When she was younger, Dr. Kara Hatheway Lemke ’01, PhD had her sights set on becoming a medical doctor. However, after becoming a peer counselor her junior year and getting to support the youngest students on campus as a senior, she realized her interests and goals when it came to helping people might be changing.
“Mrs. Ahern was our teacher and it was my first exposure to supporting people beyond friendships and peer relationships. I loved it and met some very cool people, as well as learning life skills,” shared Kara. In college, she was captivated by her psychology classes and after achieving a BS in Biology and a BA in Psychology, she went on to receive her Masters and PhD in Clinical Psychology at Palo Alto University.
“I wanted to create an opportunity for my personal family and my professional goals to coalesce, and mental health was the answer,” she said. “I always liked working with kids and I realized giving a voice to little people who can’t necessarily voice for themselves was my passion.”
Kara completed her pre-doc at Children’s Hospital in Oakland and post-doc at the Children’s Health Council (CHC) in Palo Alto working with individuals and families. “At CHC I learned how to collaborate with professionals and I worked with people from a variety of disciplines—speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and educational specialists, so I knew this was the business/patient model I wanted to follow in the future.” Kara opened a private practice in San Ramon in 2013 with an occupational therapist.
In August of 2019, she purchased Healthy Minds in San Ramon and began to expand her team. “I wanted to create opportunities for children to express themselves comfortably and freely in a safe place where they can be heard and treated as a whole child. The untimely arrival of the pandemic gave us the opportunity to develop new approaches to working with kids,” Kara said. “We got creative on how we interact, diagnose, and treat children and teens online. We saw a significant increase in teens struggling emotionally due to social isolation. We also observed increases in anxiety and perfectionism due to being exposed to social media in school-age children.”
Kara’s advice if you’re concerned about your child is not to be afraid to reach out to a professional for a consultation. She does consultations which help parents figure out what might be happening with their child and what resources and programs are available. “Trust your gut instinct,” she said. “Finding the right help for your child and your family is critical.”
Her goal is to continue growing the practice and adding more specialists to the mental health team, while providing a safe space to educate and support parents in giving a voice to their children.