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Hello, my name is Dr. Jessica Taylor, and today I'm talking with Kelly Wicklund, a licensed psychotherapist with 20 years of experience who serves as the Clinical Director of the maternal Wellness Center. She specializes in perinatal mental health, and is certified by Postpartum Support international as a perinatal mental health specialist. Kelly's expertise extends to reproductive health psychology, where she helps clients navigate the complexities of parenthood from infertility challenges to Peri partum mood and anxiety disorders. Kelly's career includes roles as a clinical fellow with the psychoanalytic center of Philadelphia, and associate with the Center for postpartum depression, and the director of onsite perinatal mood and anxiety services at Jefferson health. She has lectured extensively on Peri partum mood and anxiety disorders and brings a warm, supportive approach to her work, drawing from psychodynamic humanistic and feminist theories, Kelly values increasing consciousness and understanding of early attachments, which informs her modern analytic, psychodynamic perspective. Kelly, welcome today, I've been so looking forward to having this conversation with you.
Me too, Jessica. Thanks for inviting me.
I would love for us to get right into it. How did you get into this work and kind of a little bit of that backstory of where you've landed now with these amazing roles that you play in the community really enhancing the understanding of maternal mental health?
Yeah, it happened very organically, almost 18 years ago, to the day I had a baby. So it was my first one. And I had, at that point, my master's degree had done an extensive internship, and never in any of my training, had ever heard about the transition to parenthood being a developmental milestone for a person in their life. And then I lived it. And I was wearing a clinical hat and a new mom hat. And I thought, how could I possibly be a trained mental health professional, I know so little about this world. And so it really kicked my baby really kicked off my specialty. I had been pretty general to that point. And I knew I was gonna dive in and give that my life's dedication. Because there's a lot to it, as it turns out,
yeah. Well, and how beautiful this sense of maybe lack of preparation you felt, and then kind of turning that into being able to prepare clinicians to really understand the needs of this population.
Exactly. And supporting moms along the way, and finding support. And I did launch a private practice shortly after my first son was born. And so the practice has grown along with my babies, they had another baby as well. So they've grown up together. And it's a you know, they're nice, thriving, almost adult people and a big thriving mental health at the same time.
Wow. So both babies so to speak, can really kind of flourish despite the challenges, I'm sure and the growing edges. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. As you started digging into pursuing more knowledge, understanding and making this your specialty, could you speak just a little bit of how training enhance that or maybe just enough experience where you really feel like you were able to gain not just your own personal understanding of motherhood, but really the plight of sort of that milestone for parents?
Yeah, I had to I was living it. So in real time getting, you know, on the ground knowledge, but then I did seek formal training. And we have an organization that is global, its Postpartum Support International, they offer training to clinicians. Yeah, for resources and support across the country and around the globe. And so they're really sort of a mothership of education and good training, the cutting edge of data and research comes through them. So yes, I got myself some some real world expertise,
which I'm sure helped you to feel sorry. have equipped when moms or parents come in with, obviously different experiences than your lived experience? I'd love for that to transition us to sort of what, what would you speak to as far as the needs? Or how do we really get to better understand and see this population as far as this big adjustment in life, but it's also super complex and multi layered, because everyone's parental experience is so different.
It is very complex and multi layered. Yes, it is. It's actually the most vulnerable, psychologically vulnerable time in a woman's lifespan. So it's the biggest change typically in her life, and also when she's the most psychologically vulnerable. So it's terrible timing. And there's also a newborn involved in that two or more other could be born newborns, and possibly other children. So it's really it is it is truly a perfect storm of events that touch every domain of life. If you think about socially, financially, physically, emotionally, it doesn't leave any domain of a person's existence on touch relationally. So it's really pervasive, and yet, it's also wildly expansive to it is a place of real growth opportunity for a person in their lifetime to. So when it's going well, it's, you know, immediately there's, there's neurological changes, and strength, new strengths are formed literally in the brain. But there's a lot of ways that can go sideways. Because there isn't enough support in this country. In particular, for new moms, we do not have a federally mandated paid leave. We have appalling maternal health statistics for for a developed country, we have maternal death rates that are 10 times higher than other developed countries, we should be stunned and horrified at those rates. They're double for black women. So horrific effects of racism we see across maternal health, and that translates into maternal mental health. So it's, it's already fraught, and as a country, it's very fraught, as well. And so there's we, the first thing we really do when we have a patient and maternal wellness centers, contextualized. For them, this isn't something wrong with you. This is this is a system problem. Unfortunately, here you are in a very, very broken system. And we start there to help them normalize what they're what they're living in the past, their past experiences, very salient. The risk factors that we know to stand very true our past a past mental health diagnosis that they've had in their life, a family history of mental health disorders, particularly if the the patient's mother had postpartum depression that is salient. And a birth trauma, if there was any experience that happened during the birth that was particularly traumatic, then, you know, this sort of front load the experience and risk for postpartum depression.
So you say so many different layers and kind of breaking it down, I realized how I don't think that's talked enough about when we're preparing therapist of how multi layered it is, because you start right there with the system, already how mothers may be disadvantaged in so many ways, or, you know, historically directly harmed by a lot of what we have been put the layer of our culture being Americans and what that feels like, then we go even more and more micro of just identity, feelings of worth, maybe co occurring sort of mental health challenges to and society saying you should be happy during this time. This is a miracle or this is, you know, the best moment of your life. And so then there's this incongruence that I've seen so many clients have I know that should be the happiest time of my life and I've never suffered more or I've never had you bring up birth trauma to I don't even feel like myself still. I'm still recovering just even from the physical, much less emotional toll of this.
Right. Right. Yeah, very good synthesis that read on your toes. Yeah, that's exactly it. We're working at three layers. When they walk in the door. That's what we have in your mind's eye how we contextualize this person in front of us. Who exactly as you said, it feels like, I must be doing this wrong because it doesn't feel magic. All right, don't have that immediate on that I was told I would feel. And I think it's
I see a lot of my clients suffer with that like loneliness aspect of it because they don't feel that they can share it without it being judged or maybe being talked out of it. And so even the almost like shame and embarrassment, when they bring it up in session, as of sort of testing the waters of my reaction really shows me just how secret this can be. Sometimes for a lot of individuals, especially from the outside, they can sort of still function and operate.
Yeah, no, you're absolutely right, there carries a lot of shame. And I think that's what's really useful about therapists, we, we can work with shame, pretty handily. And people can release it when they are validated. And when it's normalized. And when we tell them that a lot of women don't immediately feel great, when they transition into parenthood. A lot of dads don't feel great either when they transition to fatherhood. So it's, you know, across genders as well, that there's the mythology. Chris precedes pupils debut into parenthood and it becomes happy. Yeah. So it sounds like you to treat some perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Yeah, well, and
that's something that made me particularly excited about this topic and learning more as I've really been able to see how complex the processes how individualize, and a lot of it still boils down to that sense of like, I want to be a good parent. And I feel like I'm, I fear, I'm inadequate, or I feel like I'm failing at it. But being able to see how society has also really impacted this or messaging and programming that happens. I mostly work exclusively with mothers. But that really happens with this sense of like womanhood and what that means. I think that that's something that we have to understand better. And that's something that I just think in master's programs, we don't always have time to hit every specialty. So it's important to have these conversations to understand what many of us may be missing, because we don't have as much experience or training in this area.
Yeah, yeah, no, that's such a good point. And probably, you know, I don't know, many masters colleagues who knew what they wanted to specialize in. It seems like we were all kind of generalists through the programs. I wish I had known more what I was going to be interested in, but I wasn't an oracle at the time. That it's true. It's you do have to seek, seek more extreme training into the specialty. This is a high lift for training and knowledge. It does require a lot, especially at the maternal Wellness Center, we work across the spectrum of infertility as well. So that sits on subspecialty of perinatal. So yeah, there's a big demand on staying current and getting very deep expanse of training to so sure you feel that yourself.
Definitely. And I definitely think that being able to have you here today to kind of cover some major areas that individuals who are either seeing this clients or obviously interested in more, now they have avenues to kind of conceptually this conceptually this and understand the layers within fertility hitting that sort of shortly. How are some ways that you have found to be really useful to those clients or maybe some struggles that you've seen some common themes that might help prepare us of what we might see if an individual is struggling with infertility? Yes.
It's so discouraging, you know, you think you're going to women frequently protect against pregnancy vigilantly, then all of a sudden, it's time to try. And they they hope that will happen quickly. And then sometimes, you know, primary infertility comes to the surface, and they're not getting pregnant after weeks and months of trying and realize they're, you know, they go for a consultation of I know, there's a problem. So it feels immediately like grief, like the process isn't going as planned, the timeline isn't going as planned. They may just cover problems they didn't know existed. And so the path to parenthood is already complicated and frustrated, and probably then becomes more expensive. And again, that's a real system gap is that there isn't coverage for all the fertility care across country. There's no mandate to require it either in most states, so people at this point then start coming out of pocket for their own family building, which generally wasn't expected at that point. And an infertility journey does prime people for more vulnerability in the postpartum period as well. So is it's relevant for you How they transition to the other side if they do successfully family build, which we're always rooting for and frequently can happen. But then they are at more risk on the other side. So we watch them really carefully to
I think that's also important to understand how this can kind of play out. If there's already those vulnerabilities and with clients I have that are coping with infertility, this idea of how I felt my body could operate and something that I feel or somebody told me is the most natural thing that my body should be able to do, and wrestling with that grief that we're you said, of, and now it's not operating in that way. And I feel helpless and angry. And now there might even be blame that's being shifted between the relationship that it also is again, it can be very lonely plays in a very self blaming place.
You're absolutely right. Yeah, it's not everybody shares when they're going through it. There's especially if it's not completely clear what's happening women in, you know, in a dearth of Not, not having good answers will always blame themselves, they will reflexively blame their bodies. And it's that that add to have VPS to carry as well. So there is a sense of betrayal, like my body isn't doing the thing it's supposed to. And, again, back to the mythology, it's supposed to be natural and intuitive and seamless. And it if it really isn't a lot of terrible surprises. Yes.
And sort of helping to untangle this belief that if someone's like, faultiness, that there's something that's faulty within them, or something that you know, due to karma or mistakes, sometimes I even see this almost like, not really paranoia, but this like, suspicion that, you know, this is some consequence. And so really unpacking what it means to be going through these trials, and to not personalize that you're the faulty one.
Yeah, absolutely. I think of it as magical thinking a little bit. Because we really need meaning. And if we can't find meaning, it's era, you're asking someone to sit with existential chaos. So that's not me, then I can't make any sense of it. And that's sometimes even harder
to think that I live in a chaotic and unpredictable world.
Exactly. Yeah. So that's the bargain. I'm frequently in this space with patients because they, they do Lean into thinking it's like you said karma a past mistake. Catholics carry this very heavily. And that's painful to be with so we have to look at okay, that's, that's a rationale you're making, but it's a Tapi it's costly. But then the alternative is that then this is happening for no reason. And what do I do with that? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yes.
I agree. When I have clients who have religious and spiritual affiliation sometimes that sort of can help carry them over have one day this will make sense the suffering clients who you know, don't experience that that's harder to sit with it than all of this spontaneous and so now I'm just left to sit with that. Sometimes that's more difficult to sit with.
It really is yeah, it's particularly to to live last year miscarriage, stillbirth infant death also. And that, too, becomes a very difficult exchange of why why did this happen, and a lot of people do want to lean into the meaning of it happened because I must have done something wrong. I must have lived badly, I must have made poor choices. I deserve this. And that degrades mental health so profoundly, we need to have to gently draw them out from that place. But frequently, what are they left with? Life? Life is frightening and unpredictable, too. Yes. It's, there's not a better space to offer except that we have to keep the blame of you.
Exactly. The self loathing, though, is not a useful place to be that continues and endures that suffering versus an alternative, which is still very uncomfortable and anxiety provoking.
It is it is. I think it's lighter in some ways. And yeah, not an easy
one, and it's hard to wrap your head around, as you're talking about the mysticism of like parenting and motherhood, because you maybe say, or share some misconceptions that you feel people come in with, but your experience has really taught you differently.
That's a great question. And I think you've you've hit on some of it already that there is an idea that it will be that it's it's deeply intuitive and so on. quite natural, quite fluid. Simple that it's easy that we're, you know, we got this far in our own development, we must know how to raise a baby. And it's, it's not often that simple and non intuitive and that straightforward. You know, things like how you feed your baby can become some of the first challenges. Breastfeeding can be very difficult for people not not feel natural at all. For some, it's it is quite seamless. Birth can feel quite difficult for people so, so those ideas that it just it's done, it's just been, you know, human beings have been doing this for millions of years and, and on
social media, everyone maybe looks like it's so glamorous and these perfect nurseries and these birth, you know, pictures to they're in the black and white in the movie that I think it also sets us expectation.
It sure does. Absolutely. Yeah. I love social media for a lot of things. I think the conversation around motherhood has gotten very honest. But there's still those various monetised images and stories that are not helpful. I think, ultimately, and they are they are people's true beautiful moments in time that we're seeing a one second snapshot.
And absorbing that content over and over still sets the brain to think but we're comparing that's not your lived experience. That's not you.
It sure does. Yeah, I do get that question a lot. Because I do still treat patients I supervise my staff, but I do still love treatment. I probably won't ever stop treatment. It's my favorite part. But that's frequently the question is, How do other people do it and do it so easily and effortlessly? And I have to say, I don't know any? I don't know anymore. It's been easier, effortless.
Oh, no. And there's a lot that we don't know as far as like help and what village they have around them. And as you're talking I think about how with so much with my postpartum clients. Grief is really interwoven in there, whether it's grief about their expectation of the birthing experience versus the reality, grief of the nursing process or feeding decisions made grief about maybe the immediate connection or lack of connection or feeling super connected to postpartum life and newborn life. There's just so many of these almost like hurdles of grief of what I thought versus the reality and how I can reconcile that and still feel like I'm a good parent or good version of myself.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, grieving the old life. The former relationship. There's still a partnership and together are layers of growth and and growing babies is grievous. Every Yes. Eric comes to an 18 year old birthday party next week, and I feel it in my body to have Wow, now we have an adult. And that's incredible and exciting and thrilling, and so gutting really sad at the same time. So they're scary thoughts reality? Yeah,
it's a lot of like increasing that flexibility of thought that you can grieve and still feel so much more and think connection and love to it's not your bad mom or your good mom or your bad parent or good parents.
Yeah, I mean, binaries are never helpful in any of it. But I do think the journey of parenthood through its natural pitfalls is a is a paradox of holding, you know, joy, and growth and change in grief and loss and, and sweetness, regret sometimes sorrow sometimes for how things went. So it's very paradoxical. I mean, I think it forces people into more nuanced thinking. And so the black and white thinkers really, and the concrete thinkers don't love this.
But I think that's really fun. Well, I think that's really
where the growth edge of parenting is thinking in simplistic terms, you really can't you know, and there's a lot of fantasy kind of backs up the mythology, there's a lot of fantasy about you know, how it will go that you know, you just do this, this and this, follow these simple formulas or this idea of parenting that's so clear, and it will all just work out and that's a nice fantasy, but these are human beings, humans raising humans, there's a lot a lot more nuance to it than that. So
I feel like it's you get to experience the highest of highs and lowest of lows because as your child is growing you don't also realize how much of you has to continue to evolve to meet these needs are things from your past that didn't realize were soft spots now, in that parenting process up really start feeling things activated.
Oh absolutely I work psycho dynamically so informed from an analytic perspective, which is deep and long body of work, which is that the past is prologue, the past is relevant to where you are in your identity and, and how your childhood when really does come to bear in your parenthood, I call it the great excavator, you know, things that had been dormant, maybe the grass had grown over it for a while.
Now what's coming up through this a man through the sidewalks and still showing itself,
right, you have a baby. And suddenly, it's it's very in the room, what you have lived as a child and through your own development and milestones. And it does force someone to become more nimble, because it's so dynamic. And I think that's true of a person who chooses to not have children to their, their life stages are still very dynamic. I think that the parenting like the parenting stages are even more so that would be my bias that, you know, there's so many more variables in play. And it does force identity to constantly shift in shape and mental nimbleness and psychic flexibility. And I think that's difficult. I think that's incredibly difficult. And it's it's like a continuous growth. And, you know, like, it's a little tiring,
for me it is and then you start adding, like intergenerational, whether it's like pains or traumas and to that they're also getting it from, like an ancestral level, a social level, own their own, like introspection. So then that goes into my question. In those worst case scenarios, when you have a parent who's truly struggling, something of I've seen that I'd be interested to see your thoughts on or hear your thoughts on. It seems like in those worst case scenarios, like in support groups, you finally see a parent who's really struggling and then they make the news something horrific has happened. I see a lot of clients very as a defense mechanisms really want to separate from that. And so then it Rhian activates shame, this idea of like, people are gonna think because I went through postpartum, like, I'm dangerous, or I'm crazy. And so it's almost as very like unifying communal group. But when the horrible tragedy does happen, inevitably, I see almost like it reactivates the shame, the skilled and my clients want to go back into secrecy. Have you seen any of that concept where it's almost like, out of fear or out of stigma, they almost like turn away from others in their community who are really struggling because it's scary. It's overwhelming. And there's also this fear of perception.
That's a good observation. I haven't seen that. But I hear it. I'm not personally running a support group at this moment or center does, but I am not personally running them, I probably would have witnessed that phenomenon that you're describing. But women do come in frightened after hearing a high profile national headline story. That's, of course tragic. And I do wonder if that could be them. And I do have a lot of people come in and ask like, what's just say that's not going to be coming for me. And it's very careful explanation of what psychosis really is what it looks like when we would have seen it by and we, it sounds like we're both offering a lot of reassurance to women after that. It certainly rattles everyone. It rattles our patients or rattles every practitioner, I know, you don't want to be the therapist that misses that you don't want to be the center that doesn't see it. And it scares us all. I think it's it's truly the day we wonder why we're therapists and not florists or Baker.
He's like, why don't they just do tech is easily done tech. No, but yeah, this idea where it's like the unpredictability of our experience and our conditions really causes so much stress. And then I do think it's amplified with mothers if this idea of like a saint mother and a mother who donates and devotes and sacrifices that this disruption or that cognitive dissonance I see in those clients and to try to reassure them will not othering that it's just like and Yes, like this, this series, your mental health is really really serious. Like, we aren't these inescapable beings who aren't affected by stress and affected and the trauma, but it's just part of our lived experience. But I just thought that was really interesting of how again, it's in a community that could draw on each other and I think they often do through support groups, how it can be very scary and then personal still, because of just the differences and experiences and how heightened it can become. It can
Yeah, we really do feel the rubble come out when when I'm on our own is affected. Yeah, it always scares me. It always gives me pause and the work does change the texture of The work changes for that whole week or weeks to follow the the discussion groups to professionals change it can be can feel the buzz running through the professionals to my staff as well, when we meet, they'll be thinking about it talking about it, when I review the risk factors when they talk through their higher risk patients, but it's rare. I mean, I think that's what we have to know is, is can psychotic events happen, they kind of but they are rare. I've seen them twice in my career of almost 20 years at the specialty. So it's, you know, and not that we can, you know, sleep on it, that we it's not a daily thing that will say so. But increasing in scaffolding better care for women nationally, is the imperative that shouldn't be. It shouldn't happen, you know, maternal deaths shouldn't be happening. Postpartum Depression shouldn't be happening at the rates, we're seeing it. I mean, we have that is where our advocacy battle is this scaffolding deeper, broader, more sturdy support across the board for mental health and maternal health as well. Because it's appalling ly lean.
So what would be your call then to therapist if we're assuming if they're seeing individuals who are in family planning ages, this topic is going to come up? Are there certain insights or nuances, I'm definitely going to link the resource that you shared earlier, that you recommend therapists having a better understanding of as they're seeing these populations.
I think right now, I personally am following the core, which is losing the protections or grow. I watched state by state what's happening and we're, we're in a phenomenon that it never would imagine it's seen in my lifetime, I was born into the protections of rabbits when my whole life I didn't imagine at the country where we would lose access to safe legal abortions in the States, we're worse, we're living in the hellscape. That is that and so what we have to know now as women are being forced into birth, women who would have had choices and took choices and off ramps to pursue their life and extend, you know, creates child periods of their life aren't, aren't able to do that anymore. So when you're a forced birth country, you be have a much higher risk across physical well being and mental well being than we've ever had before. And the data is preached the IRA. So it's a new worlds really, I mean, in real time watching it change. My state of Pennsylvania sits very precariously, our protections haven't changed. But they could very, very easily depending on elected officials, you know, I don't know if you follow mocker Institute, but they're all things abortion access and rights. And they show a map every day of the states that are restrictive and protective. And every all the shades in between. So I think that's changing the whole context of birth in America and postpartum in America, because if someone did not intend to come into parent, and at this time at this stage in their life, the outlook was really different.
So this highlighting this attention that we've now put people at risk, because of we've already talked about these complicating factors and parenting, and that might be a best case scenario for someone who's engaging in family planning. Now add this complication of lack of choice. Yeah, lack of preparation, lack of resources, lack of all of that, and how that just amplifies what the needs are going to look like.
Yeah. So I think the I think the fight goes right back to that of like, we have to, I mean, women have to galvanize to return rights to states that have lost them. You know, and in, if you look on the gute monger map, you'll see the bright red states, I mean, effectively, abortion is banned, because you can't have one after six weeks, when a woman generally doesn't even know she's pregnant. So you might as well say that you don't have access in that state. It's just pretend it's a game that they do, but they don't. So we have to really galvanize around restoring protections that you know, keep abortion safe and legal. The mental health, the whole mental health system could use to get over you know, it's pretty broken as you know, Yeah, such a fractured system. I have no good ideas for how to fix that. But the book communities can make choices to support mothers better with support groups and community spaces that bring moms together. Sounds like you're running a really thriving support group, which is
No, I definitely do the individual work. And I think it's important that we all do it individually. But again, on that sort of macro level to see our clients continue to get put at risk. And we can see the implications because we hear the stories and narratives. For an individual level, are there things that you have found that typically do help your patients things that you would sort of guide therapists to lead with if maybe they don't know all the fancy interventions that are tailored to this population? Things that you've either seen done poorly that you would recommend against? Or things that could be a tool?
Great question. I don't think there's really any real tricks or gimmicks to treating anybody ever just think it's be present with someone's story and bring your expertise and bring yourself and walk them through what they're going through. But with with treating the perinatal population, that would be sort of preconception to postpartum, there can be no agenda, you can't come in as a clinician and say, I know what's your best way to parent, I know exactly what you should do. There can because this person has their own journey ahead of them, they're going to make their choices that are right for them and their family in their context. And that's it, you suspend all ideas about what you did or didn't do, or what you did do how you parented that doesn't, it's irrelevant to this patient. So you do have to come in and say, check in at the door, any ideas, you have an agenda for this person. So I think that's critical for everyone, YouTube, ever, truly. But I think knowing your scope of practice is really important, too. There's, the causes are such great information out there through Postpartum Support International, through the American Society for Reproductive Medicine through Google bunker. I mean, it's really easy way is to get good information. And I think knowing being true to where your scope of practice is. And not to say you can't try something new, but quickly getting the training and expertise that you need, or a consultation with someone who knows more than you do about it. So I think there's probably are my two best things is no agenda and stay within your scope until you get better information.
And I like that, but kind of checking your agenda. Because I do think in our own clinical anxiety of wanting to do a good job, we sometimes fall into more of that like advice giving or like guidance, when there's so many different ways to parent and being really mindful that particularly with individuals, whether they're perinatal or positional, they're going to be looking for a lot of reassurances, a lot of like grounding to know, am I doing this right? And so they're particularly vulnerable or sensitive to our impressions or our judgments and opinions. So yes, being able to check that that whatever way you think is the right way to parent shouldn't come into the room as long as this parent is whole and well and kind of has that clarity.
Yeah, I'm really for being to not disclosing hardly anything. I really don't. I don't lean into, like vice giving, I don't lean into anything about well, I have chickens. Here's what I want. Yeah, I tried to really just in and that was more of the analytic model is being what the person needs and letting the transference you know, letting them use you in the way that they need you psychologically, and taking yourself out of that, you know, not all your wisdom, good skill, but it's irrelevant. What you write what you did, or, or how you chose to do things was what's most relevant is what this person needs in their journey right now. And I think that's what's so incredible about treating the postpartum experiences. It's 100%, treatable. You can get people if they come in for help, they can get a full recovery back to baseline out. If they want to keep going out and doing work, you can get them better than baseline which is so, so wonderful, you know, like they can keep deepening in their journey of their own development as a person. You know, we hit on a lot of really depressing pieces of this but I do think like the potential for expansive growth is So why during this time period and how people change and who they become, when they look back, they often when change a lot of it, they've been informed and rewritten in a deeper way. So I think that part's really fun. It is it is very
rewarding. As we've talked about a lot of the serious things and sort of considerations. It's actually really one of my favorite populations to treat that I didn't expect, I come from a treating serious mental illness, a lot of trauma. And so it's been sort of a surprise of experience and seeing the progress these clients can make. Also seeing I've been lucky enough to have clients long term where I get to see their parenting experience over like multiple children, and to maybe see someone get to have corrective experience or you know, the kind of parenting experience they really yearned for, or even preparing them for what that looks like that you've experienced so much grief with this experience. How can you make meaning for this one, it is really beautiful, or even to see them undo things from their own being parented, and now getting to sort of initiate new patterns in their families. It's such powerful, exciting, rewarding work, it just is also multi layered. And that's why I think it's important to understand some of those layers. Yeah, no, I
love that part two people truly break intergenerational trauma. Yeah, they stop it. They stop it with their new family. And that's not easy work. I mean, they're working on two plants at once. But it's done. It's done. And it's incredible. And yeah, I love that. Yeah, well, I will never fall out of love with like the thrill of that.
And even seeing where I have clients that there's this experience that happens in therapy, where they sort of learn to reparent themselves, because they realize the way that they were parented, for whatever reason, not to villainize their parents, but it just wasn't a fit for them the way it was delivered, just, there's some disruption. And seeing them learn to parent themselves in this and see them learn how to have self compassion, or these things that they could have used as children that they just simply didn't get, it's really powerful to then see that transformation and see them become more empowered, more in tune with their own identity versus maybe what it was like to be a nice kid at the time, or what that parental expectation was from their family of origin. Yeah, yeah. Jessica, you love us? Where do I have your population? But yeah, I don't know, it's a very powerful rewarding one. And part of it, yes, I'm a parent, too. So I do like to see sort of that parallel process. But I think part of it is just there's so much beautiful, like undoing and learning that we can have here. But it's also really serious. I mean, we've talked about earlier at times, it can be life or death. So for me, I think one of the things that I learned quickly, was listening to these clients really clearly, because at times, many times the medical system may have already sort of like pushed them off. They didn't, you know, being hard on an assessment while they were at their doctor's office, so there was kind of no follow up. And that when you like, really hear them and really pay attention to them and hear what chronic sleep deprivation does, or feeling disconnected from your partner, feeling disconnected from your body, you could hear so much of their pain and suffering that can just be masked by that exterior sort of functioning and being a good parent.
Absolutely, you know, it can look really good on the surface, high functioning, depression, and anxiety exists, and they can they can pull it off. And I think that is the job to Mother them, I do feel like I'm, I'm kind of actively mothering patients, and then they learn to Mother themselves, and to not consider that to be selfish to have, you know, she rejected this ideology that we have about mothers as murderers, they have to let that go. But then they can truly take good care of themselves and everyone benefits and I think there's this idea that if you know, mom isn't murdered and coming last, then the family will suffer. And that isn't sure at all that if mom and dad are good, everyone in the family stands to thrive. And that means that they are taken care of well and and kids really need to know that kids feel much better knowing with confidence their parents are okay because they make sure they're cared for. And I think that's a false idea that you have to give everything to your kids all the time and that's what they need and prefer they don't they don't they want to know you're okay.
They want to know you're okay they want to know that they don't have the pressure of holding that center in your life and this thing to like live up to and live for and then they also kind of learn what it means to be a caring loved one with your own life your own identity. So yeah, like to empower the same thing that you don't do your children any favors me. making them the absolute center of your identity and world although it feels generous and caring and loving, long term, imagine living under that pressure as a child.
Yeah, yeah, it's too heavy, it's too much doesn't help them out in the world.
And I think part of this work to that makes me excited to do it. I think there's a ripple effects that if we have moms or parents who aren't suffering, and in so much pain, that pressure that we talked about online, I think some of that can cease to where you just hear people really communicating and commenting to each other through so much pain and judgment and self loathing, that it's like, then also the system can start healing from within a little bit where we don't, we're not so judgy of each other as parents, and we're not so self righteous, and we don't put on this, you know, front that I think really isolates a lot of parents.
Oh, yeah, I think I think it's going in the right direction of kindness and compassion, and not mom shaming and not so much women shaming. It's, I think it's gotten better. I truly am an optimist on this run. Because when I started, it was really grim. But there is a there is a galvanizing rejection of doing that. And it is it's, it's having to hold complex, the idea is that there's more than one way to to be a good parent or a good enough parent. We're not even talking with good parents just good enough. Good enough, is the gold standard. And that
there thank you for reinforcing that. I say that a lot. And when affection is here, that that's very uncomfortable. And I'm like I know, which is there is a such thing as good enough.
I know it's so true perfection. It's really hate that. It takes a long time for that to
see yes. But I am hopeful, too. I think the more we discuss it, and we see the repercussions of the kind of pressure that we put on parents, that maybe we can actually have some honest connecting conversations versus the who's doing it better or feeding better or loving, where there has the coolest toy and just all the pressures of things that kids don't really matter.
Yeah, I think it's silly to this conversation we're having when we're making the world better right now. But it is to say like, what works for me, it doesn't work for you and what worked for my kids and doesn't necessarily work for your kid? And isn't where everyone's okay.
Everybody's gonna be okay. But I think it is that sense of, can you feel good in it and release your own sense of anger, resentment and power? So I hope this discussion was helpful for individuals to kind of understand some of those nuances. Is there anything that I didn't ask you about that you wanted to share? Before I close this out as far as this conversation and getting to just hear that and we appreciate so much your experiences in this?
I think we could have talked all day probably. You seem to have touched on so many things. No, there's nothing that stands out to me, that I that I think I've missed, I appreciate your thoughtful questions from experience. I mean, it's so fun when someone's in the work and talk about the work.
So it's important, it's energizing, for sure to just be like, okay, because I think sometimes I'm in private practice, it can particularly feel a little isolating, because it obviously it's like I don't see what everybody else is doing and hearing. So I love when I can stumble upon and hear the other people that are in that mission too. It feels very energizing, which is important for our field.
It does, yeah, I worked alone for a long time as well. And now there's nine clinicians at my center. And I have to say, and like having colleagues around better because it does get very lonely supporting moms in on your own. It's nice to spread out some of our experiences and worries and wins and all of it is really fun as colleagues. So I do find that the professionals in this field are eager to connect. And I think that's always really nice strength for us in you know, people in the trenches, doing hard work I'm going to do what we do is not easy. And when we do it as parents, it's also not easy. This work is very, very true. Yes, in our own parenthood. So you know, therapy being mandatory for a professional in this field, who's a parent treating this? I think that's really he I tell that to my staff too, you gotta hang out with your therapist, cube Santa, you're gonna need them because it's this work is activating the Wilco home, carrying other people's guilt and grief and fears. And we do have to be very mindful to take care of ourselves as practitioners in really thoughtful thorough ways. With that.
Thank you for adding that that extra sort of like supervision piece because I do. I don't even think I highlighted into awareness of this sense of it is a toll because there's so much of a parallel process or countertransference that can come when you also share that season of life or some of these lived experiences or even just some of the tragedy the empathy that I feel when I have a client who's gone through a fetal demise or you know, a loss of the child of the that energy that it takes because I can, my body can feel what that might be like with my own children. So I appreciate that attention that we have to put to ourselves to, oh, yeah, the
countertransference is so potent. And I have had many nights I've come home from work and had to, if my kids were sleeping, just touch their heads, and just put hands on them and that they're here and safe and Okay, and that's an aroused place to have to come home. And yeah, make sure my people are okay, then that, that was comforting and consoling. But my own therapist and supervisors have been key for me to be okay in the work because I do think the work is wearing. So
thank you for speaking on sustainability in the field. I think that's a good place to end. This is important, but we remain humans in that process. And so being mindful of how to be able to sustain doing the work in a meaningful way
we've you remain here then we don't want to burn out because we have good work to do.
We have so much good important work to do.
Yeah, so it's really fun talking with you.
So grateful for this conversation, Kelly. So I will definitely link the resources that you shared, but I will have a say goodbye to another episode of the thoughtful counselor.
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