NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Working on Emotional Blocks in Therapy

An emotional block can sabotage therapy for even the most motivated psychotherapy client.  Most people who come to therapy experience some degree of ambivalence about change, even when the change is something that they really want.  But an emotional block isn't just about ambivalence.

Working on Emotional Blocks in Therapy

What Are Emotional Blocks?
Emotional blocks usually develop due to past negative experiences and unresolved emotions.   This includes emotional trauma.  Emotional blocks are usually unconscious self-limiting beliefs that can lead to self sabotage.

They are part of unconscious defense mechanisms that people use (without realizing it) to ward off their fears.

These blocks usually involve some aspect of a client's belief about him or herself that can undermine the therapy if the therapist and client don't realize what's going on and work to help the client overcome this distorted belief.

Examples of Emotional Blocks:
"I don't deserve to be happy."
"I'm an unlovable person."
"Feeling good is selfish."
"I'm a bad person and I deserve to suffer."
" I should put everyone else's needs before my own."

Identifying Emotional Blocks in Therapy
Listening for emotional blocks often requires a therapist to be attuned to the underlying, unconscious content that the client communicates in sessions.

Sometimes, the content of what's communicated by the client isn't hidden at all--it can be stated in a direct way, like the examples that I've given above.

There are also other ways that a therapist can detect emotional blocks in clients.

So, for instance, when clients come to see me for a psychotherapy consultation, I usually ask them if they've been in therapy before and what their experiences in therapy have been.

When clients tell me that they've been to many different therapists, but no one has been able to help them at all, I know that there can be many different reasons for this:
  • On the one hand, there could have been a mismatch between client and these therapists; the therapists might have lacked the skills to help the client with the particular problem; a client might have left therapy too soon before completing the work, and so on.
  • On the other hand, I'm also aware that the problem could involve an emotional block that keeps the client stuck and undermines the therapy.
As the treatment unfolds with each client, the origin of the problem usually becomes apparent.

Why Is It Important to Work Through Emotional Blocks in Therapy?
If the problem is an emotional block, it's important that it is identified and worked through or the client will probably remain stuck and, as I mentioned earlier, the work in therapy will be undermined.

In many cases, when emotional blocks go undetected, the therapy can feel like it keeps looping around in a circle without progress.

In my next article, Overcoming Emotional Blocks in Therapy, I address these issues with a composite case to show how emotional blocks develop and how therapists, who are skilled in dealing with these blocks, can help clients to overcome them.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you think you're stuck because of an emotional block, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who is skilled in helping clients to overcome these blocks.

Getting Help in Therapy

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.