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A Mission to Free People from Toxic Relationships

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In her new book, The Cuckoo Syndrome: The Secret to Breaking Free from Unhealthy Relationships, Toxic Thinking, and Self-Sabotaging Behavior, Andrea compares the invisible condition that is the root of chronic psychological problems like addiction, emotional abuse, toxic relationships, narcissism, and codependency to the cuckoo bird - nature’s brilliant masterful manipulators and deceivers.

Among all the species of birds, brood parasites such as cuckoo birds, are cruel and clever. The mother cuckoo will secretly place its egg in the nest of other birds (hosts) so that the host parents unknowingly raise the ever-demanding, never-satisfied cuckoo chick as their own, leaving the host parents exhausted and depleted - taking care of something that doesn’t belong to them in the first place. They have been deceived. Upon hatching, the cuckoo chick instinctively and immediately uses multiple tactics to kill the host eggs and sadly, the parent’s eggs never hatch nor come to life. 

Like the cuckoo’s deceived host parents, humans fall prey to similar parasitic behaviors. Human cuckoo relationships are opportunistic and aim to take advantage of you, monopolize your time, and consume your energy by dumping their issues into your life. Human cuckoos could be a relationship with a partner, family member, or colleague. Like cuckoo birds, they secretly mimic the behaviors and desires of other people to trick them into forming a relationship. They adopt a devious disguise. These people are never satisfied, no matter how much you try to love, help, and please them. 

Andrea gives insight and ways to fend off these cuckoos that invade our “nests” with their devious disguises. Cuckoos can take many forms – there is the cuckoo of avoiding emotion, the fear cuckoo, the stress cuckoo, the shame cuckoo, the unresolved grief cuckoo, the perfectionism cuckoo, and even the religion cuckoo.

Andrea helps clients break free from the cuckoo’s snare by teaching them to embrace the desires of their hearts as they uncover the truth of who they are, who others are, and who God is. She helps them commit themselves to discovering meaning in suffering and understand how their pain is the genuine catalyst for purpose. 


Andrea’s parents went through a divorce when she was a young adult. Andrea was hesitant about religion, but her mother found a church and pastors who helped, loved, and supported her through the divorce process. Over some time, Andrea met with the loving pastors and went through her healing and understanding of how to have a personal relationship with the Lord. She wanted to help other people the way she was helped, and bring healing to the brokenhearted, set the captives free, and bring others to Truth. She says: “Your greatest place of pain is your greatest place of power to help others.” 

Andrea has a special heart for those dealing with the silent epidemic of mental and emotional health in the church – even church leaders and faith leaders deal with this. Emotional abuse is not as apparent as physical abuse, and mental illness is rarely dealt with. Andrea's mission is to help pastors, ministry leaders, and Christians to understand that there are many nuanced systems (nervous system, brain, attachment system, ingrained mentalities) that play into why a relationship, particularly couples, have communication issues.

There can be a "crazy feeling" that people have when married to someone with mental illness. This is because they can’t figure out what is wrong to even know how to fix it. Those in relationships with an emotionally or mentally unhealthy person are always the ones who must deal with the fallout - without getting a voice. The abuser is often not held accountable. 

She has sat with many clients and seen the silent suffering of the lie that plays over and over in many of their heads - that to serve is to always be LAST. Jesus wants us to understand that this is a false narrative. He got angry. He did what his father said to do and did that. He didn't listen to Pharisees or Sadducees or even have his co-dependency with his brothers. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. If you treat yourself like garbage, then your standard is low. You need to love yourself a LOT to love others a lot.

The church can focus so much on others that we forget, we ourselves, are a part of that equation. An injured or broken person can do little for the kingdom. If we want to be effective for the kingdom, we must learn to proactively love ourselves, and not see that as an evil thing. 
Andrea says, “If you feel guilty and selfish for thinking about your own needs and wants - you are not on the right path. People are so used to giving and giving and are so disconnected from their own needs, they lose themselves. It’s not mutual. And it’s not healthy.” 


A respected counselor, published author, and keynote speaker, Andrea Anderson Polk leverages well over a decade of clinical experience, illuminating storytelling, and deep compassion to help people uncover truths, break free from harmful behavior and relationships, and celebrate newfound freedom.

She is a licensed professional counselor, a certified professional coach, and nationally certified, and has served as president and vice president of Northern Virginia Licensed Professional Counselors (NVLPC). She is a registered supervisor for the Virginia Board of Counseling where she works with counseling candidates who are pursuing their professional licenses.

Additionally, Andrea holds a ministerial diploma and has a deep understanding of theology. Andrea has a private practice counseling individuals and couples. 


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