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April 20, 2023

Gina Schneider: from Poverty to Polished Professional Psychotherapist

In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Gina Schneider, where Gina shared her story of growing up in poverty. She dropped out of high school to work and make ends meet, but her determination and unwillingness to give up on her dreams led her to become a highly polished professional, author, executive coach, and licensed psychotherapist.

In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Gina Schneider, where Gina shared her story of growing up in poverty. She dropped out of high school to work and make ends meet, but her determination and unwillingness to give up on her dreams led her to become a highly polished professional, author, executive coach, and licensed psychotherapist.

During the episode, we discussed the importance of having positive beliefs for managing stress and creating separation. Gina emphasized the need to watch our beliefs and make sure they're working on our behalf. We also talked about the difficulty of sharing personal traumas and how it can be challenging for people to handle.

As a psychotherapist, Gina has worked with thousands of people, giving her remarkable insight into the human psyche. She encourages ethical coaching and referring clients to psychotherapists when necessary.

Overall, it was a fascinating conversation, and I highly recommend this episode to anyone looking for inspiration and motivation. Don't forget to subscribe and leave a review to help this podcast reach and inspire more people. Thank you for tuning in to "Between the Before and After."



00:01:36 The Differences Between Coaching And Psychotherapy: Distinctions And Boundaries

00:04:34 Maintaining Boundaries In Distressed Therapy Situations.

00:06:52 Maintaining Boundaries And Dealing With Emotional Outbursts In Therapy Sessions.

00:08:58 Creating Separation: The Importance Of Understanding The Human Brain In Handling Personal Affronts

00:13:12 Early Interest In Human Psychology As A Career.

00:17:48 Surviving On Low Wages: A Personal Account

00:21:52 Working Young: Balancing Education And Employment

00:23:44 Racist Outburst In A Classroom

00:28:10 Community College: A Place For Learning And Discovery

00:30:41 Musician's Quarter-life Crisis

00:35:01 The Importance Of Emotional Intelligence In Handling Emotions In Relationships

00:39:30 Working With Pedophiles In A Residential Treatment Program To Redirect Them From Criminal Behavior.

00:40:54 Rehabilitation Of Psychopaths: Understanding The Limitations

00:42:39 Psychopaths Can Be Skilled Manipulators, But A Detector Can Be Developed.

00:46:45 Importance Of Authentic Communication In Personal Relationships And Maintaining Boundaries

00:47:47 Navigating Friendship Boundaries When Offering Empathy And Support



Welcome back to Between the before and after a podcast about the stories that shape us. I'm your host, Coach John mclean. Each episode, I bring you an inspiring guest with a moving story that shines a light on the power of the human spirit. I'm excited to share this story with you. So let's dive in. All right, welcome back to Between the before and after. What would it be like to grow up in poverty and be forced to actually drop out of high school to work to make ends meet? But through the power of determination and an unwillingness to give up on dreams to become a highly polished professional and author and executive coach and a licensed psychotherapist. 

This is the story of Doctor Gina Simmons Schneider. Welcome to the show. Thank you, John. I'm happy to be here. Yeah. So before we dive into it, uh why don't we just let people know um what it is that you're up to? 

Currently, I am a licensed psychotherapist and I write for psychology today and um I also do executive coaching so I help uh mostly help executives manage conflicts in the workplace, uh stress, anxiety anger those sorts of things, the hard stuff with humans, given sort of sometimes the current economic situation and what we've been through the last few years. I imagine there probably is a lot of stress and, and tension and anxiety that kind of shows up in the workplace. Um How does, how does coaching differ from psychotherapy? Um That's a very good question. I think people get very confused about it and it's important to have good boundaries between what coaches do and what psychotherapists do. Psychotherapists are often helping people manage pain and distress from perhaps childhood issues or a lot of emotional distress that require psychotherapeutic tools like cognitive behavioral therapy. Um Those sorts of things, um Coaching is really helping people with specific goals and providing them with tools that might be different kinds of tools. It might be a goal set worksheets, it might be uh inspirational tools to, to be become more motivated. It might become a DH D tools to help you stay organized and focused, but it's really not um based on emotional distress and it's, it's usually also about planning kind of future things you want to accomplish. So it's sometimes there can be a blurring because we can be, you know, human emotions always are with us no matter where we go. Um But the tools are different and the, the goals and the, and the purpose of them different. 

So, um I think a good ethical coach would refer someone to a psychotherapist, if they start getting into talking about their marital disputes or, um, talking about their family of origin pain or past trauma, uh, they should, they should refer them to a psychotherapist and a psychotherapist. I often refer to coaches for, uh, like, for example, business coaching or things like that, you know, to help people develop a good business plan and stick to goals that they want to achieve. So there's a whole gamut of sort of human emotions and experiences that make us sort of the complex beings that we are. And uh you, you, you, you wear both of these hats. Um Do you ever find yourself or would it be unethical to refer a coaching client to your practice as a psychotherapist or vice versa? It is, I mean, I think it's not considered the best thing to do to see somebody um in a coaching capacity and then become their psychotherapist as well. Um The sometimes if there is a gap, you know, in time between the two things and that the the boundaries are clearly delineated and um and the protections are all in place um that can occur, but as a general rule, it's not advisable. Um you know, you mentioned the word boundaries and I think that's boundaries are, are something that a lot of human beings struggle with. And so in your, in your capacity as a psychotherapist, you're working with people in like very, very vulnerable situations where they're possibly exposing like their deepest pains, their most raw emotions and things like that. And how do you manage it in such? Because I'm, I imagine that the, the possibility exists that, um, because you're helping someone through such a distressed state that they, they might view the therapist client relationship in kind of a different light. And how do you maintain boundaries in that kind of situation where somebody might, um, might start to misunderstand the relationship between therapist and client. Yes. And that, that's a good question. And that is something that is drilled into our training as therapists. Um And, and every year, every two years when we get relicensed, we have to have completed uh six hours of legal and ethical uh training. 

Um, so that we are really, really drilled over and over again on how to maintain professional boundaries. So the, the how of it varies a lot from client to client. For example, you might need to be very, very, um, uh re reassert boundaries over and over again with certain types of people who want to. Like, I've had people just, um, I had 11 per gentleman, um, come into my office. I was in a group practice and I had gone out for lunch and it came back and he had already gone, been inside my office when I wasn't there and set up a complete stereo system in there uh in my office to play the music that he wanted me to hear, uh, that he had and I, um, had to explain to him you're not allowed in my office if I haven't invited you there and you're not allowed to bring in equipment. And, you know, some people just push boundaries. In other words, they don't, um, uh, they, they don't understand where the limits are. So you have to keep reasserting them. 

But, you know, the, the therapeutic relationship is safe for people because of the confidentiality because the fact that it is a unique relationship that is unlike any other relationship, this is a person who is there just for you and just your emotional needs and, and, and I'm not there to get my needs met. So you have to please me, you can get mad at me, you can tell me your truth. You don't have to take care of my feelings. You know, so it's a very special, sacred relationship. So that's why the boundaries protect clients and um some of them aren't as comfortable with them, right? 

You know, you mentioned something interesting. I never thought about, I guess somebody like getting, getting mad at you and sort of yelling. I mean, I imagine people would do that but like sort of direct it towards you. And so how, how do you, I mean, maybe it's a bit of a skill that you practice but create a separation, understanding that what's being directed at you isn't really about you, but about what the individual is experiencing when in the moment, maybe you have an individual who is experiencing quite a high level of emotional distress and it's all being, it's all coming out. Right. And I used to do family therapy and I also used to work, uh, specialize in an anger management for teens. So I was with a lot of angry raging families for a long time. And so it's, it's quite easy to handle that because my North Star is always what's in the therapeutic best interest of my client. So in it, you know, and i it is important to be able to see when someone is angry, their force is coming towards you. 

You know, you're seeing energy coming towards you and you can work with it if, if people are expressing their anger, no matter how in elegant or rudely, it might be coming out, it is energy coming towards you that you can then work with. And often when people get a chance to express themselves and they feel like someone can handle it. You know, I can sit there, I can handle it. I can listen carefully, I can um you know, help them, help them uh understand their own feeling, then then the arc goes up and the rage and then it comes down and then there's a sort of an opportunity for some uh resolution to start to take place. So yes, we do have those skills. We are trained in those skills. 

Some therapists are less comfortable because they aren't working with that level of intensity. Um, but I, we, we did, I did a lot of work with very intense uh things very early in my career. So it's, it's not a big deal for me. Hm. Fascinating. I think the better that you kind of understand the human brain and how it functions, maybe the easier it is to create a bit of separation between this is in a like a personal affront versus this is somebody expressing something and you take it out and it kind of lends itself to the question. Um I'm not sure how, how to phrase this, but I think about like emotions and, and feelings being trapped in the body and what it might sort of manifest in terms of our health, not just mentally, but also physically because you mentioned like, it's, it's like a type of energy coming towards you and, and then giving somebody the space to vent that over, as you said, rudely or in elegantly, it might happen that there's like a, a release that's taking place and it's almost like there's a bit of healing that can take place because there's the opportunity to get it out of the body to, to speak it out of the body in a sense. 

Yes, I mean, I think that when we are feeling a lot of rage, we use those metaphors of um you know, I'm hitting the boiling point or I'm starting feel like I'm gonna explode as if we feel a build up in our body of some kind of substance. And if we can explode it out, we'll get it out of ourselves, you know. So we have a lot of metaphors for anger that talk about that. Now, the fact of the matter is, is, is that we do feel some relief more in being understood necessarily than in expressing anger as anger. In other words, we try to teach people anger management means not bottling it up, but also not exploding on a all over everybody because when we explode our, our anger all over everybody, we might feel good in the moment. But then we have a big, big mess to clean up in our relationships and uh sometimes we get fired right uh from our job because we were inappropriate and then you go to anger management and that's what we do. So, um so what we try to teach people is that, you know, having anger or feeling the feelings is not going to hurt you but you do, you do have, there is some relief in feeling understood and, and feeling um just that sense that someone else wants to hear you out and wants to understand and cares about how you feel. Um And that there is the some healing in that and, and also in getting some clarity on what it is, you're really feeling and why, um, because then that can start to point towards what could help bring relief. Mm. You know, I think, I think a lot about, um, just like producing language, whether spoken or written just does something to sort of clear up the muddle that we might be experiencing in our brain at any, any given time. So, I'm curious. Yeah. Uh, how did you like, when, when you were a child, did you have this idea that I want to help people as a psychotherapist? And I asked that sort of a little bit tongue in cheek because I imagine that wasn't exactly your thought. But, you know, um and maybe what, what did you think you were going to do with your life as a child? Well, it's funny. I, I, as a child, I was raised in a, in, in a family with no real money or resources. 

We, we really were living in poverty for much of my childhood. And um but we were raised with a lot of creative imagination and a lot of encouragement to be creative. So we were always making things, we were making up songs, we were, you know, doing all kinds of creative things. And um I think also one of the things that was big about my personality because I'm an older sibling and I had a younger sister and I always thought about protecting her and taking care of her. And I was the kid in second grade that protected the kindergartners from the bullies, you know, so I would tell the bullies to back off and leave them alone, leave those little kids alone. And, um, so there was always this part of me that liked to observe how people behaved and why are some people popular? Why are some people bullies? Uh, why do some people get victimized? 

You know, those were questions that I think were always with me. And so human psychology was always an interest. Even though when I was in second grade, I didn't call it that nor did I know that it would be a career interest one day. Right. Right. And he mentioned, um, growing up in poverty and, uh where, where was it that you grew up? And I, I guess building on that, do you, when you look back now, what can you observe about how growing up in poverty might have affected your outlook on life? 

It, you know, that's a big question. We did grow up kind of in a lot of different places. We moved a lot. Uh, my parents started out in the Air Force and so we lived in California, Hawaii back in a lot of different places in California. And then my dad left the Air Force and he wanted, he, he was a big dreamer. And so, uh he was a big dreamer, but he didn't have a lot of good sense. 

Nor was he very well capitalized. So, uh he had a lot of businesses about every six months to a year, we would be in a new business. He was a filmmaker. We lived in Nevada and he made the uh a documentary film about the gold rush called The Mystery of Gold Fever. And so when I was a little kid, I'm in this one room schoolhouse um in, in gold country, uh live in like the wild west. And then we had uh you know, a furniture business in San Francisco and then in L A and so we moved all over. Um and my dad, we just kind of followed him on all of these different dreams that he had. Um so we ended up landing in San Diego and then my dad made a uh Vietnam War, anti-vietnam War uh fictional feature film. And um again, not very well capitalized. Uh He was the producer and we were all involved in all of his businesses growing up. 

So, uh we were, I was involved with casting in L A and in handling the props and I was an extra in the scenes and on and on. So, so he um did that and then went bankrupt and after that, my parents divorced and um so then we were always kind of living on a shoestring and then when he left, he kind of really left. I mean, not like some parents break up and they still stay in touch with their kids. Uh he, he left so there was no support and um and he was just gone. So, um, so that was a real pivotal time in my life because I was 15 and we were on the verge of homelessness. And my mother sat me down and showed me in numbers why it wasn't adding up and we didn't have enough for food if she paid all the bills to keep us housed with the lights on. 

Uh, we would run out of money every month. Um So I realized that, you know, I had to work so 15 year olds that look like 12 year olds at the time, um with very few skills in a poor neighborhood and no transportation, you know, you're walking around trying to do, I mean, I did car washing, I did house cleaning. Um I did uh babysitting but uh there in a poor neighborhood, there aren't a lot of people that will pay kids to do jobs. So I lied about my age and started uh doing telephone sales. Um, and I got exploited by a corrupt telephone sales company. 

My first job and I realized that they were using underage labor because what they, the deal was you worked for two days and if you got seven leads, you, you know, you'd get the paid job. And so I got my, I got my seven sales, not leads but sales. I got my seven sales and I'm like, oh, yeah, I get a job, you know, and then they said, oh, one of the sales dropped out. So we, we aren't gonna hire you. And then I saw that their ad was in the paper, like forever and that they just used underage unpaid labor and there was nothing we could do because I'm already, I'm 15. What, what am I gonna do? Right. So, so I learned the hard way to work. 

Never work for commission and, you know, uh to try to work for legitimate businesses. But anyway, yeah, it was a struggle. And so, um my mother and my little sister and I um did everything we could to make it work and we didn't get evicted and we weren't homeless. Um, but it was close and uh but we were food insecure for part of the month. So my money paid for, you know, food. So the necessities of life. Yeah. And so, um prior, prior to your dad leaving, there was a lot of moving around you mentioned from, from place to place and I just wonder how that affects a child's sense of security. 

When it's really, really difficult to put down any roots or you form friendships, then you move to another location and then you form other friendships and you move to another location and so on. And, and how does that affect sort of social development and forming of friendships? I think you, you, I think like a lot of kids who grow up in the military. It's similar, you, you learn to make friends quickly, you know, you learn to connect quickly. I think that is one of the gifts from moving around a lot is, um, you, you learn how to join into a group, you learn how to, uh, talk to people. Either that or, I guess there are some people who, who just remain isolated but, um, I learned pretty quickly. I think how to talk to people. 

Um, I think also the idea of security was very different. Like, I remember getting, um, uh, a job at a nonprofit, which was a really cool job. That was one of my favorite jobs I ever worked. And uh I did job readiness trainings and I did counseling and I, I got to wear every hat I wanted to wear and uh be creative and develop programs. It was a great job. But in the interview, they said, you know, we only have uh a one year contract for this position. 

Well, to, to be offered a job that was guaranteed for a year, sounded like security to me. Right. Because I'm like, yeah, great. This is great, you know, and I ended up working there several years because they kept getting the contracts renewed for the, um for the work we were doing and it was real meaningful work. But, um but yeah, what, so when you grow up with a lot of instability, your idea of stability is very different from someone who I had a friend who, uh, grew up in Pennsylvania and came to San Diego, got married, lived with her husband but she's still called Pennsylvania home. 

You know, she's living here with her husband but home is, you know, this compound where her family lived for 100 years. You know. So, it was a whole different attitude of what security means. Right. It's, it's, um, something that has to last generations or something. So I never had that sort of sense. 

I think in some ways that was a gift because security really is an illusion. It's a made up concept. It's like, it's like the George Carlin, the comedian says life is a near death experience, you know, and, and I think the reality is that there is no security. It's, it's sort of a myth and striving for security is uh a fruitless cause I think we can, um we, we can have periods of stability in our life that make us feel secure. But the reality is that could all go away with the first flood, fire, it, you know, whatever, right? Economic collapse. Uh There's just lots of ways that so we have the, the main security is our own capacity to adapt and survive. So I think that's where I get my sense of security from as I can adapt. OK. Yeah. You know, that you can survive in a number of different situations and you can make connections and network and, and what not. So you started working at 15, you had to drop out of a school. When was it, when were you able to return to getting an education? And did you ever, were there times that you resented having to work instead of going to school? 

I think the, the, so what happened was um, so I was 15, I was working and of course, transportation costs money. So I, I my high school was uh about four miles from my house. So there was time and money and getting to and from high school, right, taking the bus costs money and uh walking, you know, four miles took time, which took away time that I needed to spend working. So, um then I had so, so I'm, I'm 16 and I'm going to high school, I'm going to this inner city school and I have this horrific experience with a racist uh teacher. And uh what happened was he was, he wrote um he came, he was a world geography teacher and one of the kids in the class had written Chicano Power on the blackboard prior to him walking in. And that was during the civil rights and uh a lot of civil rights marches and the Vietnam war. And so there were a lot of a lot of social upheaval like what is happening now. And um so he, this teacher saw that on the blackboard and went into a, a whole angry rant about how terrible Mexicans were and how they were and how terrible black people were and that he had four black and he didn't call them black people. 

He, he didn't use polite language. He was raging and he said that, you know, there were four black people in the class and he got two of them kicked out and, and he was going to get the other two kicked out and one of the black people in the class was my girlfriend and she sat right behind me and I sat in the front row. So I'm very close to him and he's spitting and raging and, and, and, and it was so terrifying to, to sit there and watch it and then she put her head down behind me and started crying and I looked back and there was one more black kid that I didn't know in the, in the back of the class and he used to throw, he put his head down on the desk and all of us were just shocked. And so I just went off on him. I just got so angry and, and I just started saying what a waste of taxpayers' money he was and he was a, you know, racist. No good, you know what? And so the most chilling part of this was not that the most chilling part was the door was open to the hallway and I could see out the hallway and the vice principal of the school was there. And I thought, oh, great. 

He's seeing me yell at the teacher, I'm gonna get kicked out of school. And so, I mean, or I'm gonna get suspended. Um, and I thought, well, if that's gonna happen anyway, I might as well keep going. Um, so I just kept taking him on and, and telling him how horrible and he doesn't teach and he's hired to teach us and he's just, you know, I anyway, I just went off on him and, um, and so then the bell rings and the, the principal leaves and we all huddle and we're crying and holding each other and we're all shaking and it was, it was really traumatic. And so then I got a, so I'm thinking the principal is gonna contact us or there's gonna be some action. 

And, uh, in the meantime, myself and my friends, we all made a petition. We got over 600 signatures to get this person removed from the school because he was clearly like doing damage and not teaching. And, um, and it was a horrific experience. So I go to the school and, and we, a couple of us, it was like this committee we formed, we go to the, go to the vice, the principal's office and we present our petition and as, um, we do all of this, I, I leave and that teacher takes me aside and says that two years prior he had been fired from that same school for, for racism and they rehired him and I just was like, this is, I can't be here. I just can't, I'm not learning anything and I, it was, it took a lot to get to school. You know, transportation. A lot of people don't think about poverty as a, uh, you know, when you don't have transportation, your options are limited in certain cities if they don't have good public transportation. So I, I basically, at that time I was making some money and I told my mom, look, um, we had relatives who were married to the Osmond family singers, which were, uh, one of, one of our relatives was married to one of the Osmonds and they, uh, went to this American school of correspondence school for high school because they were all performers and entertainers. And so I made a, I, I sort of researched it and I realized I could pay the monthly dues. 

I, I had enough money, um, that I could pay for, for correspondence school. If my mother would let me drop out, I would, you know, finish high school through correspondence school and go to college. So she, she agreed with me and, um, that freed me up for, you know, a lot more time that I could work and, and do other things. Yeah. I mean, I think, man, that's, that's quite remarkable for a, a young, like teenager to have to make these very adult decisions about life. And again, I, I think about how that might shape your kind of your outlook on life and how, how you navigate life. 

Did that at that point in time. Did you have any idea sort of what you wanted to pursue educationally or, or what, how did you see your sort of adult life starting to play out? Well, I did love learning and I knew that my high school was kind of destroying that because it was not a great school. Um, or at least there, there were some great people there. But anyway, that was a bad experience. So, but I did love learning. And in the beginning I wanted to be a singer songwriter, entertainer. 

That's sort of what I thought I would do. I played guitar, I sang, I wrote songs. My friends were all musicians, uh, or they were in theater, you know, are they performing in local community theater? So, um, I, I went to community college and I took general education requirements. 

Um, because of course, the fees are very low at community college. They are wonderful things. Um, because they offer an ability to, for, uh, low income people to, to get an education. Um, so I went to community college and I took all kinds of arts courses and acting and singing and dancing and guitar. 

And, uh, and then I took, you know, regular general education requirements toward a degree and then I, I ended up getting a professional singing job in a nightclub. And, um, and I had auditioned for a working band and they needed a replacement singer. And so I sang and played bass guitar in the band. And, um, and I thought this, I've arrived, I'm having a good time. I can work at night and, and, uh, perform and do what I love to do and I can go to school during the day. This is great. Well, it was great until a couple of male stalkers decided to make my life miserable. So I had a one person who, and it was particularly scary because I didn't know who the person was, but there was threatening notes being left on my car. So somebody knew which car was my car and they knew who I was, but I didn't know who they were. And so that started up, somebody started a campaign of terrorizing me with notes and then uh took a knife and cut my picture out of the marquee and, and then another man was leaving um, very lewd and, and uh threatening uh messages about me at the bar. Um uh and would call the, the hotel and it was like a hotel lounge bar. It was a like a private club kind of place that I was working in. It was a really nice place except um the experiences I was having were, were not nice and my male band mates never had anything like that happen to them. 

Um, but I did. So, um, I thought this isn't fun. I could see myself, you know, 35 40 years old singing in a nightclub going nowhere. Um, so I had a real big crisis of just like, what do I do now? Um, I hate this. I get, I, I got what I loved and, and now I hate it. And so I, I went for a walk one day, I was really depressed. 

My really closest friends had moved away and I went for a walk and I saw this, uh, flyer on the wall that said, uh, volunteer, a suicide hotline. Volunteers needed for a crisis hotline, no experience necessary will train. Ok. And I needed a paying job. But I thought volunteer work. Gosh, this sounds so interesting and intriguing and the idea of being trained and being able to save people's lives and just, it sounded so interesting and so against my more practical judgment, I took the number and really everything I have today stems from that decision. Ok. Wow. So I, I guess I'm curious just to tie up a loose thread, you know, when you made the decision to walk away from performing and, and being in the band and like, were your band mates aware that the, the stalking was, was happening? 

Oh, yeah, they didn't care about me. The guys, the guys were, um, they would do, they would be like the the most drunk obnoxious guy in the crowd would go, I wanna, I wanna dance with Gina, I wanna kiss Jena and then they would go, ok, you can dance with her. Go ahead, Gina. They would throw me to the wolves. Oh, they didn't care. So. Yeah. And you know, I didn't feel protected at all. It was really, um, you feel really exposed and, you know, even I've worked with some dangerous people as a psychotherapist, but I had their name address. 

I knew where to find them. I knew where to send the cops. You know, you knew what you were dealing with, but I knew what I was dealing with and I had some, I had some protection but when it's just this, these anonymous and then you don't have and the band and they, the guys just thought it was funny, you know, I think a lot of men at that time before me too. A lot of men, you know, would either be like, oh, you know, be really safe, don't go out by yourself. You're a woman, you're gonna get raped, you know, or they would be like, oh, you know, we'll just harass the hell out of you and you should think it's cute and like it, you know, because you should feel safe, you know. Um So, so I think there was always that going on uh in gender dynamics it still is, it still goes on. Um And because men don't police other men and because, um, you know, women don't talk about it because we don't want to be seen as victims because, you know, people hate victims. 

So, and you don't want to act like, you know, you, and you want to be included too. You know, if you, if you don't play along you're not going to get hired. Oh, that's, you know, I mean, that bothers me a lot when I hear that, you know, it's just the truth. That's what women deal with. And I think me too is really empowering for other women too because, because women often won't even talk to other women about what went on because it, it doesn't make women feel good to think about how unsafe we are. And so we want to feel safe. Right. So we don't want to talk about all the, all the times we've been victimized. 

Um, so, and people don't want to hear about it. They just, they don't want to hear about it. And, um, and if you talk about it you're just angry, you're being angry and attractive person. Right? And, and then if you do, they're not really sure how to handle it either when, when they hear things that are difficult. 

You know, I think if I could put it this way before I was really, I guess maybe emotionally intelligent or, or in touch with my emotions to some degree, like my wife would share something with me and I really wouldn't know how to handle it. I would, I think I, I would feel I'm more like, angry and defensive because maybe I couldn't protect her. I couldn't, you know, because she used to work as a server in, in a couple of different restaurants and, yeah, guys would be like, a, like, awful towards her and it would make me very angry. But I, I was, maybe, I also felt angry because I'm like, I can't do anything about it. Like, and so I don't want to hear about it because all it does is make me angry about that. I can't do something about it helpless. 

We don't want to feel helpless. So we want to avoid that feeling at all costs. And so with something that big, um, that's so pervasive, sometimes we just want to kind of not think about it, right? And, uh, so until there's a trigger point right where there's, there's something, um, that makes everybody talk about it and I, I do think talking about it is good, but I've definitely worked with uh, young, young girls, mostly girls, but some, some boys who were molested or, um, sexually violated as Children. 

And, um, and they won't share it often, most often with anyone, their parents or anybody, um, because they don't want to upset their parents. So they will often heroically hold on to that secret for, um, for a lifetime. And until they talk to a therapist about it. Yeah. I mean, as a, as a father of a, of a toddler with another one in the way I, oh, congratulations. Thank you. That's so nice. I, you know, when you talk about somebody harming a child, I think about the things that run through my mind. 

I thought, you know, if somebody was to harm my child, um, you know, and, and it's, again, it's one of those really troubling aspects of our world and, and behavior that really puzzles me. Although without going down a rabbit hole, sometimes I, I, I wonder if, if there's a lot rooted in um people who have experienced abuse becoming abusers and, and uh looking to take back something they thought was taken from them or, you know, I think we just, we just trying to understand like, why do these behaviors occur when they don't make sense to a rational sane person? Right? I mean, I think, um if you look at the history of abusers, the majority of them have been abused, however, the majority of abused kids do not become abusers, right? So it's very important not to assume that because someone was a victim of abuse that they're automatically suspect of becoming an abuser. Um, but it is true that hurt people, hurt people, but it also, it's also true that there are some um mental illness aspects, some uh neurological defects that occur, right? 

One of the jobs I had early on was, um I worked with teenage pedophiles. So, these are, uh, teenagers, um, they were all boys who, uh, were molesting small Children and, um, they all had, um, you know, really severe, um, issues, you know, in their, in their family development. Um, and, um, and a couple of them had some severe cognitive processing problems and a severe emotional immaturity. Um, so psychologically many of them were like the same age as their victims and, and, you know, um, on an emotional level, I mean, I, I, I think that's, I don't know if it's morbidly, like, fascinating to some degree, just simply trying to understand, you know, because I have an intensely curious mind and I think I try to understand in a similar way, like, you know, what, what is it that drives someone to commit behaviors like that, that are so vile in a sense, but that I think what you, you doing that work and working with these people and it almost goes back to that, uh, the boundaries thing we, we touched on in a previous conversation around maintaining professional boundaries when you're hearing things and acts these people have committed and so on and somehow maintaining, uh, a demeanor of professionalism. Right. I mean, the nice thing about, um, where I worked when I worked with the pedophiles, um, um, was, they were in a residential treatment program and they had been, you know, through the criminal justice system and this was part of their um, uh treatment and, you know, paying back to society kind of thing and the goal was to, you know, redirect them and, um, get them out of it and a lot of them probably could get out of it. 

Um, and not make that a habit because they were still so young. Um, and the, the good news about the laws and the laws um, in, in, for psychotherapists is if we do suspect child abuse, um we are mandated to report that. So, so I always tell, you know, my clients all know that. So I've, whenever I've had to make a child abuse report, I will tell them, look at this is not acceptable, this has to stop, this is gonna, you know, C P S is going to be involved or, you know, um and I guess maybe a question that some people might have when they, when they hear about this, the the nature of this kind of work like is, can somebody be rehabilitated and are they aware that what they're doing? Like, do they have an awareness that what they're doing is like morally wrong and is a potential for them to rehabilitate so they can safely exist in society? 

Some do and some don't, you know, a lot of it depends on the psychology of the individual doing it. When you're dealing with a personality disorder, like a psychopath, they tend to not get better. You can create conditions where they're less likely to reoffend. Um, and, you know, that's good but their orientation is probably still going to be exploitive and uh non empathetic. Um, but there are some kids that, you know, have been through the wringer back and they get to a, a secure place and they can be rehabilitated and not reoffend. Hm. 11 of the things that's remarkably disconcerting about, um, psychopaths now, I, I think they're, they're not quite what they're portrayed in, in popular media, but one of the things that's particularly maybe unsettling is that they can often be very charismatic. 

They can often be. And so, and, and some people might never actually see the other side of them. And I guess actually, without sharing too much, my own story had experience with, with one who I thought was a very close friend and it was, it was a number of years before the other side emerged and I had a hard time reconciling the other individual that I saw who was not my friend when I guess, metaphorically the mask comes off and you go, this is who the real person is and there's this like disconnect. Yeah, I think that some psychopaths are very good at creating, at, at understanding other people's vulnerability and how to seduce other people to get their needs met. Um I do think that you can develop a really good detector for personality disordered people. Um The first thing I look for is genuine empathy. Um do they cringe, do they cringe or just, there's something in their face, like when I look at you and I'm telling these stories, there's an emotional reaction of like empathy when I talked about, you know, what happened to me as a singer and stuff, you know, I could see in your face there was some genuine empathy. Um So if you don't have the empathy you um can, you're capable of doing just about anything now? It doesn't mean, I mean, most psychopaths are not killers. Right. Right. Most personality disorders, there's a lot of different personality disorders, but personality disorders tend to be fixed in the sense that people tend to not develop beyond that. Um They can, they can learn to behave better, but they're not necessarily going to have a different character structure, character, meaning the capacity to feel for others, the capacity to have, take responsibility, take personal responsibility for their own behavior, the capacity to have insight and understand their own motivations. Um So I also the second thing I look for is exploitive. Like are there relationships? Are they attracted to people? And are, are they involved with people because they can exploit them or they can get something out of them? Um As opposed to, are they attracted to people because they enjoy their company? 

They have fun, they share common goals and values. Um uh Some of the deeper reasons why we might have friends in our life yeah, fascinating insights. And I think um you, you've worked with quite, probably quite literally thousands and thousands of people in, in your professional career as a psychotherapist, which has given you a remarkable insight into the human psyche and whatnot. So then I wonder just as we, as we wind up here, there's so many more questions I have for you. But uh uh we might have to save that for another conversation. But, you know, do you, do you in a sense, almost like automatically psychoanalyze people or do you, do you, can you consciously or unconsciously switch it off or switch between sort of your professional, analytical mode and sort of coexisting with somebody? 

How do you, how do you sort of navigate that balance between having both the experience, the ability and the education to accurately, you know, psychoanalyze people with, with, um let's say, being in a relationship and trying to maybe avoid doing that to affect the quality of the relationship. Yeah, that's a really good question. Not very many people ask that question. Um It's, it's really interesting. Um I was at a party with a whole bunch of therapists. Uh And um there was one person who was a civilian, non, a non therapist and she was sort of shocked by the things we talked about and how, how, um intense they were, you know, and how they weren't like they were sort of beyond polite conversation kinds of topics. Um But typically when people find out what I do for a living, you know, they will immediately assume that I'm gonna, like, be in my working mode, analyzing them and, and that the assumption is that I might then judge them is this person sick and wacky and, you know, what's their diagnosis? You know? And, and the fact of the matter is my husband's also a therapist and, um, in our own relationship, we don't do, we, we intentionally don't do the psycho babble. We don't, you, you know, we, we uh we try to relate to each other authentically without using psychological lingo on each other because it's annoying, right? And it's, I, I remember one of my therapists, um uh one of my professors that really inspired me in college said, uh never trust a diagnosis based on an interpersonal conflict. Um So I, I, I don't diagnose people um uh in my personal life and I also back to boundaries. Um It is very easy for me to slip into counselor mode. So if certainly if somebody is grieving or they're dealing with something really intense and they're someone I love and care about. I, I know how to do the empathy and, but I don't have to try because I'll feel the empathy for somebody I care about, right? But it is easy to sort of use those skills in an intense situation. Um But most of the time I'm holding back um from, from going into counselor mode with my friends and, um, it on purpose because I don't want to be, uh, having them feel like I'm being acting as if I'm their therapist. Right. It feels disrespectful for your friend to start acting like, you know, they know they know what's best for you. Um, so I intentionally hold back a lot and, and lastly, do you, does anybody ever ask you to, like, analyze them as though it's like a party trick? 

Um, no, but they might ask me to, I guess their zodiac sign. But, but no, I haven't had that question. No. Oh, good. Well, if you were to guess my zodiac son, what would you guess? Oh, gosh. Well, you, that's a good question. Yeah. I mean, you kind of physically look like, um, you could be like a cancer. 

Um, but you, you are verbally but you also have some, I don't know, you seem like it could be kind of an earth science or maybe Taris Virgo. Um, uh, but you also seem like you're very witty. Uh, so that could be Gemini, you know. 

So, I don't know. I have no idea. Yeah. Just, just to put you on the spot there. Um, it's kind of fun actually. 

I, I joke that I get for, um, for astrological signs, uh, because I was, I was born a Capricorn but I was supposed to be born in April which I think would have made in a, I think if I got it right. And then, um, but then the astrological calendar was off roughly a month. And so everyone who thought they were a cap corn, it's like you're actually the one before. Yeah, I, I, there's all these different schools of astrology and I, I, I do not know, but I, it's a fun party, party thing to ask is it is. So I just tell people, um, I'll, I'll read all the horoscopes and pick the one I like best that falls into one of those four categories and assume that that's fine for the day, you know. 

And, uh, yeah, that's great. That, well, it's fun. Yeah, it's just, it, well, I think what's fun about astrology is that it, it kind of gives you a different way of thinking about the diversity of human experience and different personality types. And, um, that's why I, I sort of enjoyed personality psychology too as well. We're all different. Well, as we wrap up here, I always like to ask my guest if someone's listening to this conversation today, you have, you have quite a, quite a fascinating story and there's much more to it than I would have, would have thought, you know, from your, your time spent professionally as a, as a singer and performer to, uh, you know, growing up in poverty, to um just navigating some very intense professional situations to, to get to where you are today. 

So, somebody listening to that today, this conversation, if you could, uh if you were to hope that they would take 11 thing away from this. What would that be? I really encourage people to not underestimate the power of your own mind and your beliefs to shape your destiny. Because there's so much uh in the new neuropsychology research showing that our beliefs and our attitudes uh and our thoughts change our biochemistry and they can affect how well we heal from illness, how we age, how uh much our exercise will shape our musculature, even like if we're believing that our exercise is good for us and it's working, it will work better than if we don't. And I'm just learning that a lot of, I think what got me through accidentally was that I did always have uh goals and some kind of hopeful vision even through the darkest times that there was something more hopeful out there. And that kept me from turning off my seeking system, the seeking part that things can get better, the hopefulness. Um So I would inspire everyone to really check out your beliefs and make sure your beliefs are working on your own behalf because you can change them. They're made up, right? And why not make up beliefs that like this aspirin is good for me, it will cure my headache or, you know, my exercise is making my muscles stronger. Um This food is good for me, you know, um my my friends are good people. 

You know, these, these kind of things um shape our physiology and how we manage stress. So, anyway, that's, that's what I would encourage people to watch your beliefs and make sure they're working on your behalf if you're going to make beliefs, make them good ones. Yes. Yes. Thank you so much for being on the show today. 

It's really been a fascinating conversation and it's been a pleasure. Thank you. Pleasure for me too, John. Thank you so much for tuning in to between the before and after. If you've enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review because that helps this podcast to reach and inspire more people. I love exploring the stories that take place between the before and after the powerful experiences that shape who we become and I love human potential. I love the possibilities that lie within us. So whatever you may be up against, I hope these stories inspire you because if you're still here, your story is not done yet. So keep moving forward. 


Gina Schneider, Ph.D.Profile Photo

Gina Schneider, Ph.D.

Author/psychotherapist/executive coach

Dr. Gina Simmons Schneider is a licensed psychotherapist, executive coach, and corporate trainer. She serves as co-director of Schneider Counseling and Corporate Solutions. She is the author of Frazzlebrain: Break Free from Anxiety, Anger, and Stress Using Advanced Discoveries in Neuropsychology (Central Recovery Press, April 2022). Dr. Schneider is a coping skills expert with more than 25 years of experience helping people regulate difficult emotions and conflicts.
Dr. Schneider is certified in Neuroscience for Clinicians through PESI and Critical Incident Stress Debriefing through National Trauma Services. She has been quoted in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Laurence Knight interviewed her for the BBC World Service program, “How to Be Angry.”
Dr. Schneider blogs for Psychology Today and writes the award-winning Manage Anger Daily blog. She has blogged for Forbes and Women in Crime Ink which the Wall Street Journal named a “blog worth reading.” Dr. Schneider provides training for Fortune 500 companies and other organizations. Contact Dr. Schneider for speaking engagements or additional information at