Relationship Building: The Michelangelo Effect


Relationship Building: The Michelangelo Effect

By Jessica Burgess

When your partner or spouse is working towards a goal, you can either be a help or a hindrance which can have an effect on your relationship as a whole. So how can you be an effective and helpful partner without pushing him or her towards how you think he or she should go about goal attainment? Psychologists Caryl Rusbult, Eli J. Finkel, and Madoka Kumashiro came up with the idea of the Michelangelo Effect to answer this question. Famous sculptor Michelangelo, know for his works such as David, did not believe that he created his pieces, but rather showed their ideal form. Rusbult and her colleagues believe that the same goes for relationships. In an interpersonal relationship, a partner can help the other reveal their ideal self (and vice versa), but he or she does not create that partner. At the same time, he or she can limit the partner’s revelation. Some tips for aiding your partner in personal growth and goal achievement include:


  • Both verbal and non-verbal
  • Help and encouragement
  • Ex: Helping out with the kids to allow your partner an extra half hour to work


  • Perceiving the partner more positively than he or she views him or herself
  • This is most effective when the enhancement is related to the goal
  • Ex: “You are a hardworking writer so I am certain you will meet your deadline.”


  • Affirm the dream and the reality
  • What is realistically attainable?
  • Ex: “Would you be open to us reading some books on how to get started so we know how the process goes?”

If you or your partner is struggling with support within your relationship call the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy so that they can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit          






Couples Counseling: The Benefits

By Stephanie Osuba

According to, there are many reasons why people chose to participate in couples therapy, as well as many reasons they don’t. The common reason couples usually don’t consider counseling is out of embarrassment or the stigma that surrounds the intimate details of one’s personal relationship. The stigma dictates that only people who are in a very broken state in their relationship can benefit from couples counseling. However, no relationship is perfect and sometimes even the most socially competent of us need the help of a professional. Psychologists can help couples identify key problems in the relationship in a structured way that acknowledges the feelings of both parties. Although it’s never easy to reopen past wounds, it is the only way to push through to a place of understanding with a partner. Sessions can also determine whether the relationship needs some fine-tuning, a complete rebuilding, or a separation of ways.

Here are some benefits of couples counseling:

  • Improved communication skills
  • Increase in emotional and physical connection
  • Life plan development
  • Resolving conflicts in a structured way
  • Building a healthy relationship ­– ultimately leading to individual growth as well

Common issues couples hope to resolve in therapy: infidelity, poor communication, financial issues, parenting or co-parenting, work and career, emotional and physical intimacy, separation or divorce, abuse, grief and loss, and life transitions.

If you or someone you know appears to be having marital problems, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit

Abuse: Emotional Abuse Warning Signs (Part 2)

manipulation-bergencountyIn the world of relationships, balance is one of the core key factors to a successful one. Unfortunately in an emotionally abusive relationship, the healthy balance of trust, communication and fairness is deeply disturbed. There is a dominating partner who has manipulative tendencies and a submissive partner who has codependent tendencies. The manipulative partner usually tries to have total power by controlling the victim’s actions, thoughts, and emotions. Often victims do not even realize that they are being manipulated. The victims of these relationships need to be what the manipulators want them to be or they will deal with emotionally damaging consequences.

There are five main signs that can help you determine if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship:

  1. The manipulator makes you feel guilty for things you should not feel guilty about. He will make you feel guilty for actions that you should not feel guilty about so you will be more likely to do what he asks. For example, he would make you feel guilty for hanging out with your friends instead of with him. Of course it is normal for your significant other to want to spend quality time with you, but an abuser will see your other close relationships as threats and prevent you from having them.
  2. The manipulator makes you doubt yourself by making you feel bad. He will be point out your weaknesses and insecurities and tell you how he can do things better. He will say condescending comments or try to put you down. If you are insecure, have low self-esteem or are in a state of self-doubt, you will eventually believe in everything he says. By trying to convince you that his way is better, he is trying to control you. He will make you think he is thinking about what is best for you, but in reality, he is only thinking about himself.
  3. The manipulator will use his insecurities in order to get what he wants from you. He will tell you all the past suffering he has been through with past relationships to define the current one. For example, he will tell you that he has been cheated on and lied to, so he will ask you to understand that you cannot have any male friends. Does that make sense to you? You are not the cheater, his past girlfriends were. It is understandable that he is insecure, but his past should not define what you can and cannot do in the present.
  4. The manipulator will give ultimatums to prove your love and loyalty to him. He will give you the “if you love me you will do this” statement because if don’t do what he wants, you do not truly love him. As a result of these crazy requests, you will ultimately abandon your wants and feelings to please your partner’s. A healthy relationship is based on compromise and reasoning, not accommodating to everything your abusive partner wants.
  5. The manipulator will threaten himself or others when everything else fails. When you do not comply with any of his manipulative requests, he will resort to harming himself to force you to do what he wants. Extreme manipulators that show these harmful qualities may need to seek professional help from psychotherapists and counselors.

If you feel like these warning signs may apply to your situation with your significant other, it is strongly recommended that you reconsider the relationship or seek marriage or relationship counseling. If you or a loved one live in Manhattan or Bergen County New Jersey and might be suffering from psychological abuse and manipulation, the psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners amd psychotherapists at Arista Counseling can assist you. Contact our Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. Visit for more information

Relationships: Emotional Abuse


Relationships: Emotional Abuse

By: Catherine Ferreira

The typical image of an abusive partnership is often one of violence. It is one of bruises and broken bones; of random angry outbursts and bloodied hands. While not far from the truth, this portrayal can more often than not be greatly misleading.

There is a much deadlier, more sinister form of abuse that is not often talked about. It is not always noticeable, either. It takes the form of emotional abuse, or “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish one’s sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth”1. Emotionally abusive relationships do not simply consist of dramatic emotional outbursts or random fits of anger. It is so deadly exactly because it is so subtle: something as simple as “You’ve been gaining a lot of weight lately” can be an act of violence because it implies your partner has a degree of control over you.

It can come out in more overt ways, too: manipulation and ultimatums; threatening to kill oneself; unfounded jealousy and a sense of entitlement; constant begging, badgering, stalking—all of these and more constitute what it means to be in an abusive relationship. Worst of all, they are symptoms of a toxic cycle that is hard to acknowledge and harder still to break.

Fortunately, however, guidance from a professional therapist can help you learn how to break out of this cycle. If you or a loved one live in Manhattan or Bergen County New Jersey and are in need of therapy or relationship counseling, the psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling can assist you. Contact our Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.  Visit for more information.


Photo Source

Abuse: Emotional Manipulation (Part 1)

social-and-psychological-manipulation-bergencountyIn this mini-series of blogs, I would like to discuss the covert abuse that leaves no visible evidence except for the victim’s psychological suffering. Psychological abuse, also known as emotional abuse, is a type of abuse that can eat away at a victim’s self-esteem, autonomy, and happiness. This abuse is typically associated with power imbalance and manipulation; the abusive perpetrator is usually dominant and passive-aggressive but can seem pleasant and reasonable. This type of negative social influence has devastating effects on the victim; the goal of this abuse is to change the victim’s perspective and behavior through devious, exploitative ways in order to control the victim to get what the manipulator wants. The targeted individual rarely sees what is happening to them because manipulators conceal their true, aggressive purposes. The relationship is clearly unhealthy. This causes severe psychological damage to the victim and she becomes so dependent on the manipulator that she can no longer think for herself. Manipulators need their victims to fear them, oblige to their requests, and feel guilty if they cannot comply with those requests. Victims of psychological abuse are often codependent and abusers know how to play on their emotions and vulnerabilities. The victims can lose their sense of self, and harvest anxiety and emptiness.

There are several techniques manipulators use in order to control their victims. All of these techniques can twist a victim’s thoughts, actions and desires in order to mold her into what the manipulator wants her to be. Manipulators tend to make excuses to justify their actions, deny certain promises or agreements, play on your sympathy, use bribery to get what they want, portray fake concerns to undermine confidence, and use passive-aggressive tactics in order to express their emotions indirectly. These mental schemers also use emotional blackmail, such as guilt and fear, to cause shame and self-doubt in the victim. There are eight common warning signs to know when you are dealing with an emotionally abusive manipulator:

  1. Uses an individual’s statements against her
  2. conveniently forgets promises and agreements, and denies he ever said them
  3. uses guilt and sympathy to control the victim
  4. undermine the victim’s problems, emotions, and difficulties
  5. perform passive-aggressive actions to express anger or disappointment
  6. drain positive energy from the people around him
  7. shows little of responsibility
  8. always seem to have it worse than the victim

Emotional manipulators are controlling and this desire to control the victim is usually because manipulators are insecure themselves. Their underlying purposes in their actions are self-serving, and they have a constant need to feel more significant than the people around them. Passive, susceptible individuals are perfect to manipulate so that manipulators can obtain that feeling of power and superiority.

If you or a loved one live in Manhattan or Bergen County New Jersey and might be suffering from psychological and emotional abuse such as manipulation, the psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling can assist you. Contact our Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.  Visit for more information


Lancer, Darlene. “Psych Central Search.” Psych N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2015.

Lenda, Paul. “8 Ways to Spot Emotional Manipulation.. and Free Ourselves From It.” The Mind Unleashed. N.p., 03 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 June 2015.

Relationships-Dating-Commitment: Missing the Game While Playing the Field

By: Dariana Taveras

How Your Dating Behavior May Be a Sign of Commitment Issues

Heart and kissy-face Emojis are mindlessly sent and delivered to several potential romantic interests through text messages. Regardless of who they are sent to, there is only one reply that you are really hoping for. It is from the person that you are attracted to far beyond their physical attributes. It is the individual whose face immediately brightens your day through an inviting glance. It is the one who has the charming laugh that replays most beautifully in your thoughts. It is the person who is able to solace your silence with comfort, somehow understanding your lack of self-disclosure.

In an ideal world, you would be with them. The only problem is…you cannot. But why?

Your dating behavior may be hurting your potential to find a long-term relationship due to any of the following personal commitment issues:

  • Struggling with being open about your emotions
  • Not knowing how to effectively verbalize your feelings to others
  • Experiencing fears about ending up emotionally hurt
  • Low feelings of self-worth or low self-esteem
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Not wanting to be restricted by being in a monogamous relationship

Romantic relationships are not an easy feat. If you or anyone you care about may be struggling with commitment issues or if you are currently in a relationship that is lacking commitment, the licensed professionals at Arista Counseling&Psychotherapy can assist you.  Contact our Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.  Visit for more information.

The Power of Compassion- Bergen County, NJ

By: Michelle Dierna


Positive Psychology:Psychotherapy & Compassion

What is compassion? For dozens of year’s clinical research has focused on elucidating on the psychology of human suffering. Suffering, an unpleasant part in life, often also has a lighter side, which unfortunately research has paid less attention to in prior studies: this being compassion.

How does compassion differentiate from altruism and empathy?

Empathy is described as an emotional experience of another person’s feelings. It is, in a sense, an automatic mirroring or understanding of others emotions. Pure empathy can be shown in various ways: if one is witnessing a loved one cry over a loss of their puppy that just died and made you cry as well; this is when empathy appears externally. Altruism can be correlated with empathy in some ways because when one performs actions of altruism, it is selflessness in purest form; it’s a positive characteristic trait to have, whether it is followed by compassion or empathy. A donation to a charity can be an example of an act of altruism; it is an action that benefits someone else.

  • Compassion can involve both empathic and altruistic behavior because it is an emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help others.

Compared to other positive emotions, compassion has been predominantly neglected. Likely because, until psychology defines an emotion, it is extremely difficult to measure or study it. Often when something is not clearly defined, easily understood, measured or weighed, it is as though that idea does not exist. However, compassion and love do exist, they are real feelings just as real and important as anger and anxiety is. Although we cannot measure compassion as we could in tests performed for anxiety, mood disorders, depression etc. It is believed that we’re born with compassion but betrayal, abandonment and rejection displace it with other feelings like anger and resentment.

  • “A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that this is just true, that both animals and humans might have what Dacher Keltner from the University of California calls a “compassionate instinct,” a natural response that ensures survival.”
  • In The Descent of Man and Selection In Relation to Sex, Charles Darwin argued for “the greater strength of the social or maternal instincts than that of any other instinct or motive.” In another passage, he comments “communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.” Compassion may indeed be a naturally evolved and adaptive trait. Without it, the survival and flourishing of our species would have been unlikely.”

In an approach to Western psychological tradition, our greatest thinkers and researchers have focused on understanding hysteria, obsessions, psychoses, compulsions, depression, anxiety, impulsive anger, personality disorders etc. On the other hand, very little scientific research or theoretical thought has gone into understanding positive emotions or the psychology of human strengths and well -being.

The reason a compassionate lifestyle can lead to healthier psychological well-being can be explained by the fact that the act of giving appears to be as pleasurable, if not more so, as the act of receiving. In a brain image study conducted by neuroscientist Jordan Grafman from the National Institutes of Health, it appeared that the act of giving is pleasurable just as much as receiving is; this study displays that the “pleasure centers” in the brain, i.e., the parts of the brain that are active when we experience pleasure (like dessert, money, and sex), are equally active when we observe someone giving money to charity as when we receive money ourselves! Thus, giving to others habitually increases over all well being, above and beyond what we experience when we spend money on ourselves.

In addition, Leading researcher in positive psychology, and APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Martin Seligman, a pioneer of the psychology of happiness and human flourishing, suggests that connecting with others in a meaningful way helps us enjoy better mental and physical health and speeds up recovery from disease; furthermore has shown that it may even lengthen our life spans.

“Sometimes we imagine that we can find happiness outside of ourselves-in wealth, success, fame, work, or relationships. The truth is that the extent to which we are happy depends mainly on our emotions. Even if we together with someone close to us in a very beautiful setting, if we ourselves are feeling extremely anxious or angry then we certainly won’t be happy. On the other hand, if we’re feeling very strong love or compassion, then we can be happy even in difficult external circumstances.”

  • Different forms of compassion: Paul Ekman, PhD, a world-renowned expert on facial expressions has classified compassion into the following forms:
  1. Emotion recognition: knowing how another person is feeling.
  2. Emotional resonance: Feeling the other person’s pain
  3. Familial Compassion: Planted through the caregiver-offspring bond is the seed of all compassion.
  4. Global Compassion: refers to feeling part of the whole.
  5. Sentient Compassion: Extended to all living things.
  6. Heroic Compassion: Is a form of altruism in which a person takes a risk

In the psychotherapy field, those who support compassion as a therapeutic tool, can believe that it helps patients gain not only self control and mental clarity, but also the capacity to observe others, feel their pain and respond with kindness, acceptance and compassion. This doesn’t just improve the relationship one has with themselves but also relationships with others.

 If lack of passion is causing stress or anxiety, Feel free to contact the Bergen County, New Jersey and Manhattan offices of Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy, where psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists with years of experience in cognitive behavioral therapy and other therapeutic techniques that can help you conquer current struggles. Call (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.

Visit for more information.


Marriage & Relationships: Is your partner in love? – Bergen County, NJ

By: Davine Holness

how to tell if your partner loves you

Marriage & Relationships: What are some signs that can clue you in that your partner loves you?

Actions speak louder than words.  Couples and marriage partners often say they love each other, but how do they show it?  Here are some clues that have been found by psychological research to be signs of being in love.  People who are in love…

  1. Find time for each other.  They want to spend as much time with each other as they can.
  2. Ask each other about their day, keeping lines of communication open.
  3.  Trust each other, giving each other the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Provide help for each other when it’s needed
  5. Respect each other’s points of view, even if there is disagreement.
  6. Include each other in important decisions.
  7. Show affection and are emotionally intimate.  They show signs of physical closeness.
  8. Look at each other and enjoy each other’s presence.
  9. Reminisce together, reliving enjoyable moments.
  10. See the relationship as worth fighting for.
  11. Boost each other’s self esteem and make each other feel valued.

For help with any kind of relationship issues, feel free to talk to the experienced marriage and relationship counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 996-3939.


Krauss, S. (2014, March 15). 11 Ways to Tell if Your Lover Loves You. Retrieved June 9, 2014

Anger Management: How to Stop a Fight

By: Davine Holness

how to prevent an argument

Anger management tips: conflict de-escalation

When we get into heated arguments, we often find ourselves saying things we regret or things we don’t mean.  In addition to being unpleasant, arguments can chip away at the harmony in a relationship and even have deleterious health effects.  Thankfully, even those who have struggled with anger management in the past can take certain steps to deescalate a verbal conflict.  With a strategy called unilateral disarmament, individuals can stop at the peak of an argument and focus their own behaviors in order to approach the conversation from a more loving stance.

  1. The first step is to relax.  Anger decreases our ability to think about the effects of our words, so access a calmer attitude through deep breathing or by counting down from 10.
  2. Refrain from backlash.  If your partner is provoking you, don’t take the bait.  Remain in control of your actions and keep in mind that winning the argument is probably not as important as maintaining closeness in the relationship.
  3. Display warmth.  Rather than fighting to hold on to power, show vulnerability and affection.  You might take your partner’s hand, look them in the eye, and say something that comes from the heart rather than from the ego.
  4. Practice empathy.  Humbly put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  This does not mean giving up your point of view, but accepting that the other person sees things differently.  This way, you can each begin to understand each other’s viewpoints.
  5. Name it to tame it.  Articulate your feelings to yourself and then share them with your partner.  You can then identify what’s causing these feelings and work toward fixing it and avoiding it in the future.


If you are having trouble with relationships or anger management, feel free to contact the Manhattan or Bergen County, New Jersey offices of Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy to speak with a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.  Call (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 for an evaluation.  Visit for more information.



Firestone, L. (2014, April 16). 5 Steps to End Any Fight. . Retrieved June 3, 2014

Marriage Counseling – Love vs. Infatuation – Bergen County NJ

By: Davine Holness

Marriage: Knowing the difference between love and infatuation can help forge a healthy relationship

Marriage: Knowing the difference between love and infatuation can help forge a healthy relationship

One of the most beautiful feelings of the human experience is being in love.   However, many relationships have ended because people discovered that what they had thought was love was in fact merely its deceptive cousin: infatuation.  In any relationship, it’s important to know where you stand, and in amorous relationships this means finding out whether you’re truly in love or just infatuated with the other person.  While most people are infatuated with their love partners to an extent, it is important to understand which of the two forces is the basis of the relationship.  This knowledge can help you make wise decisions about commitments, and give you a better understanding of yourself and your partner.  Understanding the difference between love and infatuation will lead to a healthier, happier love life.


Infatuation is static: it is the passionate feeling when someone else is all you can think about.  It is when you are attracted to the person, and your priorities are built around them, but there is no shared growth or development.  When a relationship is based on infatuation, there is often little trust, loyalty, and commitment – the relationship isn’t a mutual give-and-take.  The key feature of infatuation is an unrealistic idea of who the other person is, and what the relationship will provide for your life.


Love, on the other hand is a dynamic process that involves shared emotion, trust and growth.  It’s constant consideration for the other person that leads to joint planning and decision making.   The important thing is knowing who the person really is, knowing that the relationship won’t be perfect, and loving them anyway. The relationship evolves as the individuals mature and needs change; the two parties work together in building a shared future.  Love is strong enough to outlast the ups and downs of life.


So how can you go about differentiating between love and infatuation?  Asking yourself the following questions can help you figure it out:


  • Are you truly happy?  Are you treated as a person of value?
  • Is there hope for a shared future?  Are the two of you thinking and planning as a couple rather than separately?
  • Is your life better because of your partner?
  • Are you foregoing your dreams for your partner, or are you restructuring your dreams to fit each other?
  • Does your partner’s mother know about you?
  • Most importantly: does the relationship bring out the best in each of you?


Telling the difference between true love and infatuation is not easy.  If you are working through this or other relationship/marriage issues, the Bergen County, New Jersey or Manhattan offices of Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Call us to arrange an appointment with one of our marriage counselors, psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.


Arista Counseling: (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920

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