Help for Complex Relationships
Welcome. I am Dr. Kathy Marshack, psychologist and author. As a professional I specialize in helping my clients who are in Complex Relationships that are tough to treat with conventional psychotherapy. The short list (but not all inclusive) of couples and families in Complex Relationships include:
• “Asperger Syndrome” or High Functioning Autism
• High Conflict Divorce
• Empathy Dysfunction
• Entrepreneurial Couples
“This site is truly an answer to prayer and I consider you all my angels. I love this message from one of our members. Another way to say this is that she appreciates the Radiant Angels among us. You can find Radiant Empathy too.”
Right from the start, I want you to know:
• You are not alone.
• Your voice matters.
• I am here to help you.
If you need daily support, you can join one of our supportive communities. You are safe here. Only members can access the discussion forums. You can ask questions and share stories of your day. Not everyone agrees on everything, but our diversity is what creates the opportunity to grow and change and take back your life from these very tough ASD relationships.
My credentials go back decades including a Master’s Degree in Social Work, and a Doctorate in Psychology. I’ve worked in every conceivable professional setting from child protective services, home health agencies, public schools, colleges, hospitals, and mental health clinics. I’ve covered lots of territory in those years, as you can imagine; everything from working with young children, teens, couples, families, seniors, and entrepreneurs; and with every conceivable diagnosis.
I’ve trained with the best too. My favored clinical skills include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Ericksonian Hypnosis and Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET). I find these techniques incredibly powerful in creating elegant and long-lasting healing and change. Learn more about my theoretical orientation at Therapy Techniques.
But as valuable as my education, training and experience is, I also know that each one of you is as unique and special as your fingerprints. Did you know that no one on the planet shares your fingerprints? That’s right. What this means is that there is no “on size fits all.” That’s why I have designed our group with differing levels of service depending on your needs: teleconferences, face to face lunch groups, small intimate video conferences, and one-on-one video conferences with me if you like.
You may already know that I am the author of “Going Over the Edge?: Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome,” and “Out of Mind-Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD).” I wrote these books to help explain the life our members face every day. Readers tell me that they can relate to every word and that they re-read chapters over and over again, just to soak up the support.
There is one more thing I want you to know about me. I can relate personally to every single one of the Complex Relationship bullet points listed above. I was raised by a High Functioning Autistic mother, and an alcoholic father. My eldest daughter is on the Autism Spectrum. I’ve been an entrepreneur for many, many years, and raised my children in this environment. I too went through a hostile divorce, including parental alienation. Finally, I was motivated to write my latest book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you,” because I found myself in a 12 year property dispute with neighbors, the police, and government officials, who tried to destroy my career, my finances and my family. Out of this experience, I developed the Empathy Dysfunction Scale (EmD).
Just like you, I went through a lot of suffering before it occurred to me to take another approach. I learned to build resilience. I learned to use what I know as a psychologist to reshape the outcome. I counted on the principle that Michelle Obama champions, “When they go low, we go high.” This doesn’t mean that you don’t get hurt, or angry during all of those trying times. What it means is that when you’re up against the harshness of a complex relationship, “your response has to reflect the solution,” according to our former First Lady.
I call this response, Radiant Empathy (EmD-5 on my scale). That’s the goal of therapy with Dr. Marshack, Radiant Empathy. Life isn’t perfect, and you will keep making mistakes. But with Radiant Empathy you will learn to use your mistakes as feedback to refashion your life for greater healing, love and happiness.
I hope to hear from you.
Kathy Marshack, Ph.D.
TO MY DAUGHTERS: Love in the Chaos of Autism
To Bianca, who taught me about autism.
Bianca taught herself to read by the time she was four. I was impressed by this feat, but chalked it up to the fact that Bianca’s father and I are both readers, with graduate educations. Of course, role modeling couldn’t explain everything since Bianca is adopted.
I used to enjoy Bianca’s reading and her intense hyper-focus on her passions, such as art and music and dinosaurs. She drew incessantly, so I learned to stock up on drawing supplies. She had a library card at age five. Heaven forbid she ever left the house without a book to read. But if we forgot the drawing
tablet, Bianca would draw on restaurant table napkins.
By the time Bianca was six I realized she wasn’t like other children. By then we had adopted Phoebe. By the time she turned three Phoebe was doing all of the normal things Neuro-Typical children do, but Bianca was different. For example, Bianca thought nothing of appearing at the front door to answer the bell, dressed in little more than two silk scarves tied together around her neck. Soon it would be obvious to me that she was on the Autism Spectrum.
When I recognized Bianca’s autism, I realized why she reminded me so much of my mother, Irene. I used to joke with Bianca that she was my mother reincarnated. They both read incessantly and were super dedicated to their passions (or special interests). Both were like absent minded professors, incredibly smart but socially clueless.
Once I saw the pattern, I could see it in my husband too. I was married to a man with High Functioning Autism (although he has not been formally diagnosed). I had been raised by an autistic mother, married an autistic man, and adopted an autistic child. Talk about karma! I was destined to invest my professional life in this work.
To Phoebe, my greatest teacher.
In spite of all of this discovery, Phoebe was my greatest teacher. Without Phoebe, I may still be puzzling over the family dynamics. Phoebe was the exact opposite of her sister and father. She was always playful, engaging, and adventurous. She loved to chat with me, even as a young child. She taught herself to ride her bike at age six, when her older sister was terrified to ride ever! Phoebe showed me that there is more to life than the esoteric interests of my “Aspie” daughter and husband.
But as time wore on, Phoebe also showed the signs of severe stress as a result of living sandwiched between a parent and a sibling with Autism Spectrum Disorder. By middle school she struggled academically even though she was quite bright. By high school she was choosing the worst boyfriends. She was angry and sullen and depressed. I was heartbroken and I felt like a failure.
It is out of this heartbreak that I started writing my books. I researched autism to be sure, but more importantly I wanted to know how to help Phoebe cope with love in the chaos that autism causes a family, particularly the Neuro-Typical family members.
It took me a bit longer to realize that I needed help too. Mothers are like that. We go to the ends of the Earth for our children, only to discover when we get there that we are worn to a frazzle.
This is a long but important dedication. To Bianca I am grateful for showing me what autism looks like in a gifted child/teen. To Phoebe, I am grateful for showing me that we Neuro-Typicals need lots of support to last in these very tough relationships. To both of my beautiful, smart daughters, I am forever grateful that you taught me two important things:
— Love matters.
— My life matters.
Love you to the Moon and Back,