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Meet Karen Whitehead

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Whitehead.

Karen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
So many people feel they are supposed to have their lives figured out at an early age. For me, I hope I am still growing and evolving as a person as long as I am on this earth! Almost ten years ago, I decided to go back to school. It was not an easy decision, but I knew after working in headhunting, education, fundraising and hospice, it was time to find a career that fit my passions as well as my transitioning life. As part of the sandwich generation, I have children still at home (the last one heads off to college this fall) and care for my mom who is in assisted living. After a great deal of research and support and encouragement from my husband, I decided to become a clinical social worker to blend my skills and interests in a way that is rewarding and flexible. Changing careers mid-life is an accomplishment I won’t soon forget.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Dealing with the anxiety and stress of being in a job that was not the right fit was the motivation I needed to figure out what was next in my life. When you have kids in college and high school, telling people you’re going back to school isn’t exactly met with a lot of encouragement. I think my friends and family thought I was a little nuts, but that all changed when they saw my excitement about my studies and internships. Raising a family, caring for an aging parent, and completing graduate school was quite the balancing act.

Like most people, sometimes I was able to keep all the balls in the air, and other times, they fell around me like an avalanche. Learning to have some self-compassion and taking up mindfulness and meditation allowed me to keep moving forward. While in school, I chose to take a leave of absence for six months to care for my mom who was having some health challenges. Even though it all took a little longer than I’d hoped, it was worth it.

Karen Whitehead Counseling – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I have a private psychotherapy practice in Alpharetta, GA where I share an office suite with three wonderful colleagues, Radha Tilghman, Melissa Coats, and Erin Simone. As a clinical social worker, I provide counseling and hypnotherapy. Through compassionate person-centered care, I help clients regain balance, overcome anxiety, and improve their quality of life. My personal experiences and interest in all things medical have empowered me to help people experiencing anxiety along with chronic illnesses such as cancer (and their caregivers too) throughout the greater Atlanta area. Often I collaborate with oncologists, psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, neurologists, and other specialty providers. I facilitate a support group for women with metastatic breast cancer through TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation and provide educational events for medical professionals and caregivers on self-care and compassion-fatigue as well as cancer-related topics for women with breast cancer.

As a long time dog lover, I will soon be adding animal assisted therapy to my practice with my rescue pup, Maizie. Dogs can be an asset to the therapeutic process in so many ways including helping clients to learn coping strategies, reduce anxiety, experience comfort, and lessen feelings of isolation and loneliness. I’m excited to offer this to my clients!

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is such a loaded word. As I’ve transitioned to new phases in my life, the meaning of success has changed. Early on success was defined by a full-time job making a good salary. Today, success is defined by the health and well-being of my family, my ability to take care of myself and balance my life, and the honor of being present for my clients in their struggles. Being able to reach my goals and set new ones and help others do the same has become the barometer for success.

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