Donna M Torbico


New York, NY

Website : 


FREE intro session
To make an APPOINTMENT : 646-460-7417
send email to :


ACoAs know a lot, but can still feel confused.  We have a ”committee of voices” with conflicting points of view, often making it hard to function.

Who should we listen to:  the Inner Child, the Harsh Parent, the Healthy Adult,  our religion, our intuition ???

Here, in these posts, I try to make complex issues easier to think about & understand.  Tell me if you agree, disagree, or if I’ve left something out!

CLARITY is a hallmark of mental health.  The clearer our thinking, based on realistic & accurate info, the more empowered & therefore SAFER we feel in the world.

Keep repeating: “I KNOW WHAT I KNOW” !!

I’m an NYC psychotherapist for ACoAs (adult-children of alcoholics & other narcissists) in private practice for over 30 years. I’m the daughter of a missionary family (grew up in post-war Europe) & granddaughter of alcoholics, on both sides.

EUROPEI knew in grammar school that my calling was to help people heal their inner wounds & am grateful to have been doing  that, with God’s help, for so many years.  I graduated from Hunter College in ’85, (Phi Beta Kappa) & have been a member of Al-Anon for 40 years.

I’ve appeared on radio, television & at New Life Expo, created & presented ACoA /  Al-Anon intensive weekend workshops & ran an ACoA therapy group for 6 years.
I was an instructor at the NY Open Center for 9 yrs, presenting my 12-week interactive lecture course – “KNOWLEDGE Is POWER: What makes an ACoA”.

I’m married to Steve Bakkali, who designs & produces lamps, chandeliers & other interiors, & we have 2 cats, Sweetie & Jazz.    I also design & make knitted & crocheted sweaters, having graduated from F.I.T. & worked in the fashion industry for 6 years before beginning private practice.

CLIENTS: Among a variety of clients, many are highly sensitive, creative/artistic people. All have benefited from my Pisces intuition & Gemini knowledge.  In most cases they have said that in our sessions they felt heard & understood for the first time – ever, & had a safe place to express their intense emotions.
Humor is also an important part of sessions, when appropriate, for its healing quality, & to balance out the intensity of ACoA suffering.

I work with ACoAs of all ages from 18 to 85.  Over the years, people have continued their therapy by phone, Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp, from many different place, including Hawaii, California, NY State,  NJ, FLA, Chicago…. in the US, as well as in the rest of the S-H monstersworld –  Canada, South America, Europe, the Middle East & India.

FOCUS: The hallmark of ACoAs is their deep-rooted fear / terror of being abandoned & their intense self-hate.  Self-hate is when we blame ourselves for being hurt, rather that understanding that we did not cause any of the mean, selfish people do / have done TO us, even though it has intensely affected us !

My work centers on helping clients:
• Identify & validate the pain of their early experiences
• Find their negative self-talk (Toxic Rules) & change it, to grow self-esteem
• Learn how to lovingly communicate with their Inner Child
• Have permission to own & feel all their emotions and express them safely
• Experience living well in the world, use their talents & have fun!

Donna Marie

For Testimonials go to:   (+ 80 pages of ACoA info)


I offer a FREE intro session to see if we’re compatible
To make an APPOINTMENT : 646-460-7417
send email to :


38 thoughts on “Donna

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been learning along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have loved reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very frequently.


  2. I really think I love this, I’m afraid to trust however, lol Not kidding. Thanks so much for the work that you have put into this, it is amazing!


  3. Hi bg, Thanks for writing. I believe the more you know about ACoAs the more helpful you can be, so please continue reading – carefully go thru all the previous posts from 2010 & 2011, & also books on the subject. Maybe going to Al-Anon could be useful, in person or phone meetings.


  4. Hi bs, thanks for writing. Please continue to read all these post, from 20110 & 2011, as well as books @ ACoAs. The more you know the more you can understand & be supportive. No advice, just listen with love. Maybe also attend Al-Anon meeting, in person and by phone.


    • Hi Erin,
      1. All kids a Nar. As long as any adult is run by their Wounded Inner Child (WIC) they are reacting from a narcissistic place, but are not automatically NPDs.
      2. When raised by narcissists, kids learn to copy those traits. Recovery changes a great deal of our training, including our N.reaction to things.
      3. Self-Hate & taking everything personally are both forms of N, as are many of other CDs.
      PS. I have a degree in Psych from Hunter College, many years of non-degree training & supervision, my own 35 yrs of recovery & all I know is being put in this blog.


  5. Have you read the new Big Book by the organization now known as ACA, Adult Children Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholic and other Dysfunctional Families?, formerly ACOA.
    You can find it at


  6. I have started reading your posts starting with 2010.. all i can say is ‘WOW’. You speak to me on a level which I have never been spoken to on before. You have already helped me see so many truths about myself, and I am not even to your 2011 posts. Thank you for helping me begin my recovery. I always thought I was fine and had put my childhood with a drug addicted father behind me. Boy, was I wrong. I am thankful I am learning about what I have been afflicted with so I can start the self discovery and healing process… Thanks again!


    • Moon-beam: I’m so glad this material is helpful. It’s wonderful that you’re benefitting & it’s great for me to know I’m being heard & of use. It’s what I was born to do. Have you started going to Al-anon? Keep in touch & thanks for writing.


  7. Thank you for this invaluable
    Information. I’ve read your website for a while now, ever since I came out of denial slowly with Gods safety.
    I have a question and wonder if you would answer it.
    I am almost 50 and absolutely exhausted. Can’t sleep at night, smoking cigarettes, and completely hated by and isolated.
    I am forced (nit even hiddenly anymore) do, be, and say what my father wants me to – for a place to live and enough money for food.
    He is a very well-respected man in the community and I am the Bad One.
    I have tried to get out from under but can’t sue to my exhaustion which keeps me from working. I’ve been stuck for years and am dying. My body’s falling apart.
    I can’t find a place to live. All that is available is a city shelter, not the last safe place.
    Should I just bite the bullet and leave this all behind and go?
    Will I have a chance of healing then?
    Can I heal and sleep and therefore work – while still under his control and living I a nice place if I ask God for enough help?
    Thank you


    • Thank you for reading this blog. I believe you can start the healing process even where you are.

      – Keep on reading & take notes – how does each post apply to you?
      – If possible order & read some books about narcissist & about ACoAs.
      – Go to Al-anon meetings – if you can’t go in person, participate in the phone meetings, at least once a day, if not more – until you feel strong enough to change something.
      – Find a way to get on anti-depressants, if you are not already.
      – Call your local hospital & get into a program or group therapy.
      – Search the internet for other support systems, even, a social network organization you can go to social groups to change the way you think.
      – Start by getting rid of the cigarettes – the health dept. will send you anti-smoking patches.
      – Change your diet – no sugar or carbs. Your brain chemistry is flooded with toxins.

      I know you can do something to better your situation!
      I wish you well & pray you free yourself.


      • Hi again Donna
        Another year has gone by and things are worse than ever.
        I’ve tried to quit smoking but all the trauma comes up and I can’t.
        I’m also more exhausted than ever and have been admitted to the hospital several times for what feels like heart attacks (it’s more than anxiety, I know that feeling.)
        I’m definitely on my way to that early death some ACAs experience. I’m not kidding myself about it anymore.
        The addictions are needed for relief and my ability to have boundaries or be honest are gone. I can’t even feel when a situation is unsafe.
        I believe I need to jump ship and go to a shelter. Someone in AA is trying to tell me it’s my fault and I should allow my parents to control me but they are extremely sick narcissists.
        He says that I need to get out spiritually instead like the Jews didn’t do when Rome tried to enslave them. The Jews ran and ended up in the wilderness for 40 years and so will I. Ridiculous? I don’t know.
        I do not trust this person for many reasons.
        Anyway I feel if I jump into Gods arms and stop rescuing my abusive parents and allowing them to pay my way also, that God will care for me until my housing comes in which would take all summer.
        I don’t have another year left. And it’s warm out now.
        Should I just go?
        Thanks for any input.


      • You were not clear about what’s really causing you trouble – are you actually living with your parents?

        You don’t have to kill yourself to get away. Find somewhere else to live – far away & stay away from them.

        Read my blog & do to Al-anon every day. Work on developing a heathy adult & healing your wounded inner child.

        God doesn’t want us to suffer, nor are we supposed to take care of other adults. Only ourselves – to express the self God made up to be.

        Donna M Torbico HEAL & GROW for ACoAs 212-580-9631 BLOG:


      • Thanks Donna.
        The issue is control by N parents (alcoholic father too) – and N feed. 3rd-party Scapegoating of me by other family members & even strangers, invited in by parents who are also ACAs (not willing to do any recovery or therapy.)
        I’m doing all kinds of work every day in AA, Alanon and ACA.
        Either I let go and let God and tolerate – or I escape (I choose the latter; the former isn’t working.)
        I’m afraid to be in a shelter but God will take care of me if it’s His will. housing may take 3-6 months to come in. I will have a little $ and go at the beginning of August.
        I may call you at some point to see if you are available for phone sessions as I am not in your state. Not finding a willing sponsor.
        Thanks again for your support and your blog – which I read all the time.
        God bless


  8. i am the very sad unorganized and weepy mother of a growing and vibrant 9 year old girl. how do i not sap her of her life? i want to be a neat clean confident example of a woman to her. i dont want her to be like me. i want her to love God, helrself, and others. i want her to be confident and successful. i want to be confident and successful too, but i really want it for her. I start to change and then i get stuck then i go back to being a sad tired weak person. i dont want to be the reason that she is unequipped for a joyful life.


    • Hi sad mama – Thank you for writing. You have a good heart & I believe you also have courage.

      All the things you wish for your precious 9 year old is exactly what your wounded inner child needs. What’s missing in you is a loving parent, which you can build – with the right tools & daily effort. Your welfare has to come first – before anything or anyone else.

      Some tools:
      — an Al-Anon meeting every day – either in person or a phone meeting
      — read this blog over & over until it sinks in (click on 2010 / 2011… to find topics of interest)
      — any spiritual connection you believe in (prayer, reading…)
      — look for support communities where you live or on line – so you’re not isolated
      — using the Lucia Cappachione workbook “The recovery of our Inner Child” daily
      — the right one-to-one therapy
      — AND I highly recommend an anti-depressant. If you can’t afford one contact hospitals for research tests you can be part of, and/or various pharmaceutical co.s who have free drug programs.
      If your brain is over-stressed (sad all the time) you won’t be able to FULLY use all the other tools.

      It takes perserverance & courage to do your own healing work, but it pays off. My best wishes go with you.


  9. Thank you for your encouragement. God Bless you in the work that you do for others. I hope one day to be well enough to help hurting people in the way that you do.


  10. Hi Donna, I’ve followed your blog since I discovered the ACOA community. You’ve been extremely valuable in helping me understand and “get” who I am. I’m very grateful. I’ve been with a dynamic therapist (EMDR, Cognitive, behavioral ect) for the last 3.5 years and am more aware of who I am today, I do still struggle with codependency and finding my voice when in relationship. I find speaking up for myself terrifying and freeze. I definitely feel enough to know when something’s happened that doesn’t sit right but in the act of it happening, I avoid speaking up or confrontation. Of course I choose to date women that are comfortable with double blind communication. I also realize I’m not a victim. Your blogs have helped me understand why I’m so terrified and I want to challenge this terror so my inner child and I can finally be free of this illusion.

    Thank you Donna!


  11. Hey Donna;
    I’m a recovering Alcoholic and 2nd. oldest of a family of 11 kids. My dad – bless him was a WWll vet (British Army). Irish Catholic mom – you get the picture. With almost 20 yrs. of being sober (one day at a time) I can now focus on ACoA issues to help myself all while trying to help other siblings who are plighted with similar ‘stuff’. Bless you and yours for you are doing God’s work. cfa


  12. Thank you Donna,
    I am a counsellor in Australia, and I have really enjoyed your insights and comments on the various types, your work on Anger and related topics has been a great resource and has contributed to my language and communication with clients. The personal cost of maintaining a blog of this quality and volume is exceptional and I would like to think you recognise the valuable contribution you are making to people and their lives and relationships. ALthough some take the time to write and respond, for every one there are many who, wishing they might say something, often say nothing.

    Please keep up the excellent work!!

    Thank you, from Australia!!


    • Hi Michael,
      Doing this work is a great joy for me, & it’s always wonderful to hear from my readers.
      Thank you for letting me know that it’s helping.


  13. I am so glad I found this site. For the first time in my life I feel like I might actually be able to understand why I self injure & hate myself so much. It finally feels like I might be able to stop abusing myself and start actually liking myself. Thank you so much for this information.


    • Erin, I’m glad that you found it too. You are one big reason why I publish this info. Add Al-Anon to your reading (phone meetings are available). It will be a powerful combination.


  14. Hello,
    I have come across your website and wanted some advice. I am feeling quite desperate today, I believe it’s a bad day for me.

    i have had severe anxiety and depression due to studying abroad in the past, and cannot live my parent’s house at the age of 26. I have seen a therapist and it all comes down to control issues from my mother and maybe brother.

    I don’t know what to do, I cannot feel an emotion without rationalizing it straight away and therefore feel nothing but the anxiety. When I do try to do things to be away from my parents I just feel this unbearable void and cannot do otherwise but to stay home and not intend to move out.

    Sometimes it even comes down to just not following the “timetables” of going out that I’ve been used to as a child; I then feel my entire body overwelmed by anxiety.
    I try to take charge of myself but I am petrified to be my own person. I want to more than anything else but my brain just wouldn’t click and get that and move on with life.
    I have been trying for 4 years now and I am desperate.

    I can’t even deeply feel how desparate I am for fear of feeling it. I talk to people and see how behind in life I am, and I am just very worried because I do not see anything change.

    I would need advice if you don’t mind?

    Thanks a lot in advance,


    • Hi Adiza,
      I know the kind of distress you’re talking about. What you’re describing is called “Separation anxiety”.
      It means you’re not allowed to have an identity of your own so you can live as a separate individual.

      In order to form this identity you will need a lot of therapy, but you can’t afford it / it’s not available,
      12-Step programs are free & available by phone (phone-meetings) every day. I recommend Al-anon & ACoA meetings,
      which you can find from the internet. At first you can just listen – & you when you’re ready you can share too.

      Also continue reading the blog & make notes about whatever thoughts & emotions surface as you read. You may
      need to read the same posts over & over until they sink in. This is all going to take time & perseverance.
      These suggestions need to be done very day. If you can get books (on Amazon or ….) by John Bradshaw, &
      others I’ve recommended on the blog & my website (,
      like “The Recovery of your Inner Child” by L Capacchione, include then in your daily
      process. If you can afford therapy, I’m available – by Skype or phone – even if it’s only once a month.

      Thank you for reaching out.
      Donna Marie


  15. I was with you until the religion showed up. If your unsure what I mean it’s the Zodiac. It looks like your doing some good thing.


  16. I have been reading bits and pieces from the web while trying to understand my (suspected) covert narcissist wife. Then I came to find out I am (was) co-dependent. I am on the way to healing with the help of a good therapist. I am hopeful that I can represent a normal parent for my two daughters. Reading more and more, and becoming more aware of where the disorders come from has been helpful! I want to say that I like how you have written this material. You have a lot of what I needed to read (two years ago during my ah-hah! moment) all in one convenient place. Thank you for letting me read your material!


    • That’s wonderful! I love hearing when anyone has the courage & self-respect to look at their issues’& work on outgrowing them. It sounds like you are working on being a good role-model for your daughters!


  17. Thank you so much for this site! I wish is could take it and make it into a blanket and wrap myself in it!


  18. Hi Donna, I found your site 4 days ago. My journey of mental health self discovery started about 4 years because of what turned out to be enmeshment issues, exposing a father, now dead, as having traits of overt narcissism and a mother, alive, aged 87, with covert narcissistic traits, who is a perpetual victim with religious addiction. I have one younger sister. Childhood was chaotic and dysfunctional. My father was completely self absorbed, bitter and abusive. My research to date led me to believe that I was a golden child (of my mother) and my sister the scapegoat. Your site has turned this thinking on its head. I can now clearly identify myself as the ‘hero’ and my sister as the ‘lost’ child. Your site is simply amazing and turned up in my search for enlightenment at just the right moment. It has answered many questions but inevitably raised others, the search continues…Thank you for posting so much insightful information. Stay safe.


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