NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, August 21, 2023

Overcoming Psychological Trauma: Reconnecting to a Sense of Aliveness

Many people, who are currently affected by unresolved psychological trauma, don't get the help they need in trauma therapy because they're too afraid to delve into traumatic memories.

Overcoming Psychological Trauma in Trauma Therapy

Aside from fear, there's an old and misleading statement, "Time heals all wounds," but psychological trauma doesn't resolve on it's own without help in trauma therapy (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

What is the Physical and Emotional Cost of Living With Unresolved Trauma?
The physical and emotional cost of living with unresolved trauma is significant, including the possibility of one or more of the following problems:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Cardiovascular problems, like high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke
  • Problems in intimate relationships, including problems with connecting emotionally and sexually with others
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Other inflammatory disorders
  • Headaches and other body aches
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Alcoholism and other forms of substance misuse
  • Other stress-related physical and mental health problems
Aside from all problems listed above, unresolved trauma can also create emotional numbness and a sense of deadness that you might not recognize in yourself but others sense in you.

How Can Trauma Therapy Can Help?
There are many different types of trauma therapy including EMDR therapyAEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy), and Somatic Experiencing (SE), to name a few, which help people to overcome unresolved trauma.

Overcoming Psychological Trauma in Trauma Therapy

All of the above modalities to trauma therapy are considered Experiential Therapies (see my article: Why is Experiential Therapy More Effective to Overcome Trauma Than Regular Talk Therapy?).

Often working on trauma isn't nearly as difficult as most clients believe.

A skilled trauma therapist helps clients to develop the internal resources necessary to work on traumatic memories during the preparation phase of trauma therapy (see my article: Developing Coping Strategies Before Processing Trauma in Trauma Therapy).

Overcoming Trauma Can Help You to Reconnect With a Sense of Aliveness
Once you have worked through your trauma so it's no longer affecting you in the present, you can reconnect with a sense of your own vitality and aliveness (see my article: Recapturing a Sense of Aliveness).

Overcoming Psychological Trauma in Trauma Therapy

Getting Help in Trauma Therapy
Taking the first step of overcoming your fears and contacting a trauma therapist for a consultation is usually the hardest.

But if you find a trauma therapist that you can relate to and who has an expertise in your particular trauma, you can be one step closer to living a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a trauma therapist who works 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, August 11, 2023

Developing Self Compassion in Trauma Therapy With Parts Work

I began a discussion about Parts Work therapy, which is a form of trauma therapy, in a prior article (see my article: How Parts Work Empowers You). 

Developing Self Compassion in Trauma Therapy

There are different types of Parts Work therapy, including Ego States therapy and Internal Family Systems, among others.

In that prior article I gave a basic description of Parts Work and how it's used. 

In a nutshell: Parts Work therapy assumes that we're all made up of many different parts, which are also called Self States.  

In the current article, I'm focusing on how Parts Work trauma therapy helps clients to develop self compassion.

Developing Self Compassion in Trauma Therapy

The idea of internal parts is a metaphor.  

Instead of saying "defense mechanisms," we refer to the many aspects of self as parts.

Parts Work therapy allows you to look at these aspects in terms of being parts. This is much more useful because Parts Work allows you to explore the parts by separating and externalizing them from yourself rather than thinking of them as intra-psychic phenomena, which is an intellectualized way to view them.

Externalizing the parts gives you some distance and a perspective to recognize that, although various parts might have a significant impact on you, you are not any one of these parts.  

For instance, it's common for someone to say, "A part of me feels this way, but another part of me feels another way."  Just saying this captures the ambivalence that all of us feel about certain areas of our life.

To be clear: I'm not referring to multiple personality disorder. Instead, I'm describing normal aspects of everyone's inner world.

Some of these parts are in conflict with one another, especially if a person is dealing with unresolved trauma.  Other parts are aligned and need to be unpacked in Parts Work therapy to understand how they operate.

How Does Parts Work Therapy Work?
Parts Work therapy helps clients to:
  • Identify the different parts of themselves how they are affected by other parts
  • The origin of these parts
  • How the parts are related to unresolved trauma
  • How the parts either work together or in opposition to each other
  • How to cope with these parts
  • What these parts need to be soothed so they soften and change
  • How to ask certain parts to step aside when they are getting in the way
  • How to integrate these parts in a healthy way, which is the ultimate goal
Developing Self Compassion With Parts Work Therapy
Once you begin to explore the various parts of yourself in Parts Work therapy, you're able to see that many of these parts go back to an earlier time in your life, especially if the parts are related to unresolved trauma.

Developing Self Compassion in Trauma Therapy

In Ego States therapy, clients learn to have an inner dialogue with their various parts with the help of a therapist who does this type of therapy.  

When you explore these parts, you discover that they have "good intentions" which was part of the survival strategies you learned earlier in your life and, although these strategies might have been helpful in the past (say, when you were a child), they now keep people stuck.

Many of these parts have childlike characteristics, so clients usually develop self compassion for the parts, who tried to do the best they could in the past.  

Working with the parts in Ego States therapy usually allows them to soften so they no longer get in the way and also so they change to function in a healthier way.

When a client can take a compassionate stance towards their various parts, the parts often respond to trauma therapy so they can heal and become an integrated part of the client instead of being dissociated and triggered under current triggering circumstances (see my article: Coping With Triggers).

Overcoming Trauma With Parts Work
If you have unresolved trauma that is keeping you stuck, you could benefit from doing Parts Work, like Ego States Therapy.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help with a trauma therapist who does Parts Work therapy, so you can lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, Parts Work, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex 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.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Relationships: Becoming More Attuned to Each Other

One of the most common problems I hear about in my private practice in New York City is a lack of emotional or sexual attunement in relationships (see my article: Are You Able to Express Your Vulnerable Emotions to Your Partner?).

What is Attunement in a Relationship?
Attunement in a relationship means the ability to connect with one another on an emotional and sexual level.

Becoming More Attuned to Each Other

Some couples connect well emotionally, but they're not attuned sexually.  This often occurs in long term relationships where sex has become less satisfying for one or both partners.

A lack of attunement can occur for many reasons.  Often this problem occurs when the couple isn't working together as a team.  This causes one or both partners to feel alone and emotionally unfulfilled. 

If the lack of attunement is also occurring in the bedroom, a couple often stops having sex to avoid the problem (see my article: Have You and Your Partner Stopped Having Sex?).

How to Get Emotionally Attuned to Yourself First and Then Your Partner
Rather than engaging in blame and conflict, which can destroy a relationship, each person needs to make a commitment to approach the problem as a team (see my articles: Moving Beyond the Blame Game in Your Relationship and Improving Your Communication By Eliminating the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse).

Becoming More Attuned to Each Other

In other words, there are no "bad guys." Instead, there is a recognition that the problems are co-created between both people, and if there is a willingness on each person's part to overcome this negative dynamic in the relationship, they can co-create the solution.

Becoming More Attuned to Each Other

Each of you can take some quiet time on your own to think and write about what you feel is missing and what you want more of in the relationship.

Start by focusing on yourself and where you feel you can improve rather than making a list of complaints about your partner.  

Are you attuned to your own emotions?  If not, take a moment to calm your mind and body so you can drop down into your own internal experience to get better attuned with yourself before you approach your partner.  

To get attuned, find a private quiet place without distractions.  

Close your eyes if you feel comfortable, focus on your breath and slow down your breathing (see my article: The Mind-Body Connection: Developing a Felt Sense of Your Emotions).

Expect to have distracting thoughts and when they come up, imagine you can put each one on a cloud and watch them float away (see my article: Basic Mindfulness Skills).

As you focus on your emotions, tune into your body to get a sense of where you can feel your emotions in your body.  Know that it's not unusual to feel conflicting emotions. Just acknowledge them and let them be.  Don't judge them or try to suppress them.

Afterwards take time to write down what came up for you and what you might want to share with your partner.

Emotional vulnerability is a pathway to intimacy, so if you can both share what came up for each of you, it could bring you closer.

On the other hand, if your emotional connection with your partner has deteriorated to the point where you don't feel comfortable being vulnerable, you can start with your less vulnerable feelings.

When you're listening to your partner, give your partner your undivided attention.  Listen without interrupting or getting distracted with other things (phones are off and put away).  

Becoming More Attuned to Each Other

After your partner has shared, instead of giving your perspective or opinion, tell your partner what you heard without criticism or judgment ("I heard you say you feel lonely in our relationship. Is that right?").  

If your partner says you didn't understand what s/he was saying, ask your partner to say it again in another way.  Repeat this process until you're really get what your partner is saying.

You don't have to agree with your partner's perspective.  You just need to let your partner know that you heard and understand based on what s/he said.

Then, it's your turn.  Follow the same steps.  Remember to slow down so you can be attuned to your own emotions as well as your partner's.

It takes time and patience to feel into and talk about your emotions, so don't rush through this exercise just to get through it.  If you do, you'll convey to your partner that you're not interested in hearing what s/he has to say or what you have to say to your partner.

You might experience some discomfort, especially if you're not accustomed to sharing your emotions on a deep level.  That's okay.  With practice, this process can get easier as you each work on these skills.

How to Get Sexually Attuned to Yourself and Your Partner
Many people feel embarrassed to talk about sex (see my articles: How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex - Part 1 and Part 2).

Becoming More Attuned to Each Other

Start by getting attuned to your own sense of sexuality in terms of what you like.  If it's been a long time since you have felt attuned to your own sexuality, start gradually.

If you have good memories of enjoying sex, you can begin by remembering times when you enjoyed sex in the past (see my article:  Reviving Your Sex Life By Remembering Your Peak Erotic Experiences).

Whether these memories involve solo sex or sex with a partner, what was it about those experiences that made sex enjoyable?  Was it your sense of connection? Was it your sense of playfulness or freedom to let go? Or something else?

If you have never experienced pleasurable sex, do you have memories of seeing movies or reading books that got you turned on?  What was it about those scenes that appealed to you?

After each of you have engaged in your own sexual self exploration, you can share your thoughts and fantasies with your partner (see my article: Finding Your Sexual Voice).

Once again, don't be critical or judgmental. Just listen.  Their turn-ons might not be yours, but couples often find sexual activities that get them both turned on (see my article: Don't Yuk Your Partner's Yum).

When it's your turn, try to be as open as you can about what you like and allow your partner to have his or her own preferences.

Getting Help in Therapy
It's common for couples to allow emotional and sexual problems to go unaddressed for months and even years.  At that point, it's hard to try to resolve them on their own (see my article: What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) For Couples?).

If you're struggling with a lack of emotional or sexual attunement in your relationship, you could benefit from seeking help in couples/sex therapy.

Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy.  There is no physical exam, nudity or sex during sex therapy sessions (see my article:  Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy).

Individual adults and couples seek help in sex therapy for a variety of reasons (see my article: What Are Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who has an expertise with your problems so you can have a more fulfilling relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex-positive 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.