatever unionized employees received, even though we were not unionized employees in this department.

So, other than getting a promotion, which I did over time, this manager couldn't reward us with extra money. But, he knew that treating employees well in other ways would, most likely, boost morale and ensure that we would provide good service to our "customers" (other departments within the hospital). He was an unusually creative manager and he found ways to incorporate tasks that were of interest to his employees.

For instance, if an employee was interested in improving her public speaking skills, he would give her the task of doing a small presentation during the staff meeting.

Needless to say, the overall work environment was very good, and this manager's boss was also a supportive individual who encouraged growth and development from the people who reported to him. This engendered loyalty and hard work among employees.

In some companies, where there are 360 performance evaluations (where managers rate employees, employees rate their managers, and peers rate each other), managers are usually more aware of how they treat employees because they don't want poor evaluations.

Anecdotally, I know of managers, who were in companies where they do 360 evaluations, who were fired because their employees gave them poor evaluations. Top management wasn't t interested in keeping them on and risking employee lawsuits.

So, while it might not be "rocket science" that you need to treat your employees well if you want them to treat your customers well, many short-sighted bosses just don't get it. This often results in unfavorable consequences for their employees, the business and, often, for themselves.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides psychotherapy services, including dynamic talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing. 

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, February 25, 2012

Should You Stay or Should You Leave Your Relationship?

When you're in a relationship, one of the most difficult decisions you might have to make is whether you should stay or go.

Should You Stay or Should You Leave Your Relationship?

Every relationship has its ups and downs. It's not unusual to go through rough patches, especially in the course of a long-term relationship. 

 Many couples weather these rough patches and their relationships are ultimately strengthened for having gone through a difficult time in an otherwise good and stable relationship. 

 But there are times when it's not always so clear whether the emotionally healthy response is to persevere in the relationship or whether it's time to leave. This dilemma might be further complicated by whether the couple has small children, particular religious views, complicated economic factors or an overall ambivalence about the relationship.

No One Knows Better than You What It's Like to Be in Your Relationship
Of course, no one can tell you what's right for you. Well-meaning friends and family members might give advice but, ultimately, no one really knows what it's like for you to be in your relationship, except you. 

There are certain circumstances where it's clear that you need to leave. For instance, if either you or your children are in danger due to domestic violence, you have a right and responsibility to protect yourself and your children from harm. But many other problems in relationships aren't so clear.

Dealing with Infidelity
When there have been serious breaches in trust, it's often hard to know if trust and confidence in the relationship can be restored. 

For instance, when one or both people have cheated, this usually does significant damage to the relationship. Some couples are able to work through this problem, but many others don't. Another complicated problem is when there have been lies or manipulation about money. 

 How do you know if your partner will change? Can you forgive him or her over time or will there always be doubt, worry, and anger that it could happen again. These aren't easy questions to answer.

See my article:  Coping with Infidelity

Are You Afraid to Be Alone?
Are you afraid to be alone and, if so, how much of a factor is this in your decision to stay or leave the relationship? Are you afraid of being lonely? Do you have doubts that you'll ever meet anyone else again and you'll be alone forever? How much is a possible lack of self confidence factoring into your decision process?

Are You and Your Spouse Drifting Apart in Your Relationship?
Over the course of a long-term relationship, many people start to drift apart. They might be living in the same household, but they're emotionally disengaged. A certain amount of denial may have set in where one or both people avoid dealing with this problem. Over time, this experience can leave you feeling empty and emotionally unfulfilled. Is it possible to revive your relationship? Are you and your spouse both willing to try? Or has this situation eroded the relationship to the point where it can no longer be revived?

An Emotional Dilemma
It's impossible to raise all the possible problems and questions in one blog post that might be a part of your decision as to whether you should stay or leave your relationship. One important thing to realize is that you're not alone in your emotional dilemma. Many people have faced this challenging and heart breaking problem in their relationships.

Getting Help in Therapy
Getting help, sooner rather than later, can make a significant difference to you and your partner. Working with a couples counselor that you both feel comfortable with often helps. The couples counselor can't tell you what to do, but a skilled couples counselor can facilitate the communication process so that you can either work through your problems, if they're workable, or separate in the most amicable way possible..

What if your spouse refuses to participate in couples counseling? It's not unusual for one person to be willing and the other person to refuse. 

 The decision to start couples counseling isn't easy, and the thought of talking to a stranger about intimate problems can be daunting. 

If your spouse is unwilling to even come to a consultation with a couples counselor, you can seek help on your own. 

 In fact, many people seek help in individual therapy because they want to try to figure out for themselves first how they feel before they begin couples counseling. For other couples where the dynamic between them is so heated and contentious, they each need to go to individual therapy for a period of time because nothing productive can be accomplished together in couples counseling.

Taking the First Step 
Taking the first step is often the hardest part. 

Couples counseling or individual psychotherapy is a commitment and this often scares people off from taking that first step to get help. But rather than getting overwhelmed before you start, you can set up a consultation without any obligation to continue if you and/or your partner don't want to continue. 

You might consider meeting with a couple of therapists to see which one feels most comfortable to work with on your relationship issues. The important thing is to take the first step.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who works with individuals and couples. I have helped many people, both individuals and couples, to work through problems in their 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.

Also see my article:  Are You Too Afraid to Leave an Unhappy Relationship?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hypnosis and Creative Visualization for Stress Management

As long as we're alive we will experience stress. We cannot eliminate stress from our lives, nor would we want to. A healthy level of stress gets us through the day and helps us to achieve our goals. 

Hypnosis and Creative Visualization for Stress Management

What causes problems for people is not stress itself. Rather, it's our negative reactions to stress, our distress, that often cause emotional and physical problems. 

A combination of clinical hypnosis and creative visualization often help to allow us to relax and calm our minds and bodies. As part of my work with psychotherapy clients, I usually teach them to use creative visualization and self hypnosis to feel more relaxed and refreshed.

Hypnosis and Creative Visualization
As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, all hypnosis is really self hypnosis. 

When I say this I mean that, even when a hypnotherapist is guiding you through the hypnotic process, you're own body and mind are doing the hypnotic work--not the hypnotherapist. 

With regular practice, self hypnosis is a skill that most people can develop. Some people go into the hypnotic state more easily than others. But my experience has been that most people can enter the hypnotic state, once they learn how. 

Hypnosis is usually very relaxing and refreshing, There's nothing mysterious or magical about the hypnotic state. In fact, we all enter into various levels of the hypnotic state or trance everyday when we day dream.

Creative visualization is also a skill that most people can learn, even people who insist that they don't see anything when they close their eyes and try to visualize. 

Often, there are misunderstandings about what is meant by visualizing. Some people think that if they're not seeing strong images, they're not visualizing. So, once again, if you're able to have day dreams and night dreams, which most people do, more than likely, you'll be able to develop this skill with practice.

Creative visualization can be used not only to relax. It can be used to help improve your mood, to achieve a goal, to improve your health, and it has many other benefits. For instance, athletes use creative imagery all the time to improve their athletic skills.

An Example of Creative Visualization
As an example, if you've ever watched an Olympic diving competition, you might have noticed that divers usually stand on the edge of the diving board for a few seconds with their eyes closed before they do their dives. 

During that time, they're doing a mental rehearsal of their dives, visualizing and proactively experiencing in their bodies how they want to execute the dive before they actually do it. They've been trained by their coaches that this mental rehearsal substantially improves the possibility of executing a flawless dive. Other professional athletes, including tennis players, baseball players and others also know the value of using creative visualization as part of their training to improve their game.

Combination of Clinical Hypnosis and Creative Visualization Can Be Empowering
The combination of clinical hypnosis and creative visualization can be very empowering. When you're in a hypnotic state, you are engaing a deeper part of yourself, your unconscious mind. Therapeutic work which is done on the unconscious level tends to be more powerful as compared to work done strictly on the conscious or cognitive level where you're only working on the surface.

Visualizing a Relaxing Place
One of the exercises I usually teach clients is using self hypnosis and creative visualization to see and experience themselves in a relaxing place. Once they've learned self hypnosis, they choose a place, either a real place that they know or an imagined place, to experience in the hypnotic state, bringing in as many senses as they can. The sensory experience is key to helping to bring about relaxation. Sensory experiences include noticing what you see, hear, feel, sense, smell, and taste on this imaginary level.

Even if you don't think you don't know how to enter into a self hypnotic state, you can still benefit from taking a few minutes to imagine yourself in a relaxing place. Think of it as entering into a pleasant day dream or reverie and don't get hung up on whether you are or aren't in a hypnotic state. When you choose a relaxing place to day dream about, it should be a place that is unambiguously pleasant. 

So, for instance, if you're thinking about a beach that you love, but you had a big argument with your boyfriend or girlfriend there and that's the image and feeling that predominate for you, don't use that place because it's not going to be relaxing.

Choose a place to practice the relaxing place experience where you can have some quiet time to yourself. Also, make sure that you're in a place where it's safe to close your eyes and relax. So, you would never do this while driving, operating machinery or anywhere where you need to be alert to your surroundings.

When you've found the appropriate time, place to practice, and the image of a relaxing place that's right for you, close your eyes and imagine this place, making your senses as vivid as possible. 

For most people, visualization is their strongest sense. But for some people their imaginary sense of sound, smell, taste or sensation might be more dominant. 

As best as you can, start to notice how relaxing this place is. Often, after just a few minutes, you'll notice that your body starts to relax. This is because of the mind-body connection. Our minds affect our bodies and our bodies affect our minds. So, if you visualize a relaxing place, your mind sends a signal to your body to relax.

For most people who are interested in developing their abilities in self hypnosis and creative visualization, practice and patience are key to improving these skills. Just like any other skill that you develop, it takes time and some effort. But the benefit you derive for managing your reactions to stress can be very rewarding.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist. 

I provide psychotherapy services to individuals and couples, including dynamic talk therapy,clinical hypnosis, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing. 

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, February 22, 2012

The Joy of Being Attuned to Your Inner Child

As a psychotherapist who specializes in doing trauma work, I work with many people who were traumatized as children. This often means doing what John Bradshaw and others have called inner child work. Because this type of trauma work has become so prevalent, I think many people associate the term inner child to a state that is only a reference to trauma. But, being attuned to your "inner child" can also be a source of joy, inspiration, creativity, and happiness.

The Joy of Being Attuned to Your Inner Child

Regaining a Sense of Playfulness and Wonder
Childhood often holds moments of playfulness, openness, and a sense of curiosity and wonder that many people lose when they become adults. If you were fortunate enough to have had a reasonably good childhood with loving parents, your childhood probably had many instances of joy and love. It can be a rich inner emotional resource that you might have forgotten about but that is still available to you.

Rediscovering Your Inner Child and Creativity
As a psychotherapist in New York City, over the years, I've worked with many creative people--writers, composers, and artists--who want to tap into the part of the "inner child" who felt such an aliveness and openness to the world.

Often, they are struggling to overcome their "inner critic," that "voice of negative prediction" that causes creative blocks. Using clinical hypnosis or a combination of clinical hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing, they can tap into this deep resource.

But you don't have to be involved with artistic endeavors to benefit from becoming attuned to the joy of your "inner child." Feeling alive and open to new possibilities is beneficial to everyone, whether we tap into these feeling states for work, personal relationships or for your own sense of well being.

Mind-Body Oriented Psychotherapy Can Help to Tap into Creativity and Joy
So, instead of thinking of inner child work as always being about trauma or shame, you can also benefit from the positive aspects of your having been young, open, and playful. A sense of playfulness in our personal lives and in our work can open up a well spring of creativity and joy that you might not even realize you still have available to you.

All of your feeling states are still a part of you. They might not be as easily accessible during your everyday waking consciousness. But learning to access these states with mind-body oriented psychotherapeutic treatment modalities, like clinical hypnosis or Somatic Experiencing, can tap into your unconscious mind where these experiences might have been dormant for many years.

There is much to be gained by being attuned to that part of you that is often referred to as your "inner child." Whether it's resolving trauma, tuning into an openness and sense of wonder, or a combination of these experiences and more, working with the "inner child" can help you to feel more emotionally integrated and vibrant. That sense of being more alive, joyful, inspired, creative and open enables you to lead a more emotionally fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides psychotherapy services to individuals and couples, including dynamic talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing.

I have helped many clients to lead more fulfilling and enriched 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 business hours or email me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Zest for Life: 85 Years Young and Still Inspired and Inspiring

In my blog post yesterday, Overcoming the "I'm too old to change" Mindset,  I gave a fictionalized composite account of "John," who was in his 50s and used his age as an excuse to cover up his fear of changing. Today, I'd like to focus on my neighbor, Katherine, who, at the age of 85, is still inspired by life and inspiring others. She's an excellent example of someone who is in good health, has a zest for life, and who doesn't use her age as an excuse to avoid change in her life.

A Zest For Life: 85 Years Young and Still Inspired and Inspiring

First, let me say that Katherine isn't her real name. When I asked Katherine permission to discuss her in my blog, she's so modest that she couldn't understand why anyone would be interested in her. Once she got over her surprise, we agreed that I wouldn't use her real name or too much identifying information about her.

When she and I talked about what keeps her open and looking forward to new experiences in life, Katherine told me that she's always been a curious person who wasn't afraid of change throughout her life. She's still healthy, mentally sharp, and enjoys walking a few miles a day and practicing yoga daily. She also said that she doesn't hold grudges and she's learned "not to sweat the small stuff."

Until she retired, Katherine was an elementary schoolteacher for most of her life. Retirement for Katherine doesn't mean sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons. She's still an active volunteer at the local elementary school reading program. She still loves working with children and instilling a sense of curiosity and wonder in her students. She has a strong social network of friends, many of whom are 40 years younger than her and find it challenging to keep up with her pace.

Aside from inheriting healthy genes (both of her parents lived into their 90s), you might think that Katherine has lived a charmed life and this is why she has such a good attitude. But, far from it, Katherine has had her losses and misfortunes, including losing her first husband, the love of her life, to cancer when they were both in their 40s.

This was a loss she thought she'd never get over, but she had teenage children to raise, so she attended psychotherapy to deal with the loss, and she channeled her grief into doing volunteer work with a local cancer organization to help others who lost their loved ones to cancer. She remarried when she was in her 60s and lost her second husband five years ago, which was also a tremendous loss for her.

Aside from losing both husbands, Katherine has outlived many life long friends. She felt strongly about each of these losses, but she was determined that she wouldn't allow these losses to defeat her emotionally. She's one of the most resilient people that I know.

Katherine's attitude toward life is that she takes "each day as it comes," a variation of living "one day at a time." She looks at the changes that life brings as opportunities to learn and grow. At age 85, she knows she's not going to live forever. But rather than worrying about how much longer she might live, she focuses on making whatever time she has worthwhile for herself and others.

And what does Katherine say to people in their 40s, 50s or 60s whose mindset is "I'm too old to change"? She tells them, "Life is short and precious. Live life fully while you can. Learn to change and grow."

At 85 years young, Katherine is still inspired by life and still inspiring others around her. We can all learn a lot from her.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides psychotherapy services to individuals and couples, including contemporary talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing.

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, February 20, 2012

Aging: Overcoming the "I'm Too Old to Change" Mindset

I'm continually amazed when I hear people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s (sometimes even 30s) say they feel they're "too old to change." 

On the other hand, I know people in their 80s and 90s, who are in good health, who look forward to learning new languages, taking classes at their local college, taking up a new hobby, or having new and interesting experiences. 

I had a well-respected colleague in my Somatic Experiencing training who was in her mid-80s, and she was ready to change her traditional way of thinking and working with psychotherapy clients based on her experiences in the training. So, clearly the willingness and ability to change is not dependent upon age.

Aging: Overcoming the "I'm Too Old to Change: Mindset

The "I Can't Change" Mindset
So, why do many people say they can't change because of their age? I suspect it has more to do with a particular mindset that probably develops before someone turns a particular age. This "I can't change" mindset often starts at an early age due to fear and insecurity. Blaming this fear on age becomes an excuse not to overcome this problem.

For some people, it's a deep seated personality problem. For other people, they grew up in families where their parents, grandparents, and beyond were too afraid to make changes so they learned that changing was scary and something to be avoided. Sometimes, when this fear of change is really ingrained, the person might try to cover it up by trying to make it seem like it's an admirable quality rather than a problem, and they cover up their fear defensively, like a "badge of honor." Meanwhile, most people around them (outside of their family) can see through this defensive grandiosity. It's a little like "The Emperor's New Clothes."

The following fictionalized composite vignette is an example of this type of dynamic. All identifying information has been changed:

John grew up in a traditional family. At a young age, he began having problems in school due to undiagnosed ADHD and learning disabilities. His parents, who were very rigid in their thinking, became angry when John's teacher suggested that he might have undiagnosed problems. Even when she tried to explain to them that he had problems focusing in class, poor impulse control, problems with anger management, and dyslexia, they refused to believe it. They refused to allow the teacher to set up any assistance for John. Instead, they tried to drill his lessons into him, which caused him to feel very ashamed.

John spent most of his life trying to hide his problems from others. He became a bully as a way to hide his deep sense of shame and insecurity. In college, rather than getting help, which would have meant changing, he would get his girlfriend to write papers for him or he'd pay someone to do it. Throughout his life, he associated change with dread and he always looked for ways to get around making changes. When he was forced to change, it was extremely hard for him.

After he got married and had children, his oldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD. John's wife, who was a no-nonsense type of person, told John that their daughter needed help. She brought her to a therapist who specialized in ADHD and also got her help for the daughter's learning disabilities. John was faced with having to learn about ADHD and learning disabilities for the first time in his life. As he read the book about ADHD that his daughter's therapist recommended, he couldn't help seeing that he had many of the same symptoms. But, for him, it was one thing for his daughter to get help and a completely different thing for him to consider getting help.

When he was around his wife, John managed to bite his tongue whenever he felt like he was going to explode in rage. She was clearly in charge at home, and he was intimidated by her. He feared she'd leave him if he ever unleashed the full fury of his temper with her. But his attitude at work was different. By the time he was in his 50s, he supervised several employees and he would bully them and lose his temper with them. He was bored with his job and he would spend a lot of time fantasizing about retirement. But his wife told him, in no uncertain terms, that she wouldn't hear of him retiring until he was at least in his mid-60s. John fumed inwardly about this, but he didn't dare challenge her. Instead, he took it out on his staff, yelling at them and talking to them in a demeaning way.

Then, one day, one of his employees filed a complaint against him, and the human resources department did an investigation. When they interviewed John's staff, everyone backed the employee who filed the complaint. They each told how John would loose his temper and speak to them in an unprofessional and disrespectful way--even after they told him that his behavior made them uncomfortable. When the head of human resources met with John, she gave him of choice of either getting help or losing his job. John felt as humiliated then as he did in school when his teacher told his parents that he needed help. But rather than admit that he was wrong, he told her, "I'm too old to change." She responded by telling him to talk about the consequences with his wife and to get back to her the next day.

When John's wife heard the story, she became livid and told him that he'd better get help because if he lost his job, she's take their daughter and leave him. Their marriage was not ideal, and he wasn't even sure he still loved his wife, but the thought of being alone terrified him more than the possibility of getting help and trying to change how he related to his staff. 

Overcoming the "I'm Too Old to Change" Mindset

So, grudgingly, he began therapy with a therapist who specialized in helping people with ADHD learn better coping skills. He also learned how his family background and his shame about his ADHD and learning disabilities contributed to his fear of change. And, if for no other reason than to keep his job and preserve his marriage, he learned to control his temper with his staff.

As we can see from this vignette, there are often underlying emotional reasons why people say, "I'm too old to change." Until someone is ready to change or they're forced to change, this becomes an excuse to stay stuck. An unwillingness to change often makes life dull and unrewarding with nothing to look forward to any more. It can also create problems in personal or work-related relationships. So, before you try to convince others (or yourself) that you're too old to change, think carefully about what this will mean for yourself and your loved ones.

Being flexible and adaptable makes for a much happier and interesting life as opposed to being rigid and stubborn.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides psychotherapy services for individuals and couple, including dynamic talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing.

I've helped many people to overcome their fear of changing, regardless of their age, so they could lead more 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 business hours or email me.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Maintaining a Balanced Life During Early Recovery

Early recovery can be challenging.  It's not unusual for people in early recovery from alcohol or drugs (or other addictive behaviors) to struggle with how to maintain a balance between their recovery activities and life in general.

Maintaining a Balanced Life During Early Recovery

This assumes that individuals are ready to attend 12 Step meetings.  For many people, who have been traumatized emotionally, hearing some of the stories of other people's loss and trauma, can be retraumatizing of them.   For those people, attending therapy with a licensed mental health professional who has expertise with substance abuse and trauma is preferable.

Other people, who are in early recovery and who aren't triggered by going to meetings, are relieved to have a place in 12 Step meetings where they feel understood and they gain a new sense of hope and renewal.

But sometimes, by focusing only on 12 Step meetings, they neglect their primary relationships and responsibilities. The result is that their lives become unbalanced and this often causes conflicts with their families.

Early Recovery Requires Commitment
It's easy to see how things can become so unbalanced.

Early recovery involves a big commitment of time and energy. For many people in early recovery going to 12 Step meetings on a daily basis is the only thing standing in their way to keep them from acting on their cravings for alcohol and/or drugs.

 For them, the 12 Step slogan of "One Day at a Time" might be more like "One Minute at a Time" or "One Second at a Time" as they struggle not to give in to those cravings.

The 12 Step meetings, the fellowship in the meetings, and their sponsors are like life lines. If they're already suffering from substance abuse-related health problems, early recovery activities could be all that's keeping them from death's door.

But the toll this can take on family and close relationships can be huge.

Initially, spouses or partners of people in early recovery are usually so glad that their loved one stopped abusing substances and gotten help. These family members might have been asking and pleading with their loved one to get help for years. But when they see that early recovery activities seem to have taken over their loved one's life, they often feel disappointed and alienated from their loved one.

Whereas before their loved one wasn't available to them because of the substance abuse, now they feel he or she isn't around because of early recovery activities. This can be very disappointing and frustrating. It can lead to arguments as family members ask for more time and attention.

 People in early recovery, in turn, often feel that spouses and family members don't understand. They might begin to shut down emotionally even when they are around their spouses and families. All of this can lead to further alienation and a sense of hopelessness for everyone involved.

Repairing Relationships During Early Recovery
What can be done to repair these relationships and to achieve balance?

Well, to start, the person in early recovery can benefit from talking to people in the 12 Step rooms who have a lot more experience and success in recovery and who have learned to achieve balance in their lives.

Learning to achieve this balance can be a challenge, especially if the person new to recovery might never have led a balanced life before.

A seasoned sponsor can help someone in early recovery to navigate through this challenge to help achieve this balance.

With more experience in recovery, this often happens more easily, as compared to the early stages of recovery.

Spouses and loved ones of people in early recovery can benefit from attending Al-Anon to get support and a sense of hope. Sponsorship is also available to them in Al-Anon.

Getting Help in Therapy
A licensed therapist with expertise in substance abuse and trauma can help clients in recovery to develop the necessary coping skills to maintain a balanced life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides psychotherapy services to individuals and couples, including contemporary dynamic talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing.

Helping clients with substance abuse and emotional trauma are among my specialities.

To find out more a out 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, February 15, 2012

Turning Lemons into Lemonade For Life's Ordinary Disappointments

There's an old saying about life's everyday disappointments: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Some people have such an extraordinary knack of being able to reframe life's inevitable disappointments to make a negative into a positive. 

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade For Ordinary Disappointments

They are the 10 or so percent of the population who are naturally optimistic. They can find the silver lining in the darkest storm clouds: Stuck in traffic? No problem, it's an opportunity to remember to breathe and relax. 

Their car needs repairs? No problem, it's an opportunity to walk and get more exercise.

Everyday disappointments and frustrations are taken in stride with their naturally positive attitude and resilience. For most of the rest of us, this is a way of being that doesn't come naturally and would need to be cultivated.

Ordinary Disappointments and Frustration
Before I go on, I want to stress that I'm referring to life's ordinary and inevitable disappointments and frustrations. I'm not referring to tragic losses or trauma. 

It would be cruel to expect, for instance, that a parent who loses a child would be looking for a silver lining in this loss--although, there are some very extraordinary people who galvanize themselves and find the strength to help others, even after tragic losses. 

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and other similar groups are examples of this, but the ability to do that is different from reframing a loss or disappointment.

So, how can we learn to "make lemonade" when life gives us lemons? How can we learn to develop this skill that resilient and resourceful people have? And why is it important to learn this life skill?

Well, I'll address the second question first by saying that, on the most basic level, research has shown that people who have an optimistic attitude tend to be healthier and live longer. They feel confident and more in control of their lives. And, generally speaking, they tend to be happier than people who have a more pessimistic outlook on life, so the quality of their lives is better.

As to how to develop a more optimistic attitude, the first step is to have an awareness of how you think and respond to ordinary disappointments. Do you feel angry and defeated or are you able to take an everyday disappointment in stride?

To be able to determine this, you need to be able to step back in a non-defensive way and be honest with yourself. 

At times, this can be challenging, but if you can review in your mind how you handled the last few annoying incidents in your life, all things being equal, you would probably get a good sense of where you are on the optimism/pessimism spectrum. 

And I want to stress that there is a spectrum--it's not a black and white or all or nothing thing. And, of course, there are especially stressful times in life when you can feel overwhelmed and, even the most optimistic person would feel challenged, but I'm not referring to these times.

So, let's say that you've determined that you're someone who gets easily thrown by everyday disappointments and you want to learn to change the way you respond. How do you do that? My recommendation, after you learn to develop an awareness of your habitual pattern is to practice reframing these events for yourself.

Now, if you're a naturally dyed-in-the-wool pessimist, this will be challenging, no doubt about it. 

If the idea of reframing a relatively minor disappointment into a potential opportunity seems impossible for you, you might need to start by using your creative imagination to imagine how an optimistic person might look at it. Suspend disbelief and put yourself in the shoes of an optimistic person to fathom how he or she might reframe an annoyance or disappointment.

Even if, at first, this seems completely foreign to you, chances are that if you practice this diligently, you can change the way you think and respond to life's ordinary downturns. And the ability to reframe these disappointments can help you to be a more resilient and resourceful person who can respond to life in a creative way.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist who provides psychotherapy services to individuals and couples, including contemporary talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex 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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Being Open to New Experiences

Do You Feel Stuck in Your Life?
As a psychotherapist in New York City, I see many clients who feel they're stuck in their lives. Over time, if this feeling persists, it often leads to anxiety and depression, which usually has the effect of making people feel even more stuck and leads to even greater feelings of constriction. Life can become dull and uneventful. For some people, it becomes hard to climb out of this rut and all they can see is more of the same.

Being Open to New Experiences

Fear of Trying New Experiences
For many clients who have gotten into this kind of rut, life has become too routine. They're living their lives in a habitual way. For some, there's a fear of trying new experiences. Even though they may feel unhappy with the well-worn routines in their lives, their fear of trying a new experience paralyzes them emotionally from stepping outside the "box" they're in.

Working Through a History of "I'm not good enough"
Often, it's necessary to work through a history of feeling "I'm not good enough" or "I don't deserve to be happy." The roots of this problem can be deep. But, in the mean time, when working with clients who are caught in this kind of rut, I often recommend that they remain open to new, positive experiences. A new experience doesn't have to be a big change. It can be something small, like walking down a different street to go home, window shopping in a store where you wouldn't normally go, listening to music you don't usually listen to or think you don't like or trying an ethnic dish that's new for you.

Beginning with Small Changes to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
The idea of being open to new experiences is to help you change the habitual cycle of "stuckness" and boredom in your life. Small changes often lead to bigger changes as you overcome your fear of stepping outside your comfort zone. This usually isn't the "magic bullet" to overcoming a lifelong self experience of feeling undeserving, but it gets you to start taking steps to make changes while you're working with your therapist to overcome the underlying issues that are driving this feeling.

Taking an action, as opposed to only analyzing your problems, is crucial to making positive changes. One of the criticisms of traditional talk therapy is that people spend years analyzing their problems, but nothing changes. Clients might become more insightful about their problems, but it remains an intellectual process. If you don't actually take steps, even very small steps, nothing changes. So, when I work with clients who are stuck in an emotional rut, whether we're doing hypnotherapy, EMDR, Somatic Experiencing or contemporary talk therapy, I often also encourage clients to be open to new experiences.

Starting with Small Changes Can Lead to an Upward Spiral
What might, at first, seem like a small change, can lead to an upward spiral to bigger and more satisfying changes.

For instance, a willingness to explore a new way of going home could lead to the discovery of a costume jewelry shop that you've never seen before. You go in and, possibly, this leads to a conversation with the store owner who designs this creative jewelry. Maybe you discover that she also conducts jewelry design classes for beginners, which piques your curiosity. This could lead to your taking a class in jewelry design which, in turn, could lead to a new and interesting hobby--or maybe, if you really love it, you eventually sell your designs in the store. Maybe, if you're really passionate about it, you even get your own website to sell the jewelry you're designing.

Opening Up to Your Creative Imagination
It all starts with a willingness and curiosity to be open to new experiences and a willingness to take the first step. Will this be the answer to all your problems? Probably not. But it helps to break the cycle you might be caught in right now. It also helps you to see there are an endless source of possibilities for new experiences if you're willing to give them a try. Often, the key to pursuing new, positive experiences is allowing your creative imagination to open up to new possibilities.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist who provides mental health services to individuals and couples, including contemporary and dynamic psychotherapy, clinical hypnosis, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more, 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, February 13, 2012

All Hypnosis is Self Hypnosis

All hypnosis, whether it's through a hypnotherapist or you've learned to do it on your own, is self hypnosis. You might wonder how hypnosis that is conducted by a hypnotherapist can be self hypnosis. Well, the answer is that, during hypnosis, you have complete control of the messages you take in. 

All Hypnosis is Self Hypnosis

Even when a hypnotherapist is helping you to get into a hypnotic state, you're in a relaxed state, you always maintain dual awareness of everything around you, and your unconscious mind will only take in what's best for you.

Misconceptions about Hypnosis
People often have misconceptions about hypnosis. Unlike the unfortunate caricature of stage hypnosis, during clinical hypnosis, you're completely aware of the here-and-now as well as whatever you're working on in hypnosis. The hypnotic state is a relaxed, natural state that we all go through many times a day. Daydreaming or going into reverie states is similar to the hypnotic trance state.

Hypnosis is Not a "Quick Fix"
Although safe and effective when it's performed by a licensed mental health professional, hypnosis is not a "quick fix" or something that is "done to" you. This is another misconception--that you can sit back and it will be as if someone is waving a magic wand over you. In fact, if you're not really motivated to change whatever issue you're presenting to the hypnotherapist, hypnosis often won't work.

If you work with a hypnotherapist (as opposed to a hypnotist), you can also learn to do hypnosis on your own (what most people refer to as self hypnosis) for many emotional and physical conditions, including anxiety, medical issues, and pain management.

You Don't Need to Go Into a Deep Trance to Benefit From Hypnosis
Clinical hypnosis is not a panacea, but it has been very helpful for many people over the years. Even though some people are more easily hypnotized than others, you don't need to go into a deep trance to experience the benefits of hypnosis. In fact, Milton Erickson, the father of modern hypnosis, was a master at conversational hypnosis.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides mental health services to adults, including talk therapy, clinical hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing, and EMDR.

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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spirituality: Are You Contemplating Your Faith-of-Origin in a New Light?

For many adults, especially during times of crisis, there comes a time when they contemplate their faith-of-origin in a new light. This often occurs after decades of having bitterly rejected a belief system from childhood. It's not unusual for people who are reevaluating their faith-of-origin to be surprised and confused that they're even considering returning to their childhood religion, not realizing that this is a common experience for many people at certain stages in their lives. What's even more surprising for some people is that their childhood faith still resonates for them emotionally on some level.

How does this happen?  Well, as you can imagine, this process is different for everyone. However, it often occurs during major life transitions or during difficult times. 

Are You Contemplating Your Faith-of-Origin in a New Light?

For some people, it can occur because they feel adrift in life without a spiritual anchor. It may be that there were aspects of their childhood religion that they miss. At a younger age, they might not have had the ability to overcome the challenge of holding onto what they liked and rejecting what didn't resonate. They took an all-or-nothing attitude. But now, either due to an emotional crisis, a life transition or a longing to feel a deeper spiritual connection, they're willing to revisit these issues with an open mind.

For many people growing up as children where they had no choice about participating in the family religion, rejecting their faith-of-origin was part of becoming independent from their families. This rejection was part of becoming an adult who could make his or her own choices in life. It was part of declaring themselves as autonomous individuals. 

As young adults, they might have felt that they closed the door on their faith-of-origin, never to be opened again. And yet, as an older adult, when they feel secure in their independence, there's no longer a need to take such an absolute stand, and they're usually surprised to realize that they're missing parts or all of their former religion. What once seemed to have no meaning to them now seems to hold some significance after all.

Contemplating your faith-of-origin can be a challenging process with many confusing feelings. It can challenge your sense of self and long held beliefs. It can also be a time of feeling newly inspired. It all depends on how you approach this process. With patience, empathy for yourself and a healthy sense of curiosity, it can be a time when time of spiritual and emotional renewal.

It's often comforting to know that many people, especially during middle age or later, go through this reevaluation process about their childhood religion. 

If you're willing to spend time contemplating what still remains true for you, what you want to keep from your faith-of-origin, and what you might want to let go of, you may find a lost part of yourself. You might discover that your childhood belief system is still intact in some form. 

You might find yourself reconsidering childhood beliefs in a new light with a more nuanced adult understanding. For many people, this gives new meaning to their lives and helps them to feel more emotionally integrated.

Spirituality is an important part of many people's lives. Whether they're reclaiming their faith-of-origin on their own terms now or they're exploring new beliefs, it can be an emotionally rewarding time if you can be compassionate with yourself, tolerate the uncertainties that are often inherent in the process, and allow this process to unfold in a way that's right for you.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist. I provide psychotherapy services to individual adults and couples, including talk therapy, hypnotherapy, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing.

I have helped many clients to explore and reconcile their spiritual beliefs in a way that are meaningful to them.

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, February 4, 2012

Dating vs Being in a Relationship: Take Time to Get to Know Each Other

In these times of "instant" everything, I find that people often rush into relationships very soon after getting to know each other. After just a few weeks, instead of getting to know each other over time, they're already defining themselves as a couple in a relationship. Shortly after that is when problems usually begin because they don't really know each other.

Why Are People Rushing into Relationships Before They Know Each Other?
I'm not sure why people are in so much more of a rush than they used to be. Possibly with the advent of online dating websites, people feel more pressure to get into a committed relationship quickly because they're aware that there's lots of "competition" out there. Anecdotally, I hear this from both friends and clients that there's a feeling that if you don't "snap up" that the person you like, he or she will keep the online dating profile active and find someone else.

Dating vs Being in a Relationship

Are You Filling in the Blanks Based on Your Fantasy?

When you jump into a committed relationship with someone you hardly know, you usually fill in the blanks about that person based on the fantasy you want. Often, people don't even realize that this is what they're doing until they're surprised to discover something about this person they didn't know and don't like. Then, they're disappointed and wonder how this happened. But the truth is that they didn't really know the other person hardly at all before they rushed into the relationship.

Taking Time to Get to Know Someone Before Getting into a Relationship
My grandmother used to use an expression that my cousins and I used to laugh at called "keeping company." It was sort of the equivalent of dating, but maybe a little more serious. This quaint expression meant that two people were interested in one another and romantically involved. Usually, at that point, they would have met each other's families and it was assumed that they were not seeing anyone else. The next step, if there was going to be a next step, would be that they would get engaged.

While I'm not definitely suggesting that we go back to how things were in my grandmother's day when it comes to relationships (there was a lot that was prudish and oppressive), I see certain advantages to people taking their time and dating for a while before they define themselves as a couple.

How long is "a while"? Well, I think it takes at least a year, ideally two years, before you can get to know someone well enough to have some idea if you're compatible. Of course, you might say it could take a lifetime to get to know someone, and I wouldn't disagree with you. Most of us know couples who thought they knew each other well and then after 25 years discover that they don't.

My point is that the purpose of dating is to take the time to get to know each other over a period of time, seeing each other in all kinds of circumstances (not just over candlelight where everyone looks good) and making a decision based on reality and not fantasies.

Getting to Know Each Other to Establish a Foundation for a Stable Relationship
So, before you hire that U-Haul to move your stuff into the other person's apartment after just a few weeks or months, get to know him or her better. If it's not going to work out, it's better to know in the let's-get-to-know-each-other dating phase than after you call yourselves a couple. If it's going to work out, you'll have built a good foundation for a stable relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides psychotherapy services, including talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing for 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.

Also, see my article:  Dating in Your 40s, 50s, 60s and Beyond

Are You Dating Someone Who Has Problems Making a Commitment?