Author Archives: Marc Handelman, PhD

About Marc Handelman, PhD

I am a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in New York City. My office is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near Columbia University. I work with adults from college age and up who want help addressing problems ranging from depression, anxiety, and relationship issues to addiction, co-dependency, and the effects of early trauma.

I believe psychotherapy should provide a sense of comfort and support as the starting point for addressing emotional problems. I have more than 30 years’ experience as a psychotherapist, and have been affiliated with The Hazelden Foundation since 1997. Please see my professional website for more information: http://www.psychotherapy-nyc.com

Blog Home

This blog presents a collection of short articles I have written that reflect my thoughts on a broad range of topics relevant to therapy. I hope it will serve as a resource for people wanting to start psychotherapy or for … Continue reading

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Sitting With Emotions

We’re often overwhelmed by such feelings as sadness, anger, fear, depression, anxiety and even boredom. In modern society we have an abundance of ways to avoid these unpleasant feelings. Our phones and other devices offer easy escape into games, movies, … Continue reading

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Psychotherapy and Medication

If you are suffering with emotional issues and are considering seeing a psychotherapist, you may also wonder about the use of medication.  Should you seek therapy alone, try medication alone, or would it be best to try both at the … Continue reading

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Female Therapist or Male Therapist?

When people are looking for a psychotherapist, they often wonder whether to choose a male therapist or a female therapist. For some people, choosing a therapist of the same sex seems the obvious thing to do. Others may simply assume … Continue reading

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The Failure of Categories

Experience does not neatly fit into a category. If you tell me that you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, that communicates a list of potential criteria – mood swings, cycling, etc., but it does not tell me anything at all about your experience. When someone focuses exclusively on diagnostic criteria – your ‘symptoms’ – you become nothing more than a pathological entity. You are not merely a bundle of ‘symptoms.’ These diagnostic categories serve the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance industry, not you. Continue reading

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Psychotherapy: Clinical Supervision and Training

Clinical supervision is the primary training model for psychotherapists learning to be psychotherapists. Psychotherapists may be trained or supervised in the context of a particular theory, and trained to apply particular techniques based in that theory, but the best supervision … Continue reading

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Anxiety Plus Depression

People sometimes think that feeling anxious and feeling depressed are separate emotional states. While this is sometimes true, anxiety and depression often come together and can feel like components of an overall state. The idea that you seek psychotherapy for … Continue reading

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Addiction to Drugs and Alcohol: Self-hatred, Cravings, and Therapy

If you have struggled with alcoholism or drug addiction, it’s likely that you have also struggled with feelings of self-loathing, self-contempt, and self-hatred. You probably found yourself doing things you wouldn’t normally do, and maybe even doing things you find … Continue reading

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Finding the Best Therapist

What kind of psychotherapy is the best, and why does psychotherapy work? If you are looking for a therapist, this may be a question you ask yourself, and it’s a question that academic researchers and insurance companies ask, too. Why … Continue reading

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Empathy is Not Enough

Empathy can be seen as the matching of feelings or the matching of minds. It can reflect compassion, recognition and communion. It reflects an emotional understanding of another person’s feelings or problems. The ability to be empathetic can be a … Continue reading

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Psychotherapy in NYC

There is at least a kernel of truth in every cliché, whether we like that or not. One such cliché is that New Yorkers are all in therapy – in fact, it’s such a common cliché that it’s the hallmark … Continue reading

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Experiential Psychotherapy

Whether we can know anything outside the world as we experience it is an interesting philosophical question, but it has profound implications when we try to understand another person. This is particularly true in the context of psychotherapy and trying to help another person heal. Continue reading

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Advertising Psychotherapy: Attraction Not Promotion

Advertising typically presents an attempt at getting people to think, feel, or behave in a very particular way. For psychologists, most advertising used to be considered unethical, and it still presents a dilemma for a psychotherapist who wants to work and maintain a practice. If a therapist uses certain forms of self-promotion to convince prospective patients to “choose” him over others, he can be taking a position at odds with the actual work he needs to be doing. Continue reading

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Expect the Unexpected: Living with Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families

Kids in dysfunctional families learn a lot of lessons: don’t tell; don’t have friends over; keep a close watch for signs of an explosion; try not to be noticed; be ready to fix everything. Life is chaotic, unpredictable, and violent. Maybe you always wondered why you are so hard on yourself, or why your relationships are so difficult, and never connected those things with growing up in an alcoholic household. Deep wounds need to be cleaned and healed, but healing and recovery is certainly possible. Many people need psychotherapy. Many people find comfort and help from ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) groups, Al-Anon (Families with alcoholics) groups, and CODA (Codependents Anonymous) groups. Continue reading

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Psychotherapy and Spirituality

Some people find spirituality helpful in conjunction with psychotherapy. Spirituality is not the same as religion; it is often seen as an essentially value-free experience and understanding of the world. For many people, the important point about spirituality is the experience of connection to the world as a whole, to nature, to the universe or cosmos, and to themselves. It is imperative that a therapist never pushes his views and values on the person he is working with. At the same time, it is also important that he avoids coming from a detached, overly analytic, purely “scientific” position that does not recognize the possible value of spiritual growth. Continue reading

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Trauma and Dissociation

Dissociation is not just related to the external world, it is also fundamentally a disconnection from oneself. It is an important task of psychotherapy to help the traumatized individual integrate these disconnected aspects of self. Addressing what may have felt unbearable can be painful, and the work must not push too hard or the person is at risk of being retraumatized or finding themselves stuck, once again, in an overwhelming and intolerable place. Continue reading

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Finding Meaning: Existential Psychotherapy

The existential approach to therapy is based on helping people find meaning in their lives, and avoids trying to apply external objective criteria and schemas. In fact, the struggle for all of us is to put our lives and life histories in a meaningful context. This may be primarily an unconscious emotional endeavor for some, but for others it may also be important to find an articulable structure or credo. Without a meaningful way of making sense of things, we are almost by definition left with a deep sense of emptiness and a feeling of an inner void. From there we are often left with nothing to do but despair and feel hopeless. Continue reading

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The Anxiety Spiral

The experience of anxiety falls along a spectrum, or continuum. You may have a bit of difficulty concentrating; perhaps you’re restless; you may be worried and have repetitive thoughts; and/or you may feel an unpleasant self consciousness. On the extreme end, you may have panic attacks, a feeling of impending doom, you may fear that you’re losing control or dying or ‘going crazy’; you may be dizzy and lightheaded, faint, sweaty, you may have difficulty breathing, you may have chest pain or heart palpitations. You may even experience depersonalization – the feeling that you have changed, and the world has become far away. It may seem like you are looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Continue reading

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Depression: Struggling in the Dark

Depression, whether mild or profound, is a bleak landscape. People sometimes say, when their depression is finally addressed, that they must always have been depressed, because they do not recall ever feeling relief. Psychotherapy can help you address the issues underlying depression, and help you find meaning. Continue reading

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Codependency: Being Dependent on Others’ Dependency

There may not be a simple test, or a clear marker, but if you consistently put someone else’s needs first, to the detriment of your own, you may be codependent. What is the boundary around codependency and how do you work through it? Continue reading

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Therapy and the 12 steps

Twelve-step programs and psychotherapy are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they can reinforce each other and provide help for you as a whole person. While there is some overlap, and there are some differences between the two, the differences are not in conflict. In fact, they can provide synergy to promote your overall welfare spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically. Continue reading

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Trauma and Memory

For people who have experienced a trauma, this issue of memory — and trusting memory — is particular difficult, and carries an incredible weight and importance. When a traumatic event happens, the experience can be dissociated. Owning these memories is very difficult, and painful. When the events were happening in the past, people may have told you that they were not happening. Because the very nature of dissociation makes the memories feel unreal to you, it may be easy for you to doubt yourself, and wonder if you made them up. Continue reading

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CBT and the Zeitgeist

CBT is a popular therapeutic style, now. The fad. In my view, lasting change of an important type cannot come from such goal-directed, externally-driven exercises. CBT relies on a logical and linear system, and in my experience, people in fact act globally and their actions represent the final common pathway that grows out of a gestalt of their drives, desires, needs, and unconscious and conscious processes. True change arises from an appreciation of complexity. Lasting change involves integration of different aspects of your personality, of understanding why you do things, of unfolding and deepening your understanding of yourself. Effective work with a good therapist involves facilitating change, not directing it. Continue reading

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Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Social Workers

What are the differences between psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers? If you are considering psychotherapy, you may be wondering about this question. Although all three may do psychotherapy, their training is quite different, and this may have important implications for … Continue reading

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