I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelley Kitley, LCSW, best-selling author of an autobiography of survival-”MY self,” owner of Serendipitous Psychotherapy, LLC on the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago, international women’s mental health media expert, TEDx speaker, and mama of 4.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I AM a survivor. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, an adolescent eating disorder, a random act of sexual violence on the streets of Chicago when I was in college, postpartum anxiety and panic, and substance abuse.

As a Chicago native having grown up above my parents’ neighborhood bar in Lincoln Park, I earned both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from The Jane Addams College of Social Work at The University of Illinois at Chicago. I have both clinical training and personal experience of climbing out of the trenches.

I have made my mess my message to help others. Do not be ashamed of your story, we all have one to tell.

Own it, embrace it, rewrite it if you need to. We are all surviving something.

Why did you found your company?

Throughout my healing process, my relationship with a therapist gave me the opportunity to have a reparative experience. She held my hand and gave me hope when I didn’t have any. Opening my practice has given me the honor of doing the same for others.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I’m changing the conversation by eliminating shame associated with mental health and addiction and encouraging people to tell their stories, heal, and connect.

My mission is to help people find hope in a complicated world working with people individually through my work as a therapist and in communities as an author and speaker.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

Oh my gosh, such an important question and so crucial for all of us to have mentors!

What helped me in my journey has been seeing other women pave the way in a direction I want to follow close behind.

My top 2 are Cheryl Strayed and Reese Witherspoon. They are iconic movers and shakers who break glass ceilings and keep me motivated! I’m a bit obsessed and since they worked together on adapting “Wild” into a screenplay-I want to work with both of them on achieving my next goal.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m expanding my platform to inspire a wider audience and partnering with my actor husband to create a screenplay called “Surviving Myself” based off of my autobiography.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

You have to self promote because nobody else will do it better than you — At the final hour, the publisher I signed with went bankrupt. So many people had pre-ordered the book and were waiting for my product. I was devastated and embarrassed. I felt like a fraud and wanted to climb into a hole. I grieved the loss then put a plan in place.

It was an overwhelming process-self publisher, agent, PR rep, marketer. I did it all on my own.

I called a colleague who is a psychotherapist and author who had hired someone to do all the things for her and told me, “YOU CAN DO IT! You have to self promote because nobody else will do it better than you.”

I rose to the occasion and although it was trial by fire, I booked national tv appearances to promote the book and became an amazon best selling author.

As a social worker the message was always instilled in our training: “You will never make money in this profession so make sure you are doing what you love.” This challenged me to find a way to do both. — I was being interviewed on a podcast and the woman interviewing me said, “Don’t play small, know your worth. You have accomplished so much, that will inspire others-share it.”

Her saying that to me was a game changer-my success is not bragging-it’s telling the world “it” can be done but you must believe in yourself.

I pitch myself hundreds of times a month for speaking engagements, radio, podcasts, tv — When I was submitting manuscript proposals, I was rejected 50 times. It can be a frustrating process. I talked to mentors of mine in the industry who reassured me “Don’t be afraid of the word no, it will get you to yes. You can’t give up on the hustle. 1 yes can change everything.” It certainly has for me.

What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.

EVERY Super Soul Sunday conversations with Oprah. It’s a weekly ritual I listen to in my car on the way to work. She interviews thought leaders in every niche and leaves me with philosophy’s to meditate on all week long.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I’d definitely choose breakfast because I’m an early riser and sharing coffee together is a spiritual ritual I’ve participated in since I was as a child observing my mom and aunts “coffee klatch” together.

I’ve carried this into my adult life personally and professionally. It would be a dream of mine to sit down with Arianna Huffington and/or Oprah Winfrey.

I’ve seen both of them do an interview together and they are powerhouse women who could teach me so much and leave me feeling like I was walking on water.

It’s also a dream of mine to be interviewed on Thrive Global podacast and Super Soul Sunday so I’d make sure to give a soft pitch to be a guest.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I contribute to many publications a week to inspire my followers to be the best version of themselves which I post on all of my media channels which can be found on…

Instagram: @kelleykitley

Facebook: @serendipitouspsychotherapy

Twitter: @kitleykelley

Linkedin: @kelleykitley