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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Discovering Your Personal Strengths in Therapy: You're Much More Than Your Traumatic History

In a prior article, You're Not Defined By Your Diagnosis, I discussed how clients, who have been in prior therapy, often think of themselves as defined by their diagnosis ("I'm depressed" or "I'm anxious") rather than seeing the totality of who they are, including their strengths.

Similarly, when clients come to therapy to deal with a traumatic history, their self concept is often defined by their trauma--rather than also seeing their resilience and personal strengths (see my article: A Strengths Based Perspective in Psychotherapy).  This is especially true of clients who have been in conventional talk therapy.

Discovering Your Personal Strengths in Therapy: You're Much More Than Your Traumatic History

As I mentioned in the prior article, it's not a matter of being in denial about the client's negative experiences.  It's more about seeing their problems as well as seeing beyond those problems to include everything that's positive about them.

As a psychotherapist in New York City, who specializes in working with trauma, I take a holistic view of clients and want to help them build on their strengths as well as helping them to overcome unresolved trauma.

Clients, who have been in prior therapy, are often accustomed to being pathologized to the point where all they see about themselves are the "negative" parts that they want to overcome.

While I understand a client's need to focus on the trauma and trauma therapy is one of my specialties, I also want the client to appreciate the parts of that helped him or her to get through the traumatic experiences and excel in other areas of life.

As part of AEDP therapy (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy), which is an experiential therapy, I help clients to take the time to really internalize their experiences of their strengths at the same time that I help them to overcome their traumatic experiences (see my article: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Talk Therapy).

Part of AEDP therapy is helping clients to have a deep sense of their personal strengths, which can feel unusual, at first, for clients who are so focused on their problems.

This might mean slowing things down experientially when a client talks about an obstacle s/he overcame or a courageous stance that s/he took. Interestingly, slowing things down experientially actually helps to speed the work up in the long run.

By slowing down the work at that point, I'm helping the client to have more than just an intellectual understanding of their strengths.  Instead, in addition to their intellectual understanding, I'm helping the client to have an embodied experience of his or her strengths.  In doing so, I'm helping the client to have a more integrated mind-body experience.

You might ask, "Why is this important?"

Well, it's an important part of helping a client to have a transformative experience in which s/he recognizes that the trauma history is only one part of who s/he is and there is so much more than the trauma.

It also helps the client to see that they have internal resources and coping skills that s/he can call upon when faced with adversity.  This is a crucial part of the way I work with clients who have been traumatized.

Anyone who has survived a traumatic history has personal strengths that got him or her through.

Being able to recognize and value those strengths is a part of AEDP work in therapy and in all experiential modalities that I use, including EMDR therapy, Somatic Experiencing and clinical hypnosis.

In my next article, I'll provide a clinical vignette that illustrates how I work with clients' strengths while helping them to overcome trauma.

Getting Help in Therapy
Being pathologized in therapy by psychotherapists who only focus on diagnosis or "the problem" makes overcoming trauma more difficult and can diminish your sense of self.

If you have been struggling with unresolved problems, you owe it to yourself to seek help from a skilled licensed psychotherapist who has a strengths-based perspective.

Freeing yourself from your traumatic history and, at the same time, recognizing that you have strengths can help you to lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and Emotionally Focused therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative 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 (212) 726-1006 or email me.

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