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Faculty Spotlight: Carolyn Kelleher

For more than 13 years, Carolyn Kelleher has provided support and counseling for Chartwell students, families, and faculty. She is known for her professionalism and empathy, and for providing a safe, non-judgmental space for students to bring their emotions and to work through their challenges. Although her life’s work has predominantly been centered around children, she did not set out on this path intentionally. 

“While I was working at Community Human Services in the mid-1990s, a grant to support counseling and drug and alcohol education at a local school came in,” Carolyn recalls. “My boss asked me if I was interested, and my initial answer was ‘No! I don’t think I want to work with children.’ Well, he finally gave me no choice and said, ‘Carolyn, you’re going to work at Prunedale Elementary.’” 

It turned out to be one of the best experiences of her career. “The principal was one of the most amazing and insightful educational leaders I have had the privilege of working with. I started as part-time and eventually left Community Human Services to work full-time at the school.”

After almost a decade at Prunedale Elementary, Carolyn accepted a counseling position at California State University Monterey Bay supporting college students in crisis. In 2007, she became the lead clinician for the Kinship Center Wraparound Program, a family crisis-intervention program for adoptive families whose adoptions were at risk of termination due to behavioral or emotional problems of the adoptive child. 

“By the time I came to Chartwell. I had worked with children of every age, parents individually, and families as a unit,” Carolyn shared. “This multi-dimensional perspective is why I think I have been a good fit for Chartwell.”

When asked about why she has stayed working with children for so long, she says simply and humbly, “I really love what I do. I have a comfortable ability to offer students the language they sometimes lack to continue to move forward with the therapy process. They can accept it or reject it - but through finding the words, even if just phrases at a time, to help them understand their feelings, we make progress together.”

Carolyn understands that the results of her work are often very long-term, and in many cases, she doesn’t always get to experience the outcomes of her hours, days, and sometimes years of work with a student. 

However, when she does get a glimpse of progress it means the world to her. “The other day, after a student I was working with returned to class, their teacher stopped me later that day and shared, ‘Today was the happiest I have ever seen that student.’ That was a good day.”

Carolyn earned a BA in Social Science from San Jose State University and an MA in Psychology from Chapman University. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has managed a private practice in Monterey since 1997. You can learn more about her practice at www.carolynkelleher.com