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Meet Karen Kurlander, Ph.D.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Kurlander, Ph.D.

Dr. Kurlander, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When I entered kindergarten, I knew I wanted to be a therapist and had qualities that were well suited to the profession. I was unfailingly kind, and maybe because of that, people liked to talk to me. At the beach club, teenage girls sat next to me and shared what was on their minds.   When I had my tonsils out, the night nurse woke me up to chat during the slow, lonely hours of her shift. A South African friend who hid her vulnerabilities, told me things no one else knew. I think they liked talking to me because I was genuinely interested in their stories and how they saw the world.

It was an easy decision to get my doctorate in psychology.  A period of illness during those years of study sparked a deep interest in different approaches to wellness. I studied biofeedback and other Eastern relaxations practices. I learned how to use these techniques along with Western approaches to help people master anxiety and other issues.  My work has changed as my skills and interests have developed. I now work with couples and parents, as well as individuals. Whatever area I am working in, integrating different approaches to get the most effective outcome has remained a staple of my career.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Until now my career has been a smooth ride that rarely took me outside of my comfort zone. A new endeavor, bringing services to stressed parents, will require two skills I find intimidating. They are self-promotion and internet marketing. Sometimes they seem like a two-headed dragon blocking my path forward.   

Like most scary things we dare to face, the dragon is different than I imagined. Turns out self-promotion and internet marketing involve doing things I love. There is a lot of research, writing, and visual creativity involved in marketing.  I am using parts of myself than are not generally involved in my work as a therapist. 

So moving forward I find myself lurching between moments of heart stopping fear and exhilaration. Fear comes when I worry about whether I will succeed or fail. Exhilaration comes from the pleasure of learning new creative things in the service of a good cause.  My courage comes from remembering that this is worth trying to do whether or not it succeeds.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Karen Kurlander PhD. – what should we know?
Karen Kurlander, Ph.D. is a psychology practice with offices in Brookline and Salem Ma.  For many years I have provided individual and couples therapy. I help people resolve a wide range of situational and psychological problems. I use approaches drawn from diverse therapeutic traditions.  My work has been described as balancing kindness with challenging insight.  Using Imago Relationship Therapy. I teach couples to talk to each other in a way that promotes healing and connection instead of escalating conflict.

Parent support services are a more recent part of my practice. I am developing online resources to help parents of typical and challenged children manage stress.   My goal is to adapt traditional stress management approaches to the needs of today’s busy parents.   I am also exploring innovative methods of relaxation like Japanese Forest Therapy that families can do together.

The three areas of my practice are not divergent paths, but rather a braid of intertwining strands. Each strand of work is informed by and informs the other two.

Every individual, couple and parent I work with teaches me something I bring to all of my other work.

One thing that sets my work apart is the amount of admiration and respect I have for my clients.  From years of deep listening, I have learned that everyone has parts of life that they understand perfectly.  It can be as simple as an infallible sense of color or as complex as a mastery of physics.  Each time I sit down with a client I know that inside of them are places of pure beauty and knowing.

Through years of training in different traditions I have become highly effective at helping clients achieve deep change. I connect with people at a level that transcends superficial barriers. I have worked successfully with people from four continents, a wide range of economic circumstances, and a broad range of professions, including opera singers, musicians, mathematicians, doctors and lawyers.

I am proud whenever a client brings a greeting from their family. These simple things — a thank you from someone’s father or hello from a husband — tell me that the work in my office translates to positive changes out in the world. That is why a friendly message from someone I don’t even know is a source of pride for me.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My greatest inspiration and mentor was Mary Francis O’Brien, RN Ph.D.

We met as graduate students in Psychology.  I was 24 years old. She was well into her forties, had raised 8 children, done a stint as a journalist and was a registered nurse. Though she stood just 4 feet10 inches tall, she was the biggest person I have ever known. She was a free thinker, a person of strong conviction, not afraid to fight for what she believed in. Her broad perspective allowed her to ride the ups and downs of life with humor and equanimity. Her care for and understanding of others was boundless.

From Mary I learned never to blindly follow well-worn paths.  She gave me the courage to honor my own instincts and find my own way of doing things. I learned that the value of kindness has no bounds, never to give up on something I believe in, and that it is never time to stop working to be a bigger and better person. When things get tough I remember her ability to accept life on its own terms with wisdom and grace. I would like to think that some of Mary’s light is reflected in my eyes when I work with people I am helping.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 344 Harvard St. 2nd Floor Brookline, MA 02446
    One Salem Green Suite #400 Salem, MA 01970
  • Website:
  • Phone: 6172775070
  • Email:

Image Credit:
Portrait by Dan St. John, Lightshed Photography

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