Hi! I’m Kelly Donahue, PhD. I have more than a decade of experience in mind-body health as a practitioner, researcher, author, consultant, and speaker. I’m also a recovering Type A perfectionist and former chronic pain patient. Allow me to share my journey with you.
I'm from Northeastern Pennsylvania. My tiny town didn't even have a stop-light. I was a typical first-born (first of three girls). I excelled academically (was valedictorian), was a people-pleaser, and was always a responsible caretaker. I was also always the one whom my friends came to when they needed to talk or sought advice. I didn't realize that I was an amazing listener until I needed people to listen to me later in life and found it challenging to find someone who could just hold space and be present with me. I was rewarded for academic accomplishments and pushed myself because of that.
I was the only student in my graduate school class to finish the clinical PhD program (including my dissertation and year-long internship) in five years. All of this pushing, striving, and stress started catching up with me, and I began experiencing a host of seemingly random health issues (e.g., heartburn, headaches, back pain, hip pain, tinnitus, etc.). During that time, I was working at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine where I saw the power of mind-body techniques in the clinic and in research to heal all kinds of conditions and issues. Hmmm…could my health issues be related to and healed by the mind-body connection?
During my graduate school training, internship, and post-doc training, I conducted research and worked with clients with a variety of stress-related illnesses. I realized that psychology was a helpful framework, but understanding why you do or don’t do something doesn’t fix it. You have to APPLY what you have learned to your real life every day. Knowledge and insight aren’t enough. The insight has to be APPLIED in life to make REAL, SUSTAINABLE change.
INSIGHT + ACTION = CHANGE
That important lesson helped me make changes in my thinking to start healing my various health issues. When my husband and I got married, we didn't think we wanted children until we were living in Germany and observed a different model of child-rearing. My biological clock began chiming day and night. I had difficulty with fertility due to the aforementioned perfectionist tendencies and the stress throwing off my hormones. I made some major cognitive, lifestyle, and nutrition shifts, and my son is now sitting next to me as I type this :)
It hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows though. I've struggled with mom guilt, overwhelm, and chronic pain (which was my body's way of reminding me and then screaming at me to take care of myself) compounded by my rejection of sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day doing work that I didn’t find meaningful. In fact, when I sat down at my desk in a dark cubicle on my very first day of my first real job as a PhD, my inner voice clearly told me that sitting and staring at a computer waiting for something to happen was not the job for me. I tried to push that message down, tried to rationalize the need for a "secure" job that would provide me with a pension if I dedicated a mere 30+ years of my existence to the desk-jockeying, and tried to convince myself that my family needed me to have a stable income that provides benefits and health insurance. These pep talks served as temporary band-aids for a massive wound of denying my life’s purpose.
As I dove head-first back into this full-time-plus desk job after having a child, my health declined. I developed nearly-debilitating back pain again. I had all of the excuses why I didn't have time for my own self-care: I'm too busy; I have family responsibilities; Self-care is selfish; I have work responsibilities; I don't have the money to spend on self-care, etc., etc., etc. I finally became my own client, examined and changed my thoughts, and used mind-body self-care strategies heal my body and rewire my nervous system. I am now healthier and stronger than I was before.
I started taking small steps to share my passion and mission to help others reduce anxiety, overcome overwhelm, and heal pain and disease to live their optimal life. I started a podcast called Everyday Wellness with my nutrition colleague. I reduced my hours at my desk job to spend more time working with clients, speaking, consulting, and writing. To expand my reach beyond individual work with clients, I started an online 6-week weight loss coaching program. I also wrote a book which started out as a handout for my clients and quickly grew to a 60+ page guide to self-care. I'm also serving as a consultant for a diabetes management program.
Through all of this, I’ve discovered that coaching clients, writing, teaching, consulting, and speaking give me energy and joy. This is my true purpose in life.
Advanced Life Coaching training from Mind Valley University
Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC) with the Nutritional Therapy Association
Licensed psychologist in Maryland
Postdoctoral training in health psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD
APA-certified clinical internship in behavioral medicine at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in Palo Alto, CA
M.A. and Ph.D. in Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
Stanford Healthy Lifestyles Certified Counselor Stanford University
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (Basic and Advanced Courses)
Complementary and Integrative Approaches for Mental Health Certified
U.S. Army Provider Resiliency Certified Facilitator for the Provider, Resiliency Training Program
Franklin Covey POWER Resiliency Program Facilitator Training
Benson Henry Institute and the Harvard Medical School Clinical Training in Mind Body Medicine, Boston, MA
Center for Mind Body Medicine, Food As Medicine Clinical Training
Integrative Restoration, Level I
Yoga Nidra Training
Center for Mind Body Medicine, Mind Body Skills Instruction Level 1 and Level 2
Duke University's Center for Spirituality Summer Workshop
Donahue, K. (Jan 2019). Holistic Solutions for Healing Chronic Pain. The Mindfulness Center. Bethesda, MD
Forys-Donahue, K. (2016, Oct). Stress and the Nutritional Foundations of Health. Frederick Community College Guest Lecturer in the Stress Management Course.
Forys-Donahue, K. (2016, Sep). Nutrition 101: The Nutritional Foundations of Health. Transform Center for Wellness. Frederick, MD.
Forys, K. L. (2010, Jun-Sep). Providing Outreach While Enhancing Readiness (POWER). Landstuhl, Baumholder, and Manheim, Germany.
Forys, K.L. (2006, Mar). Stress Management for a Healthier, Happier You. Presented at Uniformed Services University, Department of Family Medicine.
Forys, K.L. (2006, Feb). Mindfulness: Research, Clinical, and Professional Implications. Presented at Uniformed Services University, Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Weight Management Lab.
Forys Donahue, K. (2019). Psychological Interventions for Healing Chronic Pain. DC Psychological Association Newsletter. http://www.dcpsychology.org/heads-up
Pashby, R., Donahue, K., Morris, K (2018). Perspectives on Being a Health Psychologist. Online at: https://www.theranest.com/blog/health-psychology-perspectives/
Forys-Donahue, K. & Brannen, S.B. (Feb 2012). Literature Review of Mind-Body Techniques Used in the Military Population. White Paper
Riordan-Lagana, C., Brannen, S., Forys, K.,Gallaway, M.S., & Millikan, A.M. (Jan 2012). Combating
Behavioral Health Stigma among Military Service Members and Families. White Paper.
Astin, J.A., Sierpina, V., Forys, K., Clarridge, B. (2008). Integration of the Biopsychosocial Model: Perspectives of Medical Students and Residents. Academic Medicine, 83, 20-27.
Astin, J.A., Goddard, T.G., &Forys, K.L. (2005). Barriers to the integration of mind-body medicine: Perceptions of physicians, residents, and medical students. Explore:The Journal of Science and Healing, 1, 278-283.
Manheimer, E., White, A., Berman, B., Forys, K.L., & Ernst, E. (2005). Meta-analysis: Acupuncture for low back pain. Annals of Internal Medicine, 142, 651-663.
Astin, J.A. &Forys, K.L. (2004). Psychosocial Determinants of Health and Illness: Re-Integrating Mind, Body, and Spirit. In B. Kligler& R. Lee (Eds.). Integrative Medicine. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Astin, J.A., Berman, B., Baussell, B., Lee, W., Hochberg, M., &Forys, K.L. (2003). The efficacy of mindfulness meditation plus Qi Gong movement therapy in the treatment of fibromyalgia: A randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Rheumatology, 30, 2257-2262.
Astin, J.A., Shapiro, S.L., Eisenberg, M.D., & Forys, K.L. (2003). Mind-body medicine: State of the science, implications for practice. Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, 16, 131-147.