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Life Lessons

Meet Therapist Christina Pettinato

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Photo by Mike McKenna

Join us in welcoming the newest member of our eTalkTherapy family, Christina Pettinato, who brings with her a wealth of clinical experience and a refreshing take on the importance and application of meaning in the therapeutic relationship. Get to know more about Christina in today’s blog post.

What does therapy mean to you?

It’s a complex question, but I believe it is the conscious act of two or more people engaging in purposeful and honest conversation with the intention of gaining insight, meaning and trust.

What makes therapy successful?

What I believe makes therapy successful is the devotion to the therapeutic relationship. There is nothing more important to therapy than the connection between two people. This unique connection lays a secure foundation that in turn creates a space for exploration, meaning, mindfulness and self-reflection.

How has existentialism shaped your role as a therapist?

Existentialism shaped my role as a therapist the day I walked into my first class called Existential Psychotherapy. Right then and there I knew I had been craving for something different; a new way of thinking and a desire to travel deep within myself so that I could help others. I now have a new perspective on life, meaning, and finding purpose. It has been a liberating journey and I’m looking forward to the road ahead.

What is your life philosophy?

What I would consider my life’s philosophy is the act of understanding how I choose to devote my life’s energy to maintaining a life in the here and now. I value the act of creating meaning, helping others and making choices with purposeful action and gaining great comfort in the acts of learning and helping.

Describe yourself in three words?

Passionate. Inspired. Intuitive.

What was the last book you read? Your thoughts on it? 

Therapy with Children An Existential Perspective,” by Chris Scalzo. I really enjoyed it because as you read his words, you can really gain a sense of the author’s feelings of care and understanding related to children. This book provided me with an existential view on how to work with children while breaking the barrier that existentialism is a practice solely meant for adults. His rich words, research and ideas on the subject intrigued me, as this work is written with simplicity and taught by connecting theory with real world application. That approach is sadly lacking in many books and articles written on the subject of existential psychotherapy and counseling.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be AND why?

If I could meet someone living or dead? I would love to meet my great, great, great, great, great (I believe it is that many “greats”) grandmother, the matriarch of my family and our name. I listened to her story being told many times by my older relatives as I grew up, and I have had the honor and privilege to visit and walk the streets she was known to have walked in our home country of Italy. Words could not describe how that moment would feel or what it would mean to me.

Share something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

I believe that others would be surprised to learn that I have been a co-host of a podcast (and soon a new podcast called Existential GPS). I say this because if you would have asked or known me before I dove head first into this adventure I probably would have said “No way, I can’t do that!

Complete this sentence “The quality I most value in a friend”

The quality I most value in a friend is trustworthiness. Period.

Complete this sentence “The quality I most value in myself”

The quality I most value in myself is my integrity. Period.


If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please contact us today about how to register and schedule your live video-chat counseling session with Christina.

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Life Lessons

Finding Your Meaning

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Ask anyone on the street what his or her greatest wish is, and you’ll probably hear some variation about winning the lottery, going on a dream vacation or owning a new home.  A person on a diet might wish for a guilt-free sundae; a prisoner might wish to be home again; someone with a terminally illness might long for improved health and more time. All very real and very valid things (security, safety, freedom, comfort), and having any of these might make someone happy.  And everyone wants to be happy, right?

Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist, and curator of all things steeped in “meaning” wrote: “Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain, but rather to see a meaning in his life.

Meaning drives us out of bed and into the world, and it looks different for everyone.  Each of us has meaning.  Everyone has purpose, and it is innately buried in a person’s psyche to fulfill that purpose. And therein lies the challenge, “Who am I?” and “What brings meaning to my life?”

These questions, because they are so entwined with the human psyche, are not easy to understand.  How do we find meaning in our lives? Will finding meaning always bring us happiness, and are meaning and happiness the same thing?

Well, no.

A (very loose) example from a friend of mine: “Christina, before my husband and I had children, we would spend entire weekends loafing around our apartment. We worked hard during the week, and we’d get things done on weekends, but for the most part, we just sat on our futon in the living room and even slept there. Sounds heavenly, right? It certainly did to me, but five years later I am the parent of two kids and absolutely no downtime in sight.  But the truth is, I found those days to be so unsatisfying. Instead of feeling wonderful, I felt tired. Relaxation led to a certain kind of laziness, headaches and a deep sense of ennui. Believe me; I’d love a day with no responsibilities. But I also wouldn’t want those huge stretches of time back where I did nothing. It was an illusion of comfort and happiness. Those days were filled with empty minutes, time which I sadly wasted. I was unfulfilled.

Happiness does not always equate meaning, and meaning doesn’t always equate happiness, but when we find our meaning and work toward its fulfillment, we open opportunities to find joy.

But…how?

The first step is to ask what is it that I want? Meditation is wonderful for this: it clears our minds, enabling us to dig deep and foster a healthy inner-dialogue. An app that helps that meditation and relaxation is called Calm, which uses guided meditation as well as ambient noise to provide an environment conducive to meditation.

The second step is to reach out and locate your tribe. Like-minded people are relatively easy to find on the web. Using apps like Meetup to discover others who are engaged in activities that give their lives purpose is a great way to ensure that you will be able to do so, too.

The third step is to promote physical and emotional well-being. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (eating right, exercising, meditation, and good sex) can make it easier for your body, mind and soul to find balance. This includes good mental health; seeking help for issues that hold us back can help you find your way through the fog of uncertainty and lead you to a place of clarity and action.

Finding meaning and purpose in your life may feel overwhelming at times, but what journey doesn’t have an occasional shortcoming? Meaning is within us all. It is a call that only you can uniquely answer, and the world can be much a better place because of your contributions!

Avanti,
Christina