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Can a 12-Step Program Solve Your Unemployment Woes?

By Juliette Fairley

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) --Although Kerri Gibbs is an award-winning painter who even appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman to paint portraits of Letterman and Oprah Winfrey, she joined a 12-step program known as Underearners Anonymous because she isn't getting paid what she deserves.

"There are a lot of traditional portrait artists who earn a really good living, asking two, three and even four times as much as I do," said Gibbs, whose full-body child portraits sell for $10,500 a piece. "I don't charge more, because I fear I will price my clients out even though my work is worth double the price."

SEE Also: Tax Tip: Deducting State Unemployment and Disability Contributions

Originally from Australia, Gibbs worked ten-hour days in Melbourne first as a freelance photo retoucher in the advertising industry before moving to New York to work in publishing and now portraiture.

"Despite my success, my income was dropping, and I couldn't understand why I wasn't earning enough despite my god given talent that everyone recognizes," she said. "Underearners Anonymous is my last stop."

Underearners Anonymous, quite simply, is a 12-step fellowship fashioned after Alcoholics Anonymous that helps men and women overcome underearning traps, which include procrastination, accepting low paying jobs, overworking, perpetual unemployment and putting off career advancement.

Founded on October 16, 2005 with 18 members in a church in Nyack, NY the organization has gone global with presence in 32 cities and countries, including Israel, the U.K. and Iceland.

At a meeting on a recent Thursday night at the Realization Center in the Union Square area of Manhattan, a group of 20 men and women sat in chairs making up a circle. Members talked of being trapped in an "underearning continuum", the "collective underearning" in the world and "prosperity as a consciousness" that can be attained through 12-step work.

"There are some areas in human life where 12-step meetings can make a difference but it's not a panacea for everything," said Vanessa N. Weber, a licensed therapist with a master's in social work who has counseled alcoholics and other addicts in Westbrook, Conn. "Certain 12-step programs can help you show up, take responsibility and participate in your life instead of blaming others. They can also help you get support to take actions and help you be more honest so that employers, friends and family can trust you,"

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