Dr. Patricia Hunter


Beyond TraumaDiscovering JoyAdmiring Age

The word trauma is confusing. It can be overused. Let me clarify.
Trauma is something that overwhelms your nervous system to the point that you shut down, space out, forget, or begin losing things (to name a few reactions). There is big T trauma
like war or rape or a car accident, and there is insidious cumulative trauma, like growing up in poverty or with anxious parents who had difficulty providing a sense of calm and security at home.

Delivery of Services

I am licensed in New York and Idaho and can do psychotherapy sessions in my office, in your home, and on the telephone as well as video conferencing if necessary.

Contact me by calling 212-229-0595 or online

This is a poster I presented at the SEPI (society for the exploration of psychotherapy integration)conference in NYC 2018

Click to view pdf
We may think we can control our grief, our terror, or our shame by remaining silent, but naming offers the possibility of a different kind of control… If you've been hurt, you need to acknowledge and name what happened to you… Feeling listened to and understood changes our physiology: being able to articulate a complex feeling, and having our feelings recognized, lights up our limbic brain and creates an "aha moment."  In contrast, being met by silence and incomprehension kills the spirit.  Or , as John Bowlby so memorably put it 'What can not be spoken to the (m)other cannot be told to the self.

If you have been traumatized by something that happened to you, and you are filled with fear that you will never get over it,  psychotherapy can help. Psychotherapy can help you learn to overcome feelings of fear about potential damage and to learn to put your past in perspective so it doesn't weigh you down. It's time to move beyond your past and to create and define yourself in the present and the future! EMDR is a technique I respect enormously. It was developed by Dr Francine Shapiro, and it seems to duplicate some of the magic that occurs during REM sleep when we dream. Psychoanalysis is profound and powerful. Freud helped us stop blaming ourselves for unconscious thoughts and feelings and to begin to understand them instead. CBT is a form of therapy that teaches you to change  your beliefs about reality and your place in it.  Internal Famly Systems (IFS) is a way we can begin to help you get to know about the various facets of your psyche. Nobody is one dimensional. In my opinion, no psychotherapy should be one dimensional either.

Some Famous People Who Survived Traumatic Experiences


4-Martin Luther King Jr
6-Mother Teresa
9-The Pope
10-Oprah Winfrey

11-Nelson Mandela,12- Pope Francis-Jorge Bergoglio,13- Bill Clinton, 14-Abraham Lincoln, 15-Mick Jagger, 16-Tina Turner, 17-Whoopi Goldberg, 18-Barbara Streisand, 19-Lady Gaga, 20-Jackie Onassis, 21-Jane Fonda, 22-Stephen King, 23-Maya Angelou, 24-JK Rowling, 25-Axl Rose, 25- Jim Carrey

“The lucky ones among us have the luxury of confronting existential realities gradually and in small doses.  Unfortunately for many, suffering and loss can come too hard and too early in life. When people are traumatized, especially very early in life, then assumptions of safety are shattered, and they are catapulted from the safe haven of denial. In these situations, the amygdala takes executive control of our brain and we are at risk of lapsing into a chronic state of anxiety.” (Cozolino 2008;p 160)

Overlooked causes of emotional/psychological trauma:

  • Falls, sports injuries
  • Surgery (especially first 3 years of life)
  • Sudden death of someone close
  • Car accident
  • Break up of significant relationship
  • Humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
  • Discovery of life threatening illness or disabling condition

Negative emotional effects of trauma:

  • Shock, denial, disbelief
  • Anger irritability, mood swings
  • Guilt, shame, self blame
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Feeling disconnected or numb

Negative physical effects of trauma:

  • Insomnia, nightmares
  • Being startled easily
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Edginess or agitation
  • Muscle tension

Trauma can result in:

  • Inner strength
  • Integrity
  • Compassion for others
  • Increased self awareness
  • Intense emotions including joy and enthusiasm

Positive effects of trauma:

  • Changes in perception of self
  • Feeling more experienced about life
  • Feeling stronger and more self assured
  • Feeling and being more self sufficient
  • Closer family relationships
  • Increased ability to be emotionally expressive
  • Increased sensitivity to others
  • More sophisticated philosophy of life
  • Living each day to the fullest
  • Strengthened spiritual beliefs
  • Increased sense on control, intimacy
  • Ability to see more meaning in life
  • Perception of new possibilities and personal abilities
  • Inner strength
  • Increased integrity
  • Increased compassion for others
  • Increased self awareness
  • Richer emotional awareness

"We can hardly bear to look. The shadow may carry the best of the life we have not lived. Go into the basement, the attic, the refuse bin. Find gold there. Find an animal who has not been fed or watered. It is you!!  This neglected, exiled animal, hungry for attention, is a part of your self."

– Marion Woodman
Van der Kolk (2014)

Discovering Joy

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us.  Between the two stands Resistance… The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.””

Do you long to run your own company, however large or small? Do you yearn to wake up in the morning
with a project that feels like yours alone- that you don't need to put aside the minute a bill comes due?
When you read the paper about somebody who is doing what you wanted to do, do you feel cheated,
angry, ashamed that they got there first? What about relationships? Does your avoidant attachment style
seem to be leading to nothing but Netflix binge watching? Do you wonder if there is any hope?
 Psychotherapy is a place where there is room for you to:  

• Express, in words, sometimes for the first time, what has remained either hidden or unrealized until now, in some way that doesn’t make a lot of sense to you.
• Remember and discuss what you dream at night as a way  to help you  begin to make your unconscious conscious
• Integrate your thoughts and feelings into a more coherent story for yourself with more balance and less black and white thinking.   Explore all the parts of your personality and not favor one part over all the others.

Nothing is easy or magical or instant. Psychotherapy takes courage, and changing your life takes work. But aren’t you worth it? And isn’t it time to experiment if only for a short time (I often see people for a fixed number of sessions and then we take a break) to see if you can break out of your status quo into a lifestyle that is a better fit for you.

“Who would you be if you could be all you could be? What new story about yourself would you write? What leads you to think you can’t write it? Psychotherapy is an opportunity to do some mental time travel, to find out what we learned as young children and to learn the enduring effects these lessons had upon us.”

Psychotherapy makes room for:

• Expressing the unexpressed
• Making the unconscious conscious
• Integrating thoughts and feelings
• Restoring a sense of agency and perspective
• Providing a platform for exploring our maladaptive illusions
• The opportunity to trust through being with another person

Source: Cozolino 2015

Ingredients for good psychotherapy:

  • A secure attachment within a therapeutic relationship which serves as a setting for positive change.
  • Emotional security so that new information can enter a previously closed system of beliefs.
  • An opportunity to experiment with new emotions, actions and language  which allows for both editing and creating an entirely new script for your life.
  • A good therapist studies a client, to see if the client’s stories about himself are blue prints for exploration, leadership and courage, or stories suggesting that he is waiting to be rescued by somebody else.
  • A good therapist helps a client rewrite her story, with new plots, trajectories and conclusions, with herself or himself as the author.

Source: Cozolino 2015

“Is Life not a hundred times too short for us to stifle ourselves?”

“You must be the person you have never had the courage to be.”

– Paulo Coelho

Is Aging Bothering You?

As the body ages, so do the organs in the body.  We lose elasticity in our skin, we lose hair, eyesight, hearing and so on. At the same time, many studies show that older people report experiencing more happiness than younger people, and feel better able to control intense emotions. It’s not that older people don’t care, say these studies, but  that older people have more empathy, and the capacity to put themselves in others people shoes more easily. As we age, we become wiser, more tolerant, and able to take ourselves a little less seriously. We can be grand parents, grand friends, grand mentors to our younger colleagues, family and friends.

"Soon I'll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold?"
“Friendship, marriage, psychotherapy, parenting and grandparenting-in fact, any meaningful relationship any time of life- can activate neuroplastic processes and change the structure and functioning of the brain.”

Newly published research by the Yale School of Public Health demonstrated that individuals who hold negative beliefs about aging are more likely to have brain changes associated with memory concerns. The study suggests that combating negative beliefs about aging, such as ‘elderly people are decrepit’ could potentially offer a way to reduce the rapidly rising rate of this condition.

The study, led by Becca Levy, associate professor of public health and  psychology, is the first to link the brain changes related to memory concerns to  culturally-based psychosocial risk factors. The findings were published December 7, 2015 in the journal Psychology of Aging:

“We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes. Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realize that these negative beliefs about aging can be mitigated and positive beliefs about aging can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”

Negative Effects of Aging

  • Fear of the future-illness, death,poverty

  • Feeling less needed by society at large

  • The loss of important roles

  • Career losses, loss of spouse/friends/family

  • Financial limitations due to less income

  • The loss of independence

  • The loss of social respect (butt of jokes, silly movies, comedy skits)

  • Feelings of stigma-being unwanted-being devalued and pitied

Positive Effects of Aging

  • Feeling happier

  • Feeling wiser

  • Financial help in form of Medicare, Senior discounts, Social Security

  • Improved mental health due to emotional maturity

  • Ability to sustain excellent cognitive health (most seniors retain excellent cognitive abilities and although the older brain requires more time to consolidate information into long term memory, many others facets of  intelligence are not affected)

  • Ability to transform negative internalized beliefs about aging to positive beliefs, as studies show that presenting older people even subliminally with positive messages about aging (e.g.older people are creative) resulted in improved mental and physical health several weeks afterwards

“For the narcissist, aging represents a series of shaming experiences that can lead to deforming plastic surgeries, immersion in fantasies of youth, or withdrawal into depressive isolation. For these people, aging is a disease… But if we can build a deeper relationship with our inner experience, the slowing down of the body can be reduced to an inconvenience.”

– Cozolino
2008, p180-181