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Kathy Marshack News

3 Tools to Help Psychotherapists Understand the Impact Asperger’s Has on the Whole Family

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


If you’ve tried psychotherapy for your ASD/NT relationship and it didn’t work, don’t despair, because with further education and the right approach it can.It was a relief to Mandy (not a real person, but her story illustrates the life many of you live) to have finally found the reason for her husband’s puzzling and hurtful behavior during their 23 years of marriage. She knew he loved her in his own way, and he didn’t intentionally want to distress her. He just didn’t seem to know how to show love like he ought to. His diagnosis of a high functioning form of ASD, called Asperger’s Syndrome, explained a lot.

But over the last year, she’s discovered that there is a big gap between understanding why he does something and finding ways to cope with it. She and Brian had tried couples counseling. And while she and the therapist quickly connected, Brian sat there staring out the window.

Mandy had found a very good therapist, (I wasn’t so lucky when I was searching for help with my daughter!) but the therapist hasn’t specialized in how ASD impacts a marriage, family dynamics or parenting children. Psychotherapy that works for neuro-typicals doesn’t work for those who have the mind blindness of Asperger’s. While there are many caring, intelligent, trustworthy psychologists and social workers who want to help, they need education. And often for families with ASD as part of the mix, it rests on you to educate your therapist.

Remember you’re forming a working partnership with your therapist. You’re on the same side, so don’t feel intimidated. When you keep your appointment with your therapist, provide him or her with the following tools:

First, be brave and don't let them talk you out of what you know to be true about your relationship.

Secondly, encourage them to read books on Asperger/Neuro-Typical Relationships. I have two books on this topic, plus there are others available. A good therapist is open to learning more. They want to expand their consciousness; so help them do that.

Third, suggest they get consultation from an expert. Invite them to join my new Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Continuing Education for Psychotherapists.

Aspies can benefit from psychotherapy. However, they need coaching more than therapy because of their lack of empathy, theory of mind and insight. But there are ways to get our Aspies on board for therapy! We’ll be talking about the how to do it at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD video conference. It’s entitled: “Why psychotherapy doesn't work and what to do about it”. It will be held on Thursday, March 9th at 9:00 AM. There are only limited spaces on this call, so register your spot soon.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you need some 1-on-1 with me to discuss your situation privately, please feel free to contact my office and we’ll schedule an appointment to discuss ways to improve your situation.


Stressed Employees? Six Ways to Reduce Stress in a Family Business

Monday, February 20, 2017


Stressed woman sitting at deskAs an entrepreneur, you are used to handling high stress levels. It comes with the job. But what about your employees? They deal with stress, too. High levels of stress can cause or compound a variety of physical and emotional health issues. As a result, stressed-out employees tend to take more time off and be less productive when they are in the office. Their stress can also rub off on you, customers and coworkers.
 
You may think it’s not your job, but savvy business owners recognize that helping employees reduce stress is a top priority. If you work with your family, it is more important than ever to create a positive work environment. The good news is there are many positive changes you can make to create a work environment that reduces the stress you and your employees feel.
 
How can you help reduce the stress felt by your employees? Consider these six ideas:
 
  1. Set a good example. Just as children imitate the example of their parents, so too do employees imitate the example of their boss. Demonstrate what work-life balance looks like. Take time for your family and your wellbeing. Avoid negative attitudes. If you establish a culture of balance and reasonableness at the office, your employees will follow suit and stress levels will go down.
  2. Help them find balance. Even if your employees see you taking time for yourself and trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance, they could struggle to achieve the same thing in their own life. So empower them with information about the benefits of staying healthy through exercise and good eating habits, and the importance of taking breaks. You may even want to create company policies that encourage health and wellbeing.
  3. Communicate openly. Be clear and open with everyone involved in the family business. Create an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and making suggestions. Let each person know what is expected of them and how they can gauge their success. Stress is reduced when people feel heard and informed.
  4. Don’t be afraid of confrontation. In family firms, conflicts often get buried instead of being resolved. However, avoiding conflict can lead to serious problems. Issues can fester, and progress isn’t made. In order to get to the bottom of conflicts and move forward, you must respectfully and firmly confront the issue. Acknowledge that you may or may not be right, but insist that the family talk things out. Keep talking until you find a mutually agreeable solution.
  5. Create a pleasant work environment. Your employees will do their best work when their environment is free of clutter and full of life. Get to work organizing, filing, and putting things away. Encourage laughter, teamwork, and bonding. Bring in some art and plants. Plants purify the air, reduce blood pressure, and promote positive energy.
  6. Express appreciation. It is a good practice to daily look for opportunities to tell each person how much you appreciate them. Employees need to hear commendation. And if they hear you offering commendation, they will be more likely to express appreciation for the help their colleagues give them as well.
 
A positive work environment is vital when it comes to reducing job stress, forging strong family bonds, and increasing productivity. Sometimes it is easier said than done, especially when it comes to working with family. I am here to help you manage the unique challenges of working with your loved ones. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Entrepreneurs – How to Conquer Your Own Worst Enemy

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Shoe squishing the word impossibleWhat do you consider to be your worst enemy as an entrepreneur? The ever-changing market? Fickle customers? Your competition?
 
What about your own negative attitude?
 
You may have heard that attitude is everything, and indeed it is. The mind and body connection is very real and very powerful. Our emotions affect our bodies and dwelling on negative ones can cause many physical health problems.
 
But did you realize that optimism could also greatly impact the health and wellbeing of your business? Optimists tend to be solution-oriented. When they encounter a setback, instead of throwing their hands up, they continue to search for a way around the problem because they are convinced there is a solution. They are also willing to try new things because they recognize that what looks like failure is really a learning experience.
 
While optimism can positively impact your life and business in a very large way, negativity can quickly tear down what you have worked for. Negativity adds to the normal stress felt by entrepreneurs everywhere. It also has a debilitating effect, sometimes preventing people from moving forward and getting past a situation or starting something new.
 
Do you tend to have a pessimistic attitude about life or your business? Or perhaps all the negativity in the media of late is having an impact on your state of mind?
 
Let’s consider three steps that can help you turn your negative thoughts around:
 
Accept your thoughts and feelings. It is important not to dismiss your negative thoughts and worries. Worrying about worrying is not going to help you! Accept your thoughts and feelings and take time to examine them. When you accept the existence of the negative thought and take ownership of it, you take back power and control. The problem no longer feels so large.
 
I often suggest to my clients that they make the effort to practice mindfulness, a simple form of meditation that helps you get control of your thoughts and behaviors. It is the act of focusing all of your attention on the present. Focus on what you are doing or feeling without thinking about why you’re doing it or feeling that way, what you should do next, or what you think you should be doing. Mindfulness requires that you consider your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
 
Challenge your negative thoughts. Once you accept your negative thoughts, you are in the position to challenge them. Ask yourself: Is there real evidence for your frightening thoughts and predictions? Are they founded in unhelpful beliefs? What are the pros and cons of worrying or avoiding the thing I fear?
 
Replace negative thoughts with realistic thoughts. Once you’ve identified the irrational or negative distortions in your anxious thoughts, replace them with new thoughts that are more realistic and positive. It can be helpful to view your negative thoughts and worries as incentives to search for solutions. Especially in business, solutions do not come from worry or fear. They come from putting our attention on what is good and beneficial.
 
Often, negative thoughts are part of a lifelong pattern of thinking. It takes time and practice to break these habits. To help you adjust your thinking to a more positive perspective, I suggest starting each day with a positive thought. That may sound small, but it will help you set the tone for how you will choose to think for the day. It is also beneficial to practice gratitude every day. People who look for reasons to be grateful experience better mental health, emotional wellbeing and resiliency in the face of difficulties.
 
If you still feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts and you live near Portland OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office to schedule an appointment. I can help you put your negative thoughts into perspective and cultivate a positive attitude that will help you succeed in life and business.

Does Your Family Business Need Good Advice?

Monday, February 13, 2017


people holding pieces of a puzzle togetherThere are times in life when we all need good advice. Although you may take pride in your independence and individualism, most of us can agree that the right advice at the right time can save us a lot of heartache. Whether we seek it from a parent, mentor, therapist, or religious leader, we appreciate their insight. Even if the advice seems irrelevant, it might trigger your own thinking to evolve in a constructive direction.
 
What if you run a family business? Who do you go to for advice?
 
Maybe it is just you and your spouse, starting your own entrepreneurial venture as a couple. Or perhaps you have a more established family enterprise that has already been passed down for a couple of generations. Who do you turn to when there are communication problems, underlying tension, conflict over success planning, etc.?
 
After decades consulting with family businesses, I find many business owners are puzzled when their attorney or CPA suggests meeting with me before making important business decisions. What does a psychologist have to do with business? “We don’t need a shrink,” they say.
 
What are the benefits of a psychologist’s expertise when it comes to developing goals and resolving problems in a family business?
 
For entrepreneurial couples, it is important to remember that you are a married couple first, and business partners second. Your business partnership is an expression of the personality and values of you as the founders. If you want to run a successful business, you must prioritize and tend to the personal, emotional, and psychological aspects of your life and relationship before you can make good business decisions. Thus, one of your primary consultants needs to be a psychologist – preferably one familiar with entrepreneurial couples and their specific challenges.
 
When more members of the family are involved in the business, it is even more important to get sound advice. Many family businesses have been around for two or more generations and the children have grown up identifying themselves with the family business. What this means for many family firms is that the business is as much a part of the family as each family member is a part of the business.
 
Family businesses are really families with a business identity. As a psychologist, I have been able to get beneath the surface of some business problems to identify and rectify the emotional snags that are holding things up. There is nothing more frustrating or expensive than taking months to develop a new business strategy, only to have it sit there, going nowhere, because of a family dispute. Without help to work on the underlying issues, family tensions will affect the business.
 
One specific problem that many family firms deal with is a lack of open communication. Many family firms want to have open communication and resolve longstanding disputes. Why is it so hard? Even with the best of intentions, many families in business simply do not have the skills to address and resolve these problems. They need support and guidance by an objective psychologist who is trained in resolving problems within a family business. These are skills that can be learned! Look at it as a vital course in your continuing education program.
 
Do not let the “shrink” stigma hold you back. Rather, think of your psychologist as an integral part of your team of advisors. I have helped many entrepreneurial couples and families in business work together and thrive. If you live near Portland OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Don’t be a Casualty of Social Isolation!

Friday, February 10, 2017


Don’t be a Casualty of Social Isolation!Ironically, while we now have the ability to connect digitally with millions of people around the globe, the problem of social isolation is growing. More and more people are feeling loneliness. Not only is this emotionally devastating but it creates serious health issues such as:

  • disrupted sleep patterns,
  • altered immune systems,
  • inflammation,
  • obesity,
  • higher levels of stress hormone,
  • increased risk of heart disease by 29 percent,
  • increased risk for stroke by 32 percent,
  • accelerated cognitive decline,
  • and premature death.

A recent NY Times article shares some disturbing statistics on social isolation:

40 percent of American adults say they’re lonely, which has doubled since the 1980’s.

One-third of Americans, older than 65, live alone.

Socially isolated individuals have a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, mainly among those who are middle age.

Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors.

The article includes this interesting observation:

“New research suggests that loneliness is not necessarily the result of poor social skills or lack of social support, but can be caused in part by unusual sensitivity to social cues. Lonely people are more likely to perceive ambiguous social cues negatively, and enter a self-preservation mind-set — worsening the problem. In this way, loneliness can be contagious: When one person becomes lonely, he withdraws from his social circle and causes others to do the same.”

How well do you recognize social cues, such as facial expressions? Do you tend to jump to negative conclusions? Negative thinking is not incurable. There’s much you can do to improve your life. It’s never too late to develop a warm social network. Depression, anxiety, and stress are all issues that you can overcome with the aid of a professional. Contact my office if you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area to make an appointment.

Click here to read the entire NY Times article and see how some people are trying to solve the problem of social isolation.

When Does the Brain Reach Maturity?

Monday, February 06, 2017


When does the brain reach maturity?When is a person mature? When is he or she old enough to vote? To date? To get married? To give informed consent? To drink responsibly? Many legal questions depend on a cut and dried answer, but the answer isn’t so easy. Why? Because scientists have found that the brain reshapes itself for years after adolescence, which raises questions about when an adult really is mature in the legal sense.

A recent NY Times article reports one study conducted by Harvard neuroscientist, Leah H. Somerville and another study by Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University. Here are some highlights:

“The human brain reaches its adult volume by age 10, but the neurons continue to change for years after that.

In a child’s brain, neighboring regions tend to work together.

As adolescents age, the connections between neighboring neurons get pruned back, as new links emerge between more widely separated areas of the brain.

By adulthood, distant regions start acting in concert. Neuroscientists speculate that this long-distance harmony lets the adult brain work more efficiently and process more information.

Eventually this reshaping slows, a sign that the brain is maturing.

The reshaping happens at different rates in different parts of the brain.

The pruning in the occipital lobe, at the back of the brain, tapers off by age 20.

In the frontal lobe of the brain, new links are still forming at age 30, and beyond.

Adolescents do about as well as adults on cognition tests, but strong emotions cause their cognitive scores to plummet.”

The maturing of the brain is a complex process. The better we understand it, the better our legislative policies, psychotherapy treatments and even our inter-personal and family relationships will be. Ongoing education is the key to this greater understanding.

I’m committed to providing the highest quality education for professionals who serve families with ASD. Does that describe you? If so, please join my new meetup - Asperger Syndrome: Continuing Education for Psychotherapists. It will prove to be an invaluable resource for you!

Autism or Narcissism – How Can You Tell?

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Autism or Narcissism – How Can You Tell?Autism and Narcissism have something in common. They are both empathy disorders, the result of the individual not having a Theory of Mind. What this means is that they don’t recognize that another person has beliefs, desires, intentions, feelings and perspectives that differ from their own. Empathy is a complex system that requires the brain to connect Emotional Empathy and Cognitive Empathy.

Since Narcissism and Autism display similar traits, how can you tell the difference between Narcissism and Asperger’s?


  • First, Autism is a diagnosis and narcissism is only a trait of many disorders. 
  • Second, not all Autistics are the same since it is a spectrum disorder. 
  • Third, all Autistics are narcissistic since a defining characteristic of Autism is lack of empathy.

It’s important to know that it isn't narcissism per se that defines the Autistic. It is how the Autistic works with their tendency toward narcissism, self-absorption and lack of empathy. If the Autistic takes responsibility for their narcissism and truly wants to repair the rifts that their unempathic behavior creates, then there’s hope for the relationship.

On the other hand, if the Autistic believes that their singular narcissistic worldview is all that matters, then it’s probably irrelevant that they’re diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This person tips toward narcissism and that's how they need to be treated.

If you’ve wasted too much of your precious life trying to accommodate an ASD narcissist, whether it’s a family member, coworker or neighbor, then I invite you to join our Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. We have monthly discussions that will help you deal with this crazy making life.


Our next free international teleconference: How is Autism different than Narcissim? will be held on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 2:30 PM. You’ll find out how to distinguish whether it’s narcissism or Autism that you’re dealing with. That makes all the difference in how you’ll respond.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you need some 1-on-1 with me to discuss your situation privately, please feel free to contact my office and we’ll schedule an appointment to discuss ways to improve your situation.



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