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Kathy Marshack News

Parents – Are You Teaching Your Children All They Need to Know About Sex?

Monday, March 21, 2016


Young people need to have good parental training and examples in order to have a healthy view of sex, so they can navigate through life successfully.As a psychologist and family business coach, I’ve seen it too often. Even with abundant litigation for sexual harassment in the workplace, infidelity and harassment are still ongoing problems because the underlying cause isn’t being addressed.

Like eating and drinking, the sex drive is a normal and necessary part of human life. Unfortunately, much of what people learn about appropriate sexual behavior is gathered from unreliable sources such as television, movies or pornography, or worse, through exploitation by unethical adults.

As with most human skills, sex can be used in a positive healthy way or it can be used to abuse and manipulate. Sex can lead to pleasure and a love bond within a relationship. Or sex can lead to pain, suffering, and corruption.

Other than a perfunctory sex-education class in public school, where the emphasis is on health and procreation, a young adult needs to learn about sexual techniques, or the relationship between sex and love, or the subtleties of sex in the workplace. But where are they going to learn about sexual ethics if the parents aren’t teaching them?

I have met few parents who openly discuss sexuality with their kids. Most parents tell me they’re more than willing to answer any questions their kids ask about sex, as if any kid in their right mind will tell their parents they’re thinking about sex!

I wrote an article recently for PsychCentral that shows how this lack of education and parental example plays out by examining the case of the Smith Family Firm. (Fictional names to protect the identities.) You’ll see how sexual improprieties affect the family, employees, vendors, business associates, and customers. (Click here to read the entire article.)

So, why do people risk sexual infidelity?

Besides a lack of education, sexual misbehavior is essentially a signal of a deeper problem. It’s a message about a much needed change in a person’s life and relationships. If you’re struggling with this yourself or you don’t know how to talk with your children, please don’t hesitate to seek professional, confidential help from a psychologist. As embarrassing as it is to bring these things out, it’s more embarrassing to pass the problem along to the next generation. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Love, Sex and Intimacy.

Is it Persuasion or Manipulation? How to Tell the Difference

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


Is it Persuasion or s it Manipulation – How to Tell the DifferenceWhen we watch a movie or a TV show we want to be manipulated. We want the script to make us feel like we’re involved, feeling the joy, sadness or thrill. It’s a great escape. Maybe you secretly admire the con artist. Perhaps you harbor just a little desire to get something for nothing just as the con does? Don't you wish you could be so clever?

The truth is that the con knows that you’re not so different from him or her. The only real difference is that you’ve created an illusion that you’re different, that you would never stoop to manipulation, and that you would never willfully take advantage of another person. Because you’re not so different, but are in denial about it, the con swoops in and relieves you of your money, your pride or your sense of safety.

None of us like to be manipulated to do things that aren’t in harmony with our values, desires or plans. Yet, it’s easy to become guilty of snowing the ones you love to get our own way. However, it creates incredible suffering not just in the short run but potentially for generations.

As difficult as it is to admit that we can be conned, it is even more difficult to admit that we can do the conning. However, the mark and the con are two sides of the same coin.

To investigate your manipulative qualities, ask yourself a few questions…

1. Are you in sales?
2. Does your business require that you use persuasion, diplomacy, and charm?
3. Have you ever lied?
4. Have you ever taken advantage of another's ignorance or naiveté?
5. Have you kept something you didn't pay for?
6. Have you ever cried in order to get your way?
7. Have you ever intimidated your opponent into capitulating?
8. Have you ever hurt someone else?
9. When you have hurt someone else, did you say, "I didn't mean to do it."
10. Have you kept a secret to avoid conflict?
11. Have you ever "dropped names"?
12. Have you ever changed the subject when the topic was too close for comfort?
13. Just once, was money your only concern?

The tools of persuasion, diplomacy and charm can be used ethically or unethically. They are like a hammer and screwdriver. The hammer and screwdriver can be used to build a house or to break into someone's home. The choice is up to the individual using the tools. Likewise, persuasion, diplomacy and charm can be used to swindle or to negotiate a mutually rewarding settlement.

Being conscious of your own manipulations allows you to be ethical. With consciousness comes choice. Choosing to be ethical in your communications and dealings with others requires that you take the time to understand others and to be understood fully. There is no room for conning. The risk of destroying trust is too great.

This topic of manipulation is a hot issues for family businesses. If you're in a family business and are concerned about the repercussions of manipulation schedule a Remote Education session with me to dig deeper.

Is A Manipulative Personality Ruining Your Family Life?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


Find out if a manipulative personality is ruining your family life by discovering overt and subtle ways that you may be conned or ways you are conning others.No one likes to feel manipulated or conned into doing something that they don’t want to do, whether it’s because of ethical reasons or personal preference. It leaves you feeling violated – understandably so. The word con is actually an abbreviation for confidence. Therefore the con game is really the confidence game. The success of the game is to create confidence within the victim for the manipulator.

By having confidence in the con artist, we’re handing over our trust, or temporarily suspending our disbelief. No matter how outrageous the con's behavior, once that person has your trust and confidence, the con artist can have their way with you.

Some of you may already know some of the signals of a scam and pride yourself on escaping. Some of the less well-known signals are more intuitive, however.

What are some subtle signals that you’re being manipulated?

  • Feeling ashamed without there being a good reason.
  • Feeling overly impressed or awed by a peer.
  • Feeling special or flattered by attention from someone you hardly know.
  • Finding out there’s no pay off for you.
  • Discovering you’re being used because you’re doing more work than the other person in the relationship.
  • Always hearing “good” excuses for why the other person never seems to come through for you.

Less recognizable are the signals that YOU are doing the manipulation. If it’s been your life pattern for a long time, you might not even be aware of it. Here are a few indicators:

1. How often do you say: "I didn't mean to…" Can this really be manipulation? Well, ask yourself how you feel when the tables are turned. Don’t you feel mad, confused, hurt, or trapped? The person who uses the "I didn't mean it" con game is not taking full responsibility for their actions. It's as if no harm was done if the person didn't mean it. So the next time those words start forming on your lips, stop and make a straightforward apology for your actions and offer to clean up the problem, whether you committed the deed accidentally or intentionally.

2. Do you bully others into submission or charm them into acquiescing, when deep down inside they don’t agree with you? Really, what kind of agreement do you have? How much support are you going to get in the long run? Have you increased your family's trust or are they just afraid of you?

3. Do you make frequent and generous promises which you don’t fulfill? Perhaps you keep lunch dates waiting for hours, dismissing it with the excuse that you’re such a busy person. You expect people to always make allowances for your “little foibles”.

If you truly want to prosper as a family, then be committed to cleaning up these covert confidence games that you’re playing with the ones you love. It can help to enlist the assistance of a dispassionate professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment, so we can work on making your family truly happy and secure.

How Do You Know if Your Child is Gifted and Why It Matters

Monday, February 29, 2016


Gifted children are fundamentally different and they need their parents and teachers help to learn social and self-development skills to relate to others.Every parent should think their child is special, because they are all special. But are they all gifted? The definition of gifted is: “someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression.” So how do you know if your child is gifted?

One way to identify giftedness is to have your child’s IQ scored. An IQ over 130 is usually an indication of superior intelligence or giftedness. But a person doesn’t have to have a high IQ to be gifted in a creative sense.

Observations by parents and teachers are an important factor in identifying gifted children. The following typical intellectual characteristics are things you can look for:

  • Unusually large vocabularies for their age
  • Ability to read earlier than most children, often before entering school
  • Greater comprehension of the subtleties of language
  • Longer attention span, persistence and intense concentration
  • Ability to learn basic skills more quickly and with less practice
  • Wide range of interests
  • Highly developed curiosity and a limitless supply of questions
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Tendency to put ideas of thing together in ways that are unusual and not obvious (divergent thinking)
  • Ability to retain a great deal of information
  • Unusual sense of humor

After identifying your child as gifted, it’s critical that you educate yourself. Gifted children are fundamentally different and they need their parents and teachers help to learn the social, interpersonal and self-development skills to relate to the rest of humanity. Take specific steps to help your gifted child become positively motivated, to encourage desirable behaviors and to help them develop a good self-concept.

By doing this, you can understand and perhaps even avoid some common problems gifted children commonly face such as a lack of motivation, boredom, perfectionism, cynicism and even depression. Encourage, nurture, stimulate, and challenge your child. Give him or her freedom to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors. In this way you will help them to know, trust and value themselves.

To get a thorough and realistic appraisal of your child’s potential, parents may decide to have an individual intellectual and achievement evaluation by a qualified psychologist. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment, and I’d be happy to administer the evaluation.

Are You Encouraging Girls Who Are Natural Leaders?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


People usually either have a natural leadership ability or they don't, and you can see the quality almost from birth. But that doesn't mean all people born with this quality become leaders. The quality needs to be nurtured for it to grow and flourish. Just as soccer camp and piano lessons nurture the young athlete and young musician, so must parents help their young leader find experiences to help her to hone this skill.

In one psychology study a number of years ago, participants were asked to describe the qualities of a male leader. They listed such qualities as strong, decisive, charismatic, aggressive, goal oriented, tall and so forth. When a separate group was shown this list of characteristics and told that this described a woman, the participants considered her unfeminine, unlikable, angry and manipulative.

The big difference I’ve noticed between male and female leaders is mostly in how those characteristics were acquired. In other words, women business leaders develop their leadership from quite different life experiences than their male counterparts. And these life experiences do distinguish leadership styles and qualities.

I’m thankful that more and more women leaders are being acknowledged and welcomed as unique human beings who bring their own particular personality to the organization they lead. So many women of my generation grew up feeling like an odd ball. We were told we were too aggressive or unfeminine. Now women are at the helm of multi-billion dollar corporations, like Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, or run for major political office, like Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have.


For girls to grow up to be successful women business leaders they must conquer the fear of being unfeminine, being willing to break the rules. They need to continue to rise above the negative female stereotypes. It requires:

  • Pride in independent thinking
  • Fearless determination to accomplish your goals.
  • Willingness to create opportunities where others see limitations.

As entrepreneurs or business leaders both women and men are achievers, driven, tenacious, and independent. They’re unafraid of hard work. They strive for excellence in whatever they undertake. They can be impatient with the insecurities of others because these insecurities slow down the process. On the other hand, these leaders are very good at encouraging excellence in others, because they have a powerful belief in their cause. Leaders also believe in their abilities to accomplish whatever they put their minds to. This is probably the defining characteristic of leaders. Strong belief creates charisma and charisma creates followers.

Do you see leadership qualities in your daughter and would like expert advice on how to nurture it while caring for her emotional, psychological and spiritual needs? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Gifted Children.

Are New Year’s Resolutions Too Superficial?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Every year you resolve to lose weight, quit drinking, or spend more time with family, yet the resolve fades, so why are New Year’s Resolutions so hard to keep? Every year you may resolve, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to quit drinking so much”, or “I want to spend more time with my family.” Yet as January fades away so does your resolve. Why is it that we can’t accomplish what we want? Because all too often we apply a band-aid when surgery is needed. We end up trying to fix the symptom or signal without addressing the real problem.

When problem solving the first question to ask yourself is, "Is this thing I’m observing the signal or the problem?" Recognizing and interpreting the signals is quite a complex process, but you can improve your skills.

However, there are two common mistakes people make when trying to solve a problem or create real change in their lives…

1. Ignoring signals until they grow into serious problems. For example, I often hear that people too busy to attend to themselves or their personal relationships. Too busy doing what? Working? You need to ask yourself why are you working so hard? Is that your goal? Most people want a close-knit family who enjoys being together. But if you’re too busy managing the nuts and bolts of a business or career and have no time to enjoy and communicate with your family, aren't you overriding one of the reasons why you working in the first place?

2. Mistaking signals for the problem. When a person is angry or aggressive, we tend to listen, but when a person is quiet or passive, we tend to ignore them. Actually, those behaviors are signals of something. Discovering the meaning of the signals takes digger deeper.

The bottom line is that all human behavior is meaningful. But the meaning may come disguised as signals that look like problems themselves. For example, alcoholism is a signal of a pervasive illness. Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, may be a sign of overwork, too much stress, a lack of parental guidance, or even confusion in the work place. If you try to solve the problem of alcoholism by reducing the person's stress at work, the alcoholic may just have more time to drink. Likewise, if you recommend alcohol treatment for the person who is abusing alcohol, they may stop drinking but find other self-destructive methods to cope with problems at work.

Many New Year’s resolutions are superficial but the underlying problems most likely require deeper probing. So if there’s something about your life that isn’t working don’t just settle with a quickly forgotten resolution. Instead dig in, assess, diagnose and search out the meaning. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to figure out what the signals are telling you. I’ll help you tap into all the strengths at your disposal to create workable solutions.

Explore Alternative Treatment of Depression as Research Links SSRIs During Pregnancy with Increased Risk of Autism

Monday, January 25, 2016


Should I take SSRIs for depression while I'm pregnant?" This is a vital question to discuss with your Dr. since there's an increased risk of autism in your childOnce again a study links taking SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil) during pregnancy with increased risk of autism in the child. Anick Bérard of the University of Montreal an internationally known expert in the field of pharmaceutical safety during pregnancy published the finding in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The researchers factored into the study genetic predisposition or family history, maternal age, socioeconomic factors such as poverty, and the affects of depression itself. And they found that you double the risk of Autism if SSRIs are used.

Bérard and her team followed 145,456 children from birth to 10 years of age. Significantly, 1,054 of those children were diagnosed with autism. When interviewed she said:

“Using antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), during the 2nd/3rd trimesters of pregnancy increases the risk of having a child with autism (87 percent increased risk of autism with any antidepressants; more than doubling the risk with SSRI use specifically) – this risk is above and beyond the risk associated with maternal depression alone (maternal depression was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of autism in our study). Given the mounting evidence showing increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcome with antidepressant use during pregnancy, our study shows that depression should be treated with other options (other than antidepressants) during this critical period.

Indeed, 80-85 percent of depressed pregnant women are mildly to moderately depressed; exercise and psychotherapy have been shown to be efficacious to treat depression in this sub-group. Therefore, we acknowledge that depression is a serious condition but that antidepressants are not always the best solution.

Our study is not out to scare women. It’s 2015 and women can make informed decisions, but they need to have evidence-based data. A discussion with their physician is warranted in order to fully consider all treatment options.”

The prevalence of autism amongst children is increasing. So is depression. According to the World Health Organization, by the year 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, after heart disease. Therefore, it’s likely that antidepressants will remain widely prescribed, including during pregnancy.

Today six to 10 percent of pregnant women are currently being treated for depression with antidepressants. Since 80 to 85 percent of depressed pregnant women are mildly to moderately depressed, it is advantageous to use medication as the last resort. This degree of depression can often be effectively treated with alternative methods such as exercise, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a holistic health approach.

If you’re depressed and plan on becoming pregnant, please learn about your medical choices. If you’re already taking SSRIs please consult your doctor. It would be harmful to stop taking them without your doctor’s supervision. And it’s harmful to leave depression untreated for the duration of the pregnancy, since depression itself increases the risk of autism.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like to be fully informed about treating depression with holistic health options, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Parents – Is Sexting Just Another Name for Child Pornography?

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


sexting the same as child pornographyAs a parent, you’d do anything to protect your children from being a victim of child pornography. You know the emotional, mental and possibly physical harm that can come to your child, especially it if falls into the hands of bullies and adult sex offenders.

Yet, more and more teens are creating and distributing child porn without even knowing it. It’s called sexting. So, how do you protect your child in an age when children have access to the Internet and yet they don't have the maturity to protect themselves?

A recent New York Times article by Erik Eckholm discusses this weighty issue of teenage sexting and the legal consequences. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, two teenagers were charged with the felony of “exploiting a minor.” This could have resulted in a lengthy prison sentence and being listed on the sex offender registry. Can you imagine what that would do to their future? Their quality of life? Their job prospects?

It’s tempting for teen sweethearts to trade nude photos over their cell phones. In the heat of the moment they don’t think about what that means. However, in Washington State and Oregon, sexting may result in state felony charges including dissemination of child pornography. The act of sexting isn’t illegal, but it becomes a child pornography issue when the photographer, recipient of the text or distributor is under the age of 18.

So when a 15-year-old girl emails a sexually explicit photo of herself to a boy, she has in theory created and distributed child porn. If that boy sends the picture to his friends, he’s guilty of possession and distribution of child pornography.

The article goes on to say that “about 20 states have adopted new laws intended to address juvenile sexting by providing a less severe range of legal responses to personal photo-sharing, including misdemeanor charges that may be expunged, and required community service or counseling.”

But is legislating new laws the answer? Isn’t it more important to address the most crucial issue – what is this obsession with sexting doing to young people today?

Mr. Fitzpatrick, the prosecutor in New York State, is implementing a program that educates students and parents about the personal and legal risks. When his assistant district attorney makes the presentation in high schools, it’s clear that it’s right on target. He said, “About a third of the way through, you see this wave of students frantically hitting the erase buttons on their phones.

Please don’t dismiss sexting as a childhood indiscretion. The consequences may follow your child throughout his or her life. I urge you to create a relaxed atmosphere in which to speak with your teen about sex and sexting as soon as possible. In a respectful manner explain the dangers to them. If you have a hard time communicating with your teenager you may need support. If so, seek the assistance of a mental health care professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and need help in reaching your teen, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Don’t Make the Mistake of Hiding Family Problems From Your Children

Monday, November 30, 2015


Don't shield children from family problemsIt’s hard to keep secrets in family businesses yet I see so many parents try. I have had too many parents tell me that their children aren’t aware of the hardship the parent or the business is facing.

The reality is that the child knows something. Just like an animal can smell danger, your child can feel the tension in the house, even if he or she can’t describe in words what’s wrong. If your child doesn’t get your help in understanding the family problem, he or she can only imagine what's going on — and usually imagines the worst.

I have had four-year-olds tell me of their parents' pending divorce, when not even the respective spouses knew, but it eventually proved to be true. I have had ten-year-olds tell me the extent of Dad's alcohol problem, down to where he hides his bottles, when Mom was still in denial about her husband's alcoholism. I have had teenagers tell me of a parent's extramarital affair because they were afraid to tell this "secret" to anyone else.

Some children handle these psychological traumas poorly. Some coast on by without a scratch. Others have problems at home but not at school. The bottom line is that "it all depends”. What it depends on is how the trauma is handled by the child and his or her parents and significant others. As the child's primary role model, you can reframe the trauma into a learning experience. Your child will experience many difficult times while growing up, and adult life is certainly not problem-free either.

By working with your child to resolve his or her feelings of fear, anger, and grief, and by also working through your own, you’re helping your child learn how to handle the stresses and strains of human life. As parents we may feel that our children should never have to suffer. However, another way to look at suffering is that it’s an opportunity to grow, to become stronger, more resilient.

As parents, don’t deprive your children of experiencing the hardships that face the family or the business. For example, don’t hide dissension between you and your spouse. A fair fight between Mom and Dad that results in a fair and appropriate resolution gives your child a chance to see how conflicts get resolved. If you shelter your children from the hard times, they may not know that hard times exist ahead for them, and they may not learn how to cope when they do come.

Obviously, you don’t want to expose your child to harm, nor use the sink-or-swim method of parenting. Yet as you act in your role as family leader, you can assist him or her in discovering every aspect of life, the good as well as the bad. You can encourage your child to use his or her resources to resolve new problems, thus building your child's confidence that he or she can handle tough things. You can demonstrate that even though life is no cakewalk, you are open to learning new things. You can resolve most of the dilemmas that life dishes out.

Read more on my website: Am I a Good Parent? If you could use help resolving a problem in your marriage, your relationship with your children or both and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

How to Use Good Communication Skills to Revive Stale Relationships

Monday, November 16, 2015


You need good communication skills to revive a stale relationshipRelationships are ever evolving. Because we as individuals change over time, we can’t expect our relationships to stay the same. Nor would we want them to since they would become boring and stale. We want our close friendships to mature and grow with us.

Do you find yourself in a stale relationship? How can you refresh it? Without good communication skills and quality time dedicated to communicating, relationships soon flounder and fail. We all need to learn that relationships are not a thing, but a process.

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral discussing this topic and shared an example of how one couple, Steven and Danielle, assumed they knew how the other felt and started taking each other for granted. I’d encourage you to click here to read the entire PsychCentral article. (And while you’re there, will you share this information from your favorite social media platform, too?)

How can you nurture a floundering relationship back to health?

Firstly, recognize that people are relationships. We know ourselves (our similarities and differences) only in relationship to others. When we aren’t able to communicate with others, we become confused and begin to doubt ourselves or we build impenetrable defenses against change.

Secondly, pay attention to how you listen. Listening means that, instead of planning your next comment, you just listen and try to understand where your partner is coming from; don’t comment; don’t judge. And it also requires that you make sure you’re on the same page to begin with and that you then stay on the subject.

Thirdly, disagreement is good if handled respectfully and honestly. It gives everyone the opportunity to examine their own views, challenges them and allows them to grow as they consider something new.

As you develop the art of listening and conversing, you’ll have more meaningful conversations and develop deeper relationships. Without these skills you will never achieve the intimacy you crave. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, and you our struggling to adapt and communicate in your relationship with your partner please contact my office and schedule an appointment. It really does help to talk with someone.



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