Specializations

My work and training has focused on the following areas:

  • Pregnancy and Post-Partum
  • Couples/Relationship
  • Loss and Grief
  • Parenting Transitions
  • Infertility
  • Adoption
  • Cancer Diagnosis and Adjustment

Pregnancy and Post-Partum: Pregnancy and post-partum periods can be incredibly difficult. They challenge people’s views of themselves, their careers, their relationships, and who they want to be as a parent. And all on very little sleep. Most of my career has been spent working around pregnancy and early parenting transitions. I understand the very real impact of postpartum mood disorders and have worked with many women and couples in a hospital birthing center and NICU. In the context of early parenting, it is helpful to keep an eye toward the practicalities of sleeping, eating, and support, while counseling a woman or couple through the emotional and philosophical changes.

 

Couples/Relationships: Nearly all of the couples that I see tell me that they want to improve their communication. What the couple usually means is that they want to avoid arguments and escalation and they want to feel connected. While I help couples develop skills for having difficult conversations, it can be even more helpful in the long run to cultivate connection, to bridge the gaps in how people show one another care and affection and to have a strong understanding of oneself and self-caretaking. We also look closely at the dynamic between people and each individual's responsibility in that dynamic.
 
Loss and Grief: Most of my experience with bereavement has been around issues of miscarriage and infant loss, but I have also supported people through the loss of partners, friends, older children, and mentors. The most important aspect of supporting people through grief is really understanding where a person is in the wide range of possible loss reactions and to meet them there. This can be either an acknowledgement that the loss is just as great even if a person is able to clean out his spouse’s closet or understanding for a person who can barely get herself out of bed after a pregnancy loss. Grief counseling is allowing people the space to find their own meaning.
 
Parenting Transitions: Though most of my work has focused on individuals and couples transitioning from being childless to becoming parents, that is only the first of many parenting transitions that take place throughout the lifespan. Changes such as divorce, parental illness, and loss stress people’s coping and can leave them feeling exhausted and stuck. It is easy to become overwhelmed with the layers of experience and to have trouble identifying the individual components. I enjoy working with people as they increase their understanding and skill in navigating parenting changes.

 

Infertility: I think the best clinical understatement of infertility is "a non normative experience." What could be more difficult to understand than the inability to have children without assistance? It is a desire that is built into many people’s biological self. I look at it as an issue that is equal parts existential and practical. People consider who they thought they were and who they ultimately want to become while figuring out what to do with the backlog of baby shower evites in their inbox. I create space and safety to look at the many ways this non normative experience impacts a person’s relationship to themselves, their partners and the world and what decisions a person wants to make to establish their new normal.

 

Adoption: Experience in adoption can describe a wide range of roles. My work has been almost exclusively with adoptive parents and birthparents, mostly within a context of open adoption. I believe strongly in the benefits of openness in adoption and appreciate being able to support people as they open their minds and hearts to building connections. That said, open adoption has very challenging aspects. It can be exhausting to wrestle with the unique boundaries and coping required by these relationships. I enjoy supporting people as they grapple with the best way to honor themselves and their families.

 

Cancer Diagnosis and Adjustment: By bringing a person into such close contact with their own mortality, Cancer can activate intense emotions: loss, fear, regret, appreciation, jealousy, just to name a few. These can flood a person in the days after a diagnosis or only arise when remission comes and a person finally has the safety to process feelings. My work with people acknowledges a certain amount of commonality between people who experience life threatening illnesses, while looking at the unique meaning an individual brings to the experience.

Kelly L. Sullivan, LCSW

10883 SE Main Street, Suite 204

Milwaukie, OR 97222

kelly@kellysullivanlcsw.com

(503) 381-2422

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© Kelly L Sullivan, LCSW