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Counseling/need some ways to cope


Mr. Gerlach,

Good evening.  I'm hoping you can help me.  This might be kinda long, I'm sorry if I'm not communicating correctly but that's part of the problem I'm struggling with.

I'm a 35 year old woman with social skills problems.  I'm not trying to be negative, only realistic when I say that I am not likely to improve much more in this area.  I've given up trying.  I've studied body language, facial expressions, social intelligence, asked folks for help, and tried practicing in low-stress environments such as with co-workers or other professionals.  I've been trying to improve for about a decade, and I'm at the point now where I'm trying to make peace with myself and learn to embrace my awkwardness.

Unfortunately sometimes I have negative thoughts about myself and feel depressed after an interaction goes south.  I am hoping you have some coping ideas that will help keep me from slipping into a depression and wanting to just not be here.

An example of an interaction that went badly is today.  When meeting with the teacher, I did my best to do everything I'd ever learned... respectful language, open body language, be friendly... and like always I couldn't tell what was going on during the interaction except that I was able to see that at one point the teacher cut me off mid-sentence, physically turned to my husband and changed the subject from my kid to my husband's line of work.  I noticed I felt offended, but I didn't know what to do and my husband was very happy to start talking about his work.  When it was time to go, the teacher didn't shake my hand but shook my husband's hand, so I knew for sure something went wrong.

When we got in the car, I mentioned that it was rude of the teacher to cut me off and change the subject.  He told me he didn't notice that, but he DID notice that I was being offensive in my choice of words, being too direct, and that I made things very awkward at one point by hesitating for almost a full minute when I was feeling uncomfortable saying something that was on my mind, and by making some other social errors which I cannot recall right now.  For the record, my husband is very loving and supportive and was pointing these things out because he knows I can't "see" these things.  Maybe I have Aspberger's or something.

My life story is pretty much like the interaction I had with the teacher.  Unfortunately it's really starting to affect me in that I don't feel like I am strong enough to continue being exposed to people's negative reactions.  In the last couple of years I've had at least 4 people tell me to never contact them again.  I've stopped all purely social interactions (like when folks invite me to their house... there's no way I'm going to be suckered into another friendship when I don't have the proper radar to navigate such a relationship).  Unfortunately I'm unable to avoid people all-together, so I need help finding ways to cope other than crying.

Also I'm under the care of a mental health professional, so everything medical is being taken care of.

Thank you for your time, I hope I haven't said anything offensive... I've read and re-read and edited this for like an hour.


Hi A.M. - your "social awkwardness" suggests you may have inherited psychological wounds + unawareness from the adults who raised you. If so, you can heal your wounds and learn communication and relationship skills you were never taught.

I suggest you patiently study these free online lessons:

1] How to heal psychological wounds:

2]  Learn to use 7 powerful communication skills:

3]  Strengthen your relationship skills:

Ideally, your husband and therapist will want to study these with you.

If you have more questions, please ask!

Respectfully, 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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