NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Striving to Be a Lifelong Learner

Lifelong learners are people who are inherently curious and self motivated to continue learning way beyond what's required in high school and college.  Striving to be a lifelong learner not only helps you to understand yourself, but it helps you to develop insight into other people and the world around you, whether you learn through reading, listening to music or traveling and meeting new people and discovering another culture (see my articles: Reading Literature and the Positive Effect on the Brain and Learning About Yourself While Traveling).

Striving to Be a Lifelong Learner

When I was in junior high school and high school, much of what I was required to learn was boring to me.  I learned my lessons because I had to and I got good grades, but throughout my life, whenever I've been bored with whatever I'm required to learn, I find something else that captivates me.  

That meant that my best friend in high school and I would plan our own educational day trip by going to the museum or admiring the architecture in various parts of Manhattan.  This kept us from being weighed down by the tedium of having to memorize dates in history or mathematical formulas that had no meaning for us because of the way it was taught.

In college and graduate school, things improved substantially. The classes were more interesting and I was asked to develop my mind and to think creatively rather than just give back to the instructor what s/he told us in class.  

When I was in college, I was a psychology major and loved my psychology and anthropology classes the most out of all my classes.  Learning about psychological behavior and cultural anthropology fascinated me.

My postgraduate psychoanalytic training was the best.  I enjoyed the classes on contemporary relational psychoanalysis much more than the classes on classical psychoanalysis, so when I was bored with a particular required paper on classical psychoanalysis, I would balance it for myself by reading a book by Stephen Mitchell, Ph.D., who was a contemporary relational psychoanalyst. In fact, he coined the term "relational psychoanalysis." 

I learned the most when I was a teaching fellow in my postgraduate training.  I worked at the mental health center that was connected to my psychoanalytic training department.

Initially, it was challenging because, in my opinion, graduate school hardly prepares you to do psychotherapy, so I was learning how to be a psychotherapist as I was working with clients.  But, despite the challenge, I had excellent supervisors, who provided guidance.

I was also required to be in my own three-time-a-week psychoanalysis, which was the most valuable aspect of my psychoanalytic postgraduate training.  

Even now, almost 20 years after I left the four year postgraduate training, I can say that the immersion process of taking classes, being supervised individually and in group, seeing clients at the mental health center, and being in my own psychoanalysis was one of the most valuable experiences in my life.  Not only did I learn about my clients, but I learned so much about myself.

I love attending clinical workshops and conferences to learn new treatment modalities.  This is one of the reasons why I love being a psychotherapist--as a psychotherapist, you're always learning.  

It's a wonderful time to be in the psychotherapy field because we know so much more now about the brain and the connection between the mind and the body, and this has fostered many different mind-body oriented types of therapy, like EMDR Therapy, Somatic Experiencing as well as the value of clinical hypnosis.

I also still continue to learn so much from my clients.  By listening and being attuned to their experiences, I can relate to what they're going through.  Often, I've gone through many of the same experiences, so I usually understand their problems on many different levels.

Many people have said to me, "How can you stand listening to people's problems day in and day out?" because they think that being a psychotherapist means listening to people complain (see my article: Psychotherapy is Much More Than Just Venting and Psychotherapists Listening and Learning From the Client).  

But being a psychotherapist is so much more than that.  Even when it might not be transparent to the client, psychodynamically trained psychotherapists aren't just "listening to complaints."  They're conceptualizing what's going on internally with the client and how the past and the present might be connected (see my article: Overcoming Trauma: When the Past is in the Present).

They're also listening for the transferential aspects of the therapy (see my articles: What is Transference?, Psychotherapy and the Positive TransferenceWhat is the Negative Transference?, and Psychotherapy and the Erotic Transference: "Falling In Love" With Your Psychotherapist).

Psychotherapists and clients are also involved in an intersubjective experience that's hard to describe in words if you've never experienced it as a psychotherapist or as a client in therapy (see my article: Psychotherapy: A Unique Intersubjective Experience).

The intersubjective dynamic that's between the client and the therapist in a psychotherapy session is alive with meaning.  It's unlike anything that I've ever experienced before, and when the therapist and the client have a good rapport, there is a right brain-to right-brain connection that can be healing for both of them.  Of course, the focus is on the client, but therapists also experience the benefits of this special connection (see my article: The Therapist's Empathic Attunement Can Be Emotionally Reparative For the Client).

Encouraging Lifelong Learning
Becoming curious and psychologically mind is generally one of the broad goals of therapy.  Even when clients come to therapy for a very specific goal, like overcoming a phobia or coping with the death of a loved one, the experience of being in therapy usually broadens them along the way.

It's wonderful to see clients become curious about themselves and others in therapy.  It's like a whole new world has opened up for them.  This is something that I think most psychotherapists encourage because, in my opinion, psychotherapy should be more than just coming to resolve a particular problem.  While it can be that if that's what the client wants,  it's often much more.

Psychoanalysis and other forms of depth psychology aren't as popular as they used to be.  Most people don't want to come to therapy three times a week or focus on their dreams.  

And yet, in integrative psychotherapy, where various types of therapy are used in combination, like psychodynamic therapy and Somatic Experiencing, the client derives the benefits of depth psychology along with the benefits of more focused therapy (see my articles: Contemporary Psychoanalysis and EMDR Therapy and The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

And even though most clients don't want to talk about their dreams, if they're open to it, I tell them about Embodied Imagination dreamwork, a neo-Jungian form of dreamwork developed by Robert Bosnak, and almost everyone is fascinated by it because it's not the usual type of dream analysis where "this equals that" (see my article: Dreams and Embodied Imagination).

So, I encourage my clients who are open to it to be lifelong learners about themselves, the people around them, and the their larger world.  I believe it enhances personal growth and development, which keeps life fascinating.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who practices integrative therapy to collaboratively develop the best treatment plan for each client (see my articles: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist)

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.