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Counseling/Friendship: Knowing what to do


Hi Pete,
Here is my issue/ question:  I have this friend whom I feel a particular closeness to, whom I'll refer to as Karissa.  To give you an idea of how we met, I should explain that I am 33 years old, and she is 59; I am living at my mom's house, as I have no money, and Karissa is a neighbor.  About a year ago, I had a hairdresser, whom I used for 20 years fry up my hair, so as a result, I cut ties.  I should explain now that Karissa is a hairdresser, and she has since taken over (she works primarily in real estate.  I feel like fate brought us together, as these things really don't happen a lot.  Karissa and I have as a result formed a friendship with vulnerability.  
At any rate, here is the glitch:  It's very rare that I find a friend whom I can share anything with that is on my mind.  I have tried to just ease into the friendship, as I've learned that manipulating a relationship of any kind does not work.  I should explain that I am in a serious relationship with my boyfriend (who is actually 2 years younger than Karissa), however, I feel I need at least one girlfriend whom I can share my secrets with, and want to move things along faster.  I should explain too that when my boyfriend's mother was alive (she was Peggy), I could tell her anything, and always felt like I had an open door that would never close, and her passing is another event that occurred when Karissa and I started talking more.  Not having Peggy around has been very emotionally draining, and there was a certain mentor (we'll call her Rose) I once had, whom I was hoping would support me.  To my surprise, Rose stepped away, wouldn't talk to me, and has not since.  I really did not see that coming.  I was with Karissa for the last two days, and so wanted to tell her how much she means to me, and that I want to keep the door open.  I had mentioned this issue to a few cousins, and two told me to ask Karissa to become blood sisters with me... I don't really think in this day in age that would happen (at least not the traditional way), however, I'm thinking I would like to "seal" our friendship somehow, and just agree to treat each other as family, particularly since I come from a dysfunctional family, which is hard on me.  What do you think I should do.  Even with all of the time I've spent with Karissa these past 48 hours, I couldn't tell her.  I gave her a friendship card, however, as I started to explain that I just want to make sure our bond lasts, I lost my courage.  This is so hard!!  Please help; I'm so lost, and if I knew our friendship was permanent, I would have so much more peace in my life.

Hi Katie. if you had a dysfunctional childhood family, you probably inherited some significant psychological wounds:  //

Common wounds are [1] fears of abandonment and rejection, and [2] self-distrust and insecurity.

I respectfully suggest you study online "lesson 1" - it's about reducing wounds and increasing self-trust and confidence.:

In my experience, trying to make a friendship permanent is not possible. What IS possible is to nourish the relationship you have, and use the Serenity Prayer to accept whatever happens:

With compassion, Pete


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.


I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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