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Gina Polesetsky, M.A., LMFT
Pronouns: she/her/hers

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California, #133468. I earned my M.A. in clinical psychology with an MFT emphasis at Pepperdine University. Building on my past work as an educator, I began my journey as a therapist working with children and adolescents at a school-based site, and with individuals, families, and couples at a community mental health agency. In addition to my clinical experience, I have specialized training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).

Prior to becoming a therapist, I worked for three years teaching junior high and high school and 20 years in entrepreneurship, creating and  leading a boutique social justice oriented entertainment agency. As one division of my agency, I served as the president of Girls Fight Back, an organization dedicated to addressing violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault prevention for women, girls, and the communities in which they live--creating programs designed to teach the skills of empowerment and healthy boundaries.

I have been serving my community as a Humanist Chaplain since 2016 —performing wedding ceremonies, end of life celebrations, and engaging in chaplain work with prisoners. As I flow through life, I am grateful to use what I have learned along the way in my work as a therapist. Equally important to my career journey, I draw from my experience as a Latina woman in a multicultural marriage, a person who has lived through childhood trauma, who has experienced divorce and single motherhood raising a neurodivergent child, as well as remarriage and the beautiful complications of being a stepparent and co-creating a blended family. Most importantly, I am a person who knows that life, sometimes . . . it’s complicated. And, that’s ok.

 

In my free time, I enjoy  playing the piano and the banjo, reading, games and puzzles, volunteering in my community, specifically in work centered on diversity, equity, and inclusion and on the needs of children, maintaining a daily yoga and meditation practice, and spending time with my partner, our kids, and our three sincerely awesome dogs.

Recent media appearances below:

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Excerpts from "How to Spot the Signs of a Narcissist. . . ":

Like Narcissus, “a narcissist is a person who needs a constant reflecting pool,” explains Gina Polesetsky, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in California who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery. “They’re constantly looking to have themselves affirmed and validated.”

 

And while narcissists usually present as being very confident, “the root of narcissism is actually a lack of self-esteem,” says Polesetsky. “It’s actually the hollowness this person feels that is causing these big grandiose behaviors.” You might think of it as “fake it until you make it” personified.

 

Narcissists need your love (like seriously need it). “They need it because that’s the fuel that keeps them going,” says Polesetsky. “When it’s pulled away, that’s when you see a lot of problems in these relationships.” Read: Lashing out, threats, stalking behaviors, petty accusations, and gaslighting.

 

As a result, narcissists will often look for partners who won’t notice they’re a reflecting pool and can’t perceive the hollowness of the relationship. Someone who’s hungry for love and is willing to overlook red flags, for example, is often a target. So when this person says, “I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you,” after going on a few dates, an alarm doesn’t go off in their brain that’s like, “Gosh, that’s kind of weird because I barely even know this person,” explains Polesetsky.

Excerpts from "How to Spot a Covert Narcissist. . . ":

Unlike an overt narcissist, a covert narcissist is often less grandiose, centered on being “the victim,” and uses passive aggressive behaviors to manipulate the people around them into giving them what they want, adds Gina Polesetsky, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in California who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery.

 

“Covert narcissists believe they are constantly being victimized, defamed, persecuted, and treated unfairly by anyone around them that isn’t bending to their every will,” says Polesetsky.

In traditional narcissistic fashion, they can’t accept fault for their own problems so they have to find fault in others. They’re also quite often pathological liars, which is simply a necessary adaptation to keep themselves playing the role of the victim and gaining the help and attention of those around them, Polesetsky adds.

 

Covert narcissists have a hard time maintaining meaningful relationships. That makes sense, considering other factors (i.e. being manipulative and passive aggressive). They may become enamored very quickly. But as soon as they tire of the person or the person catches onto their toxic tendencies, they’ll quickly move onto the next, says Polesetsky. Despite moving on though, they hold terrible grudges.

As someone who’s constantly losing jobs and friends left and right, you can imagine that a covert narcissist doesn’t stick with anything for too long. “It’s both a consequence of boredom, and also they burn so many bridges that they just have to keep going,” explains Polesetsky.

The partner of a covert narcissist is often doing a lot of the emotional labor, says Polesetsky. And while a covert narcissist is often better than an overt narcissist at the performative aspects of maintaining a relationship, “they still lack empathy, and so there’s a certain hollowness to their gestures.”

 

“They are the master of chaos, and if they aren’t creating it naturally through their own behavior, they often will manufacture drama to feed their need for attention,” says Polesetsky.

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