We’re back to introduce you to another clinician on the team! This week – our newest (and only!) psychiatric nurse practitioner, Celeste Kehoe. Celeste is currently seeing clients virtually and will continue to see clients in our office once we return to in-person counseling. We’re excited to have her on our team! Find out a little more about Celeste in this interview and call our office today (910) 790-5000 to schedule your first appointment with her.

Why did you decide to become a nurse practitioner (NP)?

I had worked as a registered nurse for several years prior to returning to graduate school to become a nurse practitioner. While active duty in the US Navy, I had the opportunity to work on an inpatient psychiatric unit and this is where I found my calling to work in psychiatry. I have always enjoyed talking with and listening to clients and the nurse practitioner role afforded me the chance to expand my role as a nurse. As a nurse practitioner, I feel I am still able to provide individualized care and take the time to truly form a therapeutic relationship with my clients.

“I’ve never met with an NP or psychiatric provider. What should I expect during my first appointment with you?”

During our initial appointment, I will collect information regarding your history and symptoms that you are experiencing. After listening to your concerns and answering any questions you may have, I will offer treatment recommendations. We will then collaboratively decide which treatment option, if any, would be best for you. I strongly believe that my clients should have an active role in their treatment. The best approach in most cases is the combination of therapy and medications. My role is to listen to your concerns and symptoms, make treatment recommendations and monitor your response to medications so that you have an optimal outcome.

“I have concerns starting or switching medications. Any insight or advice?”

Starting any medication whether it be for medical or psychiatric reasons can be worrisome. Whether we have decided together to try a new medication for the first time or switch from another, my approach is to go low and slow. This helps to minimize any side effects and allows you to adjust to the medication.

What book are you currently reading or podcast are you currently listening to?

I try to read a new book each month. Currently for pleasure reading I am reading, “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate. As I feel it is important to continuously keep abreast of new information and continuing education, I am also reading “Eating Disorders – A guide to Medical Care and Complications” by Dr. Philip Mehler and Dr. Arnold Andersen.

One thing you want your clients to know about you?

I have worked in a variety of settings including outpatient clinics, clinical research trials, correctional facilities and on a university campus. All of these experiences have helped me grow as a prescriber and nurse practitioner.

No one could have prepared for the impact coronavirus would have on our lives, our work, our families, or our mental health. In the last few weeks, there are three areas that have come up the most in my clinical practice: how to manage staying at home, how to be mindful in a crisis, and how to help people with eating disorders manage most effectively.

Mindfulness is not difficult, but it does require practice. It can help quiet the fear and help us become more aware, in the moment, of our thoughts and behaviors. Think about how often you touch your face. Think about the sensations that go with washing your hands. Think about what to do instead of shaking hands – perhaps this will encourage us to make eye contact and to think about our intentions more when interacting with other people. We can become aware of how connected we all really are when we think about our intentions and interactions. When you are afraid of something like getting sick from the coronavirus, really think about the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that make up that feeling and allow them, without judging. Keep moving through them, listen to them, and perhaps dissecting your fear will diminish its power. The behaviors of fear can also reinforce it – think about decisions you make regarding where you go or who you spend time with, what you buy at the grocery store, how much news you are watching and what other things you are doing with the extra time you have at this moment. If you are mindful of these thoughts, feelings, and decisions then you allow your values and needs (as opposed to wants and shoulds) to guide you.

How to manage stay-at-home

There are a lot of things that can make a positive difference, the first being awareness.

Most of us never think about what is healthiest for us; we go about our days and change things as something comes up. Right now, we are still in a pretty reactive phase when it comes to COVID-19 and its various impacts; however, being away from our normal routines affords us a great opportunity to increase our awareness in a way that everyday life would not. Maybe we can learn to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to managing our own stress.

What do you need? Do you need a dedicated workspace, a structured schedule, regular social interaction, daily naps, or something totally different to make staying and working from home bearable? A lot of us are in limbo, and likely will be for a while. It is important to figure out what makes you feel positive and productive. There is a lot of information published about how to make working from home a bit easier, but some of the things that seem to be universal are:

  • Stick to your routine as closely as you can (get up at the same time, work at the same time, etc.) and simulate your work environment as closely as possible if you are working from home
  • Put on pants (real ones, not PJ’s), brush your teeth and your hair, take a shower, etc. every day
  • Get outside every day (weather permitting)

How to be mindful in a crisis

While it might seem stressful to add mindfulness to your list, it can help us manage the stress of this very unusual situation. After all, this is a time no one every expected to have.

Here are some ways to use mindfulness to cope with stress in general as well as some ways that we can all increase our mindful awareness.

  1. Practice gratitude and acceptance – If there is only one part of this list that you implement, let it be this. Practicing gratitude through journaling, affirmations, meditation or prayer has been proven over and over to increase general life satisfaction, improve medical outcomes, and elevate happiness scores. Just thinking about gratitude is enough to get the positive effects – even better if you are able to do it every day. Also, saying thanks to others helps you share that gift with the people you care about. Acceptance operates in much the same way, but it allows you to get un-stuck from the worries, demands, or people that might get you down. If you are able to identify those situations beyond your control that are getting you stuck, sometimes all it takes is acknowledgement to accept the situation and move through it. We cannot control what happened with coronavirus, but we can acknowledge a need to accept the situation as it is, not as we wish it would be.  The same way you write, speak, or think gratitude works for acceptance. If you are having trouble with acceptance, consider backing off of watching or reading the news as often – things change every day with this situation, and the news is not necessarily helpful in managing our anxiety, especially when there are conflicting or changing messages.
  2. Be aware of your own needs – it is important to be open to and make space for your own needs, thoughts, and feelings. We all have different associations with staying at home – family, past experiences, loss – and need space to process them in our own ways. Do not forget to take care of yourself and be good to yourself. If you need your own space, alone time, social time, quiet time, now is the time to figure that out. Everyone also has different energy levels and preferences when it comes to productivity or creativity. Some people want to tackle projects they haven’t had time for, and some people want to learn to meditate or take up a new skill. All are reasonable – but try not to impose your preferences on others in your household.
  3. Allow yourself some peace – letting go of judgement, enjoying experiences and not focusing on the outcomes, doing less, unplugging, and spending some time alone are just some of the ways we can attain some peacefulness and space in our lives. Everyone on the planet needs that in their lives. But we need to remember that everyone has different levels of need for connection and it is important to give yourself and others in your household room to do that in their own ways.
  4. Play – having fun is sometimes lost in the midst of all this worry. Adults need playtime too! Think about something you liked as a child and do it with your own kids, your dog, or your partner. What makes you smile? Make it happen!
  5. Practice compassion – compassion and lovingkindness are two important concepts to apply to yourself as well as others. When we keep compassion in the forefront of our minds, it allows us to take care of ourselves, and be more attentive and more relaxed. Usually, that also makes us kinder and more open to others, keeping our spirits uplifted. Hope is hugely important in a crisis, and compassion is the quickest road to hope.

How to help yourself or a loved one manage eating disorder recovery during this crisis

For those whose loved ones are suffering with an eating disorder, here are some other ways to manage food stress:

  1. Don’t be the “food police” – for adults, it is not anyone else’s responsibility to manage their food choices, it is something each individual has to decide. If you have an eating disorder, try to stick with the plan that you and your therapist and dietitian have worked out. If you are supporting someone, talk about what would be helpful to them ahead of time and follow through.
  2. Pick your moments – walking on eggshells or avoiding difficult topics might let your family dinner be more peaceful, but some issues do need to be addressed. If you are concerned about someone’s eating behavior, or even just their stress level, it is important to talk about it (but probably not at the dinner table or in front of your friend on a virtual group chat who gossips about everyone all the time). If you do confront them or attempt to have a conversation, make sure you are being honest and saying what you mean to say. It might even be helpful to have a plan, especially if you have tried to talk about it before and it hasn’t gone well.
  3. Let go of judgment (and practice compassion) – mindfulness is all about not judging. There are lots of stereotypes that stigmatize eating disorders – do not assume you know what their experience is like (or vice versa). Family can sometimes trigger judgment and criticism – try to notice when you are judging yourself or internalizing messages from others. Next, take a step back and try to observe the feelings without judging them and you might be able to give yourself some much needed space for kindness, empathy, and compassion.
  4. Use “I” statements – eating disorder or not, it is never a good idea to assume you know where the other person is coming from. “I” statements – “I feel (an emotion)   when you        do this behavior or say this specific thing)             .” help solve this problem. By expressing your own feelings, you increase your ability to connect and reduce defensiveness. Stick to pointing out what you have observed and keep your non-verbal communication calm and open.
  5. Here are some things that are never appropriate – “Just eat!” and “Just stop!” are not useful comments. Never comment on the weight or someone with an eating disorder or tell them they look” healthy” – try not to make any comments about that, especially when food is involved. Commenting on what they are eating, especially during a meal, is not helpful (unless they ask you for feedback directly).

Everyone is struggling with the “new normal” and no one knows what changes the virus will create when all is said and done. Take from this post what works for you. And remember that there are a lot of people who need help right now, and there are a lot of people willing to help others. Teletherapy is an option that was not available for everyone before and could be useful to manage the anxiety, stress, and uncertainty that comes not only from the coronavirus, but also from all the changes that will result from it.


Coronavirus is a virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat and can range from mild to severe symptoms. We know those with compromised immune systems are more likely to be affected. Avoiding people who are sick, washing your hands and avoiding touching your face, mouth & nose are all great methods to protect yourself, I’m here to help you take it to the next level and really give your immune system a boost!

Here are 7 helpful ideas to ramp up your body’s own immune system: 

    • Vitamin C  We can boost the immune system with a vitamin C regimen of 1,000-2,000 mg per day which may reduce severity of symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. Consuming adequate produce is simple way to boost immunity since colorful fruits and veggies are loaded with Vit C and other antioxidants. A few favorites to add are citrus fruit, berries, kiwi, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, kale, sweet potato, brussel sprouts, apples, peppers and spinach.
      You could also supplement with Emergen-C or Airborne.
    • Probiotics  Include in your meal planning a healthy level of good bacteria. Incorporating probiotics is valuable in restoring levels of these healthy bacteria in our body to protect us from infection.  Your gut 70-80% of your immune cells.  A quality probiotic supplement is recommended but remember to always take after antibiotic use. Introduce fermented foods into your diet such as tempeh, kimchi, kefir, yogurt (make sure the label says it contains “live active culture”) and sauerkraut.
    • Water  We experience fevers because the body’s defense mechanism is heating up in effort to kill the virus. This can cause loses of vital fluids, especially if you experience vomiting & diarrhea, so it’s crucial to be hydrated. Keeping the kidneys hydrated will naturally support the immune & lymphatic system.
      Our lymphatic system filters out foreign invaders and is comprised of mostly water. Since our lymphatic system and immune system work synergistically,
      it’s imperative to keep drinking those fluids to keep everything moving smoothly.
    • Sleep  Physical exhaustion is a common symptom of an illness. Light meals such as chicken or veggie soup with homemade bone broth let the body divert it’s energy to the
    • healing process rather than straining to digest a large meal. Let yourself rest to allow your body to recuperate. Good sleep cycles help the immune system work well.
    • Food Is Medicine  Reach for garlic & onions (which will also keep your friends 6 feet away)! It helps your body suppress infection while enhancing immune function. These two powerful foods are antibiotic, antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial.  Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammtory, antioxidant with antimicrobial effects. It is a muscle relaxant and may have the power to reduce coughing & inflammation. Add 1-2 tsp of raw honey to ginger tea. A cough can be a good thing; your body is trying to get rid of mucus that may be collecting in your lungs. However, a persistent cough may be annoying if it keeps you up at night. Ginger can help with nausea too.  Season your meals with oregano & thyme. Oregano has antiseptic and antibiotic properties .
      Thyme is also an antiseptic and promotes expectoration making it an excellent excellent remedy for respiratory infections & coughs.
    • Supplements  Down to Earth Has an essential oil called Burglar Blend which is a great anti-bacterial, anti-viral combination to use in a diffuser to combat airborne illness & bacteria.  Lovey’s Natural Foods Market has organic Elderberry juice for an herbal immunity booster.
      Gaia Herbs online offers Immune Shine which is a powerful blend of wild mushrooms, chaga, elderberry & ginger.
    • Sunshine  Spend time in the sunshine.  Our skin makes Vit D when exposed to sunlight.  Vit D deficiency is linked to increased susceptibility to illness. Sunlight  directly activates key immune cells by increasing their movement. Sunlight is germicidal and there is evidence it can kill viruses.  Fresh outdoor air is a natural disinfectant so if you don’t deal with seasonal allergies, spend some time taking deep breaths outside and enjoying the warmth of some sunlight on your skin.

Robert Urich states “A healthy outside starts from the inside!”
Please join me in nourishing our own bodies so we can come together and take care of one another during this stressful time.


May 7th, 2020

To our Valued Clients,

Thank you for your adaptability and patience as we’ve transitioned to telehealth over the past 6 weeks. Although shelter in place will be lifted this Friday, our office will remain closed for in-person visits through the end of May. Insurance companies are still allowing telehealth without restrictions for the remainder of the month; we intend to benefit from their flexibility by continuing to provide therapy via video or phone to ensure everyone’s safety.  We hope to protect our clients and staff and do our part to “flatten the curve”. In addition, we do not feel in-person visits while wearing masks is conducive to effective therapy.

Chrysalis is delighted to be offering a 4 week wellness workshop for frontline workers. For county, state, and New Hanover Regional Medical Center employees, this will be FREE with your insurance benefits. We are excited to offer support and care for those most impacted by COVID in their workplace.

Stay safe and be well!


April 4th, 2020

To Our Valued Clients,

We will continue to remain closed for in-person sessions throughout the duration of the shelter in place order. Mental health services are considered essential and we could not agree more! We know these are uncertain and challenging times and urge you to continue to connect with your therapist and/or dietitian for support. Telehealth options include phone or video sessions. We are also offering our outpatient groups via Zoom, in addition to virtual Intensive Outpatient Programming (IOP). We are excited to welcome a new addition to our staff- our psychiatric nurse practitioner, Celeste Shamel. She is now offering telemedicine sessions and accepting new patients. Please stay safe and well and know that we are here to help!

Stay well and be safe!


March 26, 2020

Dear Valued Chrysalis Client,

As many of you know, we have successfully launched telehealth over the past week and a half and are now offering phone or video sessions in addition to virtual groups and virtual IOP. In light of the current circumstances, we are electing to remain closed through April 5th at this time. We will continue monitoring the situation and make decisions on a week by week basis about re-opening the practice to clients for in person sessions. Our number one concern is the safety and well-being of clients and staff and we seek to minimize the impact of COVID on our community by practicing social distancing for the near future. Our admin team is still operating and can assist you in your scheduling needs. Please don’t hesitate to call us at 910-790-9500 or email

Stay well!


March 20, 2020

We are now offering all appointments through online or telephone sessions. This is for all existing clients and new clients. Contact our office at 910-790-9500 or email to schedule your appointment.


March 17, 2020

Our leadership team has come to the decision to end in-person office visits effective close of business today, through the end of the month. We want to ensure the well-being of all clients and staff and minimize the impact COVID-19 has on our community. Effective 3/18/20, all individual counseling and nutrition appointments will be offered via telehealth. This is temporarily being allowed by all insurance companies in light of the current situation. We hope to add video conferencing capabilities in the very near future, but due to the unprecedented demands on the servers of the various telehealth platforms, this option is not fully functional at this time and therefore we will be conducting therapy via telephone only to ensure uninterrupted care free from technical glitches. For now, all outpatient groups and IOP services are suspended until our HIPPA compliant virtual platform is more sound. We will inform you as that occurs.

We understand that this is an anxiety provoking time and we are committed to helping you through it. We will periodically add updates to our website and social media and will have administrative staff working remotely to answer your calls and emails.

Our administrative staff will be contacting you to discuss the logistics of this change in delivery of services (i.e. you will be expected to electronically sign a telehealth informed consent) and answer any questions you may have. Your regularly scheduled appointment(s) stand and your clinician will look forward to talking you then.

Thank you for your patience during this ever-evolving situation. We hope you stay well and will look forward to being able to connect again in person.


March 14, 2020

To our Valued Clients:

In light of the recent concerns over COVID-19, we wanted to assure you we are committed to the safety and well-being of all our clients and staff. To that end, we are following CDC recommendations regarding sanitation and taking all precautions necessary. As a Joint Commission accredited facility, we have infection prevention protocols in place and hope to maintain a germ-free environment. Everyone that enters our building is expected to abide by our protocols.

If you or someone you live with is experiencing symptoms, please contact our office to determine if telehealth services are an appropriate option for you. We offer a confidential and HIPAA compliant platform for telehealth should you need to utilize this service.

As of now, we are operating on a normal schedule for all services. We will continue to monitor the situation and abide by all recommendations by the CDC and government officials.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call our office at 910-790-9500 or email

Thank you for your understanding and cooperating during this time.

This week the NBCC and organizations nationwide are recognizing Medicare Mental Health Week. Dr. Kerri Schroder shares some insight on this topic.

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” ~ Mother Teresa

These words describe the feeling of many of the elderly in our country. Despite longer life expectancy, increased facilities and technology that medical and social systems provide to elderly, loneliness and depression are all too common.

Loneliness is not a new concept only beginning during senior years.  Loneliness is not synonymous with being alone, nor does being with others guarantee protection from feelings of loneliness. Loneliness has been described as a complex set of feelings that occurs when intimate and social needs are not adequately met and that drives individuals to seek the fulfillment of these needs. It is a universal phenomenon found in the humans and is closely associated with changing life circumstances.

We can also distinguish emotional and social loneliness. Emotional loneliness is missing an intimate partner, such as a spouse or sibling and is accompanied by feelings of isolation and insecurity, and of not having someone close.  Social loneliness is lacking a circle of friends and acquaintances that can provide a sense of belonging, of companionship and of being a member of a community.

Studies have found that increased age, absence of partner, dependency; institutionalization and health impairment were associated with increased risk of loneliness.  And loneliness is linked to depression, lower quality of life and increased vulnerability to both physical and mental health problems of the elderly. Factors like cognitive function and limitations in activities of daily living were not related to loneliness. Other factors: education, income, marital status, and perceived stress are not predictive of loneliness.

Coping mechanisms are cognitive and behavior efforts to manage perceived overwhelming demands, whether external or internal. The way these difficulties are faced directly influences levels of health and psychological well-being They can be divided into two categories.  Adaptive coping mechanisms are fairly active, and include instrumental and emotional support, planning, acceptance, humor, positive re-framing and religion.  Mal-adaptive coping mechanisms are more passive and include behavioral disengagement, denial, self-distraction, self-blame, substance abuse and venting.  Often time seniors react to feelings of loneliness with sad passivity, distancing, and denial as a way to cope due to a sense that this is what is expected at their stage of lie.

Not surprisingly the use of adaptive coping strategies are associated optimism and active engagement and result in less loneliness and less depression.

Engaging in therapy to learn and practice adaptive coping skills is a pathway to overcome loneliness.  Practical strategies are offered:  how to distinguish between loneliness and solitude, volunteering & teaching opportunities, finding other sources of nurturing (caring for pets, plants), figuring out what is missing from your life, and taking steps to connect with others.

Kerri Schroder is a licensed psychologist who specializes in geriatric mental health. 

Lauren Francis

Humans are social creatures and some very important aspects of the human experience are the relationships that we develop. Think about the different groups in your life of which you are a part. Do you have a circle of friends who provide support and enjoyment? Do you have a group of coworkers with whom you have developed relationships and appreciate spending time with? Have you ever been part of an athletic or educational team? What about a social media group based on your interests?

Maybe you have made long-lasting connections and bonds with people that you met during your time in a group or maybe you felt a sense of community and belonging after getting to know your fellow group members. We are all aware that entering a group of individuals we don’t know can be intimidating at first, but in considering these examples, I think we can safely say that there are some major benefits as well.

Now, imagine combining the positive aspects of being part of a group with the impact of a genuine therapeutic experience. Group therapy typically consists of three or more individuals being led by one to two clinicians. Many groups are designed to target a specific concern, while others may focus on a particular modality of treatment to target several different concerns. Groups can be an excellent supplement to individual therapy, as they provide several benefits that individual therapy does not offer.

  • Group therapy creates a support network of individuals experiencing similar concerns. It is always validating to know that you are not alone in your struggles. Attending a group that is focused on a specific concern of yours can allow you to feel a sense of support and to show you what different stages of recovery look like.
  • Group therapy allows you to not only receive but also to give support. Have you ever heard the saying “the best way to learn is to teach”? Group therapy provides the opportunity to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective in order to give others who have similar struggles feedback, which in turn can be helpful in re-framing your own thoughts and emotions about a situation.
  • Group therapy helps in the development of social and communication skills. Group therapy provides a safe space for you to express your thoughts and opinions about a variety of topics. This can provide a good way to practice navigating differences in opinion with others in the group setting.
  • Group therapy aids in improving self-awareness. Hearing others talk about situations and concerns that are relevant to you can encourage reflection about the ways in which you handle similar situations and promote growth when relevant.
  • Group therapy can provide you with several perspectives. There is not any one right answer for everyone when it comes to mental health. Being part of a group gives you access to the ideas of several people who have been in your shoes. Maybe someone has an idea for targeting an unhelpful thought or behavior that you have never thought of. It can be helpful to hear a lot of different thoughts on one situation in order to avoid getting stuck in the same pattern of thinking repeatedly.

Whether you are a seasoned group attendee, or you have never attended a group before, joining a new therapeutic group always offers fresh opportunities and experiences. Give it a shot – you never know what you might learn about yourself and those around you!

Lauren Francis, MA is the therapeutic office assistant at Chrysalis Center. Lauren assists in administrative duties, facilitates groups, and ensures authorizations for IOP are in place with insurance companies. Chrysalis Center offers multiple outpatient groups. To learn more about our groups, or to sign up, contact our office at (910) 790-9500 to find out which group may be the perfect fit for you!

Every day we are bombarded with media messages about how to look, how to act, and how to feel. People often compare themselves to these media images and beauty standards and assume that it’s not only ideal, but also achievable. However, this doesn’t take into account that these images are often altered or distorted. Countless studies have found that these media messages impact how we feel about ourselves and can lead to a negative body image.

What is negative body image? It’s the negative thoughts and feelings one may experience related to one’s body. It is a negative perception of one’s self due to a perceived inconsistency between one’s actual and ideal body. A negative body image can lead to serious negative effects including eating disorders, depression, anxiety and an overall lower quality of life.

One way to begin shifting the critical, negative voice towards kindness and appreciation is through compassion. Self-compassion can help promote a more positive body image. It allows a space for kindness and understanding towards ourselves and a recognition that our flaws are part of a shared human experience. It also helps us build a connection to how we are feeling without the need for judgment or criticism.



6 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion to Cultivate a More Positive Body Image:

  • Practice mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can help us recognize our thoughts and feelings without judging or criticizing. It can also be used to practice more intuitive eating. You can try a guided meditation, take a nature walk, practice paced breathing, or whatever mindfulness practice resonates with you.
  • Change your perspective: Try imaging how you would speak to a friend who was struggling with negative thoughts. What would you say to them? Can you try saying this to yourself as well?
  • Appreciation: Instead of focusing on what your body is not, or what it can’t do – change that focus to appreciate what it CAN DO. This can be especially helpful if you have specific areas of your body that bring you negative thoughts. For example, if I have the thought, “I hate my legs” then I could focus on what I appreciate about them “I love that my legs allow me to dance.”
  • Top 10: Keep a top 10 list of what you like about yourself. It doesn’t have to be related to how you look! When negative body image pops up, pull out your list.
  • Kindness: Do something nice for yourself to show your body you appreciate all it does! Take a bubble bath, get a massage, take a walk, find a peaceful place to read, etc.
  • Reset: Take a look at your social media accounts. If you follow people or accounts who impact your body image negatively, think about if you really need to follow that account. Or take a social media break! Get rid of those apps that have you feeling worse! Instead, surround yourself with more positive, supportive social messaging.

Kaitlyn Patterson, MA, LPA is a licensed psychological associate who treats clients individually and through groups at Chrysalis Center. Kaitlyn’s clinical interests include eating disorders, substance use, and mood disorders. 

The Heart.  We can love deeply from the bottom of it or experience breath-taking heartache.  We follow our heart. Our home is where the heart is. It beats, it can bleed, it can palpitate, it endures happiness & sadness.  It communicates with our brain via > 40,000 neurons that sense, feel, learn and remember.  But how do we take care of this extraordinary organ, literally?

The CDC predicts an alarming one in four people will die from heart disease this year and estimates that someone has a heart attack every 43 seconds in the US.  Every 90 seconds someone dies from a heart related disease making it the leading cause of death in the world.  It is estimated that over 80 million in the US suffer with some form of heart disease.  Inflammation, infections, poor immunity, obesity, diabetes, over-eating, hypertension, physical & emotional stress are primary contributors to heart disease.  I come with good news, heart disease CAN be prevented with a little love.

One way to love your heart is by finding creative ways to incorporate bitter flavors into meal planning; this flavor strengthens the heart, improves immunity and digestion.  Some suggestions include eating kale, parsley, broccoli, brussel sprouts, arugula, endive, artichoke, rosemary, ginger, pure cocao, citrus fruit or dandelion.  Yes, I’m referring to that pesky super-food weed in our backyard.  If munching on this isn’t appealing, try brewing a cup of dandelion tea.

There are an array of foods that make the heart happy and prevent disease. Garlic lowers blood pressure, reduces LDL & triglycerides and prevents infection. Wild blueberries, pomegranate seeds & cranberries prevent oxidation, improve immune function, ward off built up of plaque & preserve capillaries. Wild salmon reduces clotting & inflammation while improving mood & energy levels.   Ironically, numerous red foods that may even mimic the appearance of the heart play a role in heart health, these include: tart cherries, tomatoes, strawberries, beets, kidney beans, red lentils, red potatoes, apples & watermelon.

Loading the heart up with lots of sugary treats can promote inflammation and decrease immunity so this Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to love your own heart and your loved ones in a creative yet healthful way.  Nourish the heart with a scrumptious healthy meal, a little dark chocolate for dessert and indulge in some sweetness by doing things that make you happy, connect with your community, hug people, have a heart to heart conversation,  take a walk in the sunshine, hold hands, forgive, listen with compassion and find gratitude.

Love your heart and it will take good care of you for a long time!


Kelly Lehman

chronic pain

We all grow up with an idea of how life is going to look, imagining our career path, choice of a life partner, whether or not we will be parents, how we will spend our golden years, etc….Rarely does anyone include chronic pain or illness into this view of their potential future. No one wakes up one day and says, “I sure hope I spend the rest of my life feeling sick or being in pain.” However, for many people, this becomes their reality. If you have experienced this in your own life, you know all too well how isolating and lonely it can feel. You know the depression, the anger, the resentment, the jealousy, the guilt, and the fear that frequently accompanies an often unexpected journey. Whether you were born with your condition, developed it after an accident or medical issue, or simply woke up with symptoms one day, it can feel tremendously unfair. Maybe you look “normal” on the outside, and you find yourself confronted with doubting questions or insensitive remarks. Maybe sometimes you find yourself wishing you looked as sick as you felt because then it might actually be validated by those around you.

If you can relate to any of the above, please know you are not alone. Whether you struggle with chronic migraines, a metabolic condition, an autoimmune disorder, cancer, joint pain, a physical limitation, or some other condition, the emotional effects are experienced daily by countless others. Becoming chronically ill can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. The life trajectory you thought you were experiencing has drastically shifted, and it may feel like you have lost your purpose. Maybe you have had to give up a career that gave you meaning or an activity you loved. Maybe you have lost members of your support system because they didn’t understand or couldn’t deal with it all. Maybe you’ve been dismissed as “crazy” by family, friends, or medical professionals. Whatever your experience, it is valid. It can be helpful to develop support from others who are navigating similar paths. Sharing your stories and experiences can help to instill hope and purpose in a life that has seemingly gone off course.

While support from others can be immensely helpful in the journey to acceptance and the creation of a new life purpose, we do have to be careful not to slip into the land of self pity and victimization. While you may have been a victim at one point, you don’t have to remain a victim. This is where a supportive therapy group can be beneficial. You can gain support from others who intimately understand the experience of chronic pain and illness, but in an environment that is guided through a purpose. Whether your pain is a temporary or permanent reality for you, it doesn’t have to define you.

A new group “Purpose through Pain” is designed to provide support, but also direction as you navigate through the developmental process of creating the new you. It will encourage grieving the loss of your former self, addressing physical limitations and challenges, acknowledging the emotional aftermath, and letting go of the fear that often comes with medical uncertainty. It will also touch on becoming your own advocate, maneuvering through social challenges and awkwardness, and ultimately creating a new identity and purpose.

I feel passionately about providing a supportive and educational environment where group members feel safe to be vulnerable as part of the process of gaining their strength. This group is about being validated, while also being encouraged to be an active participant in your medical treatment and life.  We will also address cognitive shifts that can be monumental in coping with pain, as well as behavioral techniques that can be beneficial. Research shows that much of our pain is experienced within the brain. There is more and more work being done that is encouraging in that it gives chronic pain sufferers a little bit of control over their symptoms. While relaxation strategies and neural re-training are not miracles in that they don’t make you the person you were prior to injury or illness, they are showing marked results in peoples’ experiences with pain. Any little bit can help. If learning how to calm down the fear response resulted in your amygdala firing off fewer pain signals, wouldn’t that be a good thing? It’s certainly worth a try! I encourage healthy skepticism, but also an open mind.

chronic pain support group


Change happens when we are willing to ask tough questions, but also when we are open minded to the process of growth. If you have been living in a chronic state of pain or illness, I encourage you to give our office a call. I would love to chat with you about your experience and whether or not this group may be a good option for you. There is also the option of individual counseling in the event that a group setting isn’t something you are comfortable with at this time. Regardless, there is help out there, and you do not have to live in your pain. I look forward to talking with you and assisting you on your journey as you find new purpose through your pain!


Kelly Lehman, M.Ed., LPC is a professional counselor who specializes in helping clients navigate the journey of chronic pain, chronic illness, and medical trauma. If you are interested in this group or scheduling an individual appointment, call our office at (910) 790-9500 or email

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At Chrysalis, we believe that a supportive, healing environment is essential in order for change and growth to occur. We seek to offer such an environment to clients and help them create that in their lives and relationships. Read More


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