June 2020 – preemiePRO Highlight

Kara Wahlin, LMFT
Founder of NICU Healing

“Therapy is not only for the “weak” or “sick”: therapy is meant to be for *everyone* to recalibrate themselves and to find new perspectives on their troubles, develop unique meanings out of their experiences, and to find new ways of moving forward with intention.”

PreemieWorld: What is your job title/occupation?
Kara: Founder of NICU Healing (www.nicuhealing.com)

PreemieWorld: How long have you been working in your field?
Kara: 15 years

PreemieWorld: Why did you choose your current profession?
Kara: I chose my profession because I saw a way to integrate creativity, social justice, human connection, and manifesting change into one field. I’ve always felt deeply connected with my clients, whom I see as individuals and families struggling with inordinate circumstances and who have strengths that oftentimes get overlooked/obscured during times of stress. I see my role as being the person who can reflect back my clients’ strengths, gifts, and values in order to help them construct a clear path out of their challenges, as well as to make meaning out of the challenges. I have to say that I love my profession, and I always have. I consider it an honor to be able to hear my clients’ stories and to witness them as they manifest change in their lives.
I started NICU Healing 6 years ago because I saw a specific need (after our own NICU experience) for therapists that had a deeper understanding of what families were going through when they faced the challenges of the NICU.

PreemieWorld: What do you want other professionals to know about what you do?
Kara: Other professionals should know that what I do can function as a very supportive and strengthening asset– not only to the clients with whom they work– but also for themselves. I think that therapy/coaching, especially for NICU parents, is something that can not only enhance an individual or family’s sense of healing and meaning, but that it can also prevent a lot of suffering down the road. Too often I’ve seen unhealed trauma harming interpersonal and familial relationships unintentionally; I wish that I could provide my services for free or could get some kind of financial support for doing the work I do, because I personally feel that all NICU parents should have access to free therapy/coaching for at least 6 months after discharge from the NICU, if not longer.
I can’t emphasize enough that my clients are (quite literally), you and me. I think too often that therapy gets stigmatized, as if someone that seeks out therapy is “broken” or “sick”, when in reality I would say the primary thing that differentiates my clients from others is that they have been brave enough to reach out for help when they’ve had to face inordinate circumstances. Sometimes, even the strongest of people need help too.

PreemieWorld: What advice do you give to preemie parents?
Kara: The biggest piece of advice I have for preemie parents, is to hold close to yourself a sense of self-compassion, in whatever ways that you can. Be gentle with yourself, and have the kind of empathy for your emotions, behaviors, and thoughts that allows for the fact that no one should ever have to go through the pain of premature birth and the trauma of being in the NICU. Once you foster that self-compassion, it can become a bit easier to weather the multitude of emotions and tensions that come up after the NICU, and it can also become easier to minimize conflicts with others.

PreemieWorld: Fun Facts: Tell us a fun or quirky fact about you.
Kara: I have an intense love of listening to and playing (on the piano) all songs that were written in C sharp minor. And I’m serious: sometimes I’ll research the key signature of, like, a pop song by TLC that I’m obsessed with and it’ll turn out that it’s in C sharp minor. It’s weird.

PreemieWorld: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Kara: My son Elliott is a surviving twin who was born at 26 weeks’ gestation. His brother, William, passed away at 6 days’ old. Believe me when I say this to all NICU parents: I am right there with you.