7 Lessons no one ever taught you

ABOUT the AUTHOR of this unique online self-improvement course

Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

Updated December 16, 2014

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      I was an engineer (BSME from Stanford), trainer, and manager for GT&E and IBM for 17 years. In 1979, I began my second career by earning a Master's degree in social work (MSW) from George Williams college near Chicago. That led to being a professional family-systems researcher, educator, and therapist in private practice. I began by specializing in work with couples, divorcing families, and stepfamilies, partly motivated by own divorce and experience as a stepfather and stepson.

      My engineering training and experience has unexpectedly been of great benefit in my therapy with people and families. It taught me how to analyze complex human problems and break them into manageable projects. Since 1979, I've only met two other therapists with this unusual engineering--business-clinical background.

      It has also led me to the systematic study of human communication - including thinking and hypnosis - for over 40 years. Lesson 2 in this Web site and these related videos summarize what I've learned so far. One learning: fewer than 5% of "educated" people (like you?) know how to communicate and problem-solve effectively. They don't know what they don't know, or what their unawareness costs them, their kids, and our troubled society and world.

      In 1986 (at age 48), I discovered both my parents had been functional alcoholics, our family was very dysfunctional, and my childhood was very traumatic. That epiphany sparked an obsessive quest to understand addiction, "family dysfunction," the effects of growing up in a low-nurturance family, and how to assess and recover from six psychological wounds. That quest has led me to evolve my life mission and the theme of this Web site - improving personal and family health by educating people (like you) on how to stop toxic wounds and ignorance from passing down the generations.

      I have designed and led over 400 classes and seminars for adults and teens on interpersonal communications skills, healthy grieving, anger management, addictions, divorce recovery; effective parenting; and recovery from low-nurturance-childhood wounds.

      My sponsors have included the State of Illinois; Cook County States Attorney's Office, the Catholic Diocese (Family Life Office) of Rockford IL, Mothers Without Custody, major Chicago-area businesses; Governors State, Northwestern, Northeastern Illinois, and Northern Illinois universities; and many local schools, churches, and mental-health agencies. I have appeared on local and national radio and NBC television speaking on these topics.

      I was a board member of a large suburban-Chicago mental health center for seven years, including a term a president. I was also president of the local high school's Citizen's Advisory Council

    Three decades of clinical study and research, 29 years' personal wound recovery, and seven decades of life experience, have contributed to my forming the premises that underlie this site and my work.

      At age 75, I am deeply concerned about crippling global indifference to...

  • preventing the [wounds + unawareness] cycle;

  • the right-to-die movement,

  • correcting typical adults' unawareness of themselves and each other;

  • teaching kids and adults to think and communicate more effectively,

  • the pandemic toxic effects of unqualified child conception and parenting,

  • preventing widespread psychological and legal divorce; and...

  • the irreversible damage we humans are doing to our Earth.

      To do something constructive about several of these issues, I have uploaded over 180 brief, educational YouTube videos corresponding to the 7 sequential self=improvement Lessons in this Web site. The ad-free videos have received over 500,000 hits, and are meant to help visual and auditory learners grasp the main ideas in this course. Many articles and worksheets in this site have one or more of these videos embedded in it. To optimize your learning, study the online lessons, not just the videos.

       The Break the Cycle! videos and Web site have attracted over 950 international women and men to join a free mutual-support group on FaceBook Our common quest is personal recovery from psychological wounds, protecting kids from toxic parenting, and alerting others to the cycle and it's widespread effects..

      I've been confined to a wheelchair since 2006 because of an incurable muscle-wasting disease. I had to retire from my private therapy practice in January 2006, and now do limited phone and Skype consultations from Portland, Oregon (USA).

      My main focus since 1986 has been on assisting people in...

Recovery from Early-childhood Trauma

      In 1981, my second divorce and life-long anxiety, pretense, and isolation caused me to hit personal bottom. I was 43, childless, and alone. That led to discovering that I was a normal "ACoA":- the Adult Child of an Alcoholic family, I began proactive ACoA (psycho-spiritual) "recovery" in 1986. That led to learning about the roots and effects of addiction, including relationship addiction - codependence.

      Over time, hundreds of students and troubled therapy clients taught me that common ACoA problems like shame, depression, isolation, reality distortion, distrust, anxiety, numbness, confusion, and divorce were common to all kids who experienced early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse ("trauma"), not just ACoAs.

       Since then, affirmations from hundreds of viewers of my YouTube videos from all over the world consistently indicate that inheriting psychological [wounds and unawareness] is a problem in all cultures,.

      My quest to understand these wounds and how to prevent and reduce them (Lesson 1) has led me to shift from childhood atheism to a firm belief in a benign, accessible, responsive Higher Power It also motivated me to learn and practice inner family system (IFS) therapy since 1992. Both of these have profoundly changed my life and work.

      My work with over 1,000 average international women and men suggests that...

  • over 80% of the adults in typical troubled lives, relationships, and families are Grown Wounded Children (GWCs), who...

  • have little understanding of...:

    • personality formation and operation, and...

    • effective communication and problem-solving, and...

    • bonding, losses, and healthy grief; and...

    • healthy relationships and families, and...

    • effective parenting.

    Test your knowledge of these topics by taking these quizzes.

  • typical GWCs don't (want to) know this or what it means to them and their kids until they accumulate stress and hit bottom - usually in mid-life; and...

  • the global public is unaware of - and uninterested in - this epidemic and lethal [wounds + ignorance] cycle.

      I began broadcasting what I've learned about solving stepfamily problems on the Web in 1999. Since then, my nonprofit, ad-free Web site has evolved in structure and content. In May of 2009, I began enlarging the site's scope to all families, and shifting the format to a free 7-Part self-improvement course. to help offset the toxic unawareness above.

      I've never seen another book, program, or Web site focused on understanding and breaking the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle. If you know of one, please let me know!

      If you don't need to know my background in stepfamilies, go here.

Stepfamily Therapy and Education

      I spent two years (full time) researching lay and professional stepfamily literature published between 1979 and 1980 for my social work Master's-degree thesis. Since then, I've taken over 400 hours of clinical post-graduate training in a wide range of topics. I have consulted with well over 1,000 typical Mid-western divorcing and stepfamily adults since 1981.

      I co-founded the nonprofit Stepfamily Association of Illinois, Inc. (SAI) with interested others in 1981. Shortly after that, I was invited to join the Board of Directors of the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA) by its founders, Drs. John and Emily Visher. I later served on the SAA Advisory Council, and was invited to rejoin the Board in March, 2002 by President Marjorie Engel, PhD.

      After SAA passed it's mission to the National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC), I became a member of their Stepfamily Experts Council.

      I took over 3,000 calls on the Stepfamily inFormation "warm-line." I moderated the "Stepfamily Issues" chat at Divorcenet.com for two years, and have answered over 500 online stepparenting questions at AllExperts.com. I rejoined AllExperts.com 2008 as an expert in effective communication, childhood-trauma recovery, marriage, and counseling.

      I have learned from over 1,000 typical family adults from all walks of life, in over 18,000 hours of personal consultations, classes, and workshops. I have published my learnings in this (evolving) non-profit Web site, several magazines, and a series of guidebooks for lay and professional readers. I was also a contributing editor for SAA's e-magazine Your Stepfamily Online.

       I created a modular 18-hour class for stepfamily adults, and led versions of it for scores of groups in the Chicago area. One Part is a unique three-hour stepfamily role-play for groups of 12 or more people to raise their awareness experientially. That class is the basis for Lesson 7 in this Web site. I also taught a half-day portion of a stepfamily-life weekend seminar to 40 groups of remarrying couples.

Phone Consultation

For perspective on consulting with me by phone or Skype, read this and view this brief video. To contact me, click this.

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