Whole Health

Therapist Kayla Reilly on Evolution Wellness, dealing with COVID-19


While taking a psychology class in college, KAYLA REILLY found herself reading ahead and looking for more opportunities to engage in the subject.

Her newly piqued interest in psychology motivated Reilly to change her plans in majoring in business and instead become a therapist.

Fast forward a couple of years and Reilly is now a licensed clinical social worker, therapist, and owner of Evolution Wellness, a counseling center in Wilmington.

It provides individual, couple, and family therapy for people fourteen years and older.

“We work with people who are wanting to overcome their own grief and trauma to people who are ready to make a career change,” she says.

That includes working with couples on their parenting strategies and supporting men and women who are suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues. It also offers substance abuse counseling.

Reilly came into her role as a therapist having experienced great, and not so great, therapists herself.

“My own trauma had led me to years and years of therapy. Some therapists I saw were great and some sucked. I swear I feel like their judgment and lack of training actually made me worse,” she says. “The therapists I saw that were good were the therapists who really cared about their relationship with me. They were able to help arm me with tools to overcome my traumatic childhood and create new patterns.”

This encouraged her to start a center where clinicians could make a difference in people’s lives, she says.

“There’s a sad truth about the mental health world: people are treated like numbers. The churn and burn culture of some mental health agencies end up with clients who don’t get the best customer service and clinicians who are overworked and underpaid,” she says.

“I wanted to create a company where people feel valued. Where relationships matter. I wanted to create a work environment that supports therapists in a way where they can make a very good living and have work/home balance. The healthiest therapist makes the best healer for clients,” Reilly adds.

Reilly shares her approach to mental wellness, tips for dealing with mental health during a pandemic and resources Evolution Wellness can provide.

WILMA: Could you explain what a “whole-istic” approach to wellness is?
Reilly: “Working with clients has taught me that you can’t feel good just by thinking well. Healing is more than just improving your thoughts. We promote mind/body/spirit wellness with our clients and those who are willing to make the changes to their WHOLE self are the people who improve the fastest and feel the best.”

“When Evolution Wellness providers work with clients, they are focused on seeing the person in all their contexts. They evaluate and support the client with physical health, their relationships, and their career. We want to support our clients to make a lasting change. The ultimate goal for us is our clients to graduate because they feel too darn good to continue therapy.”

WILMA: Do you have a specialization, or do you have a favorite area of therapy that you focus on?
Reilly: “The cool thing about therapists is that each person finds their own ‘jam.’ My jam is relationships. I love to work with couples who are stuck having the same fight over and over again. I think couple’s counseling is so rich with opportunities to health their childhood experiences so they can create new healthy patterns. The couples I work with aren’t going to become their mothers/fathers with their kids because they’ve broken the transgenerational patterns. Relationship therapy also helps individuals overcome challenges such as learning to set boundaries, getting out of their family roles, and finding meaningful friendships. So much anxiety/depression comes from our relationships with ourselves and the relationships with others in our lives.”

“So, relationships are a big focus of our team at Evolution. However, there are other therapists that bring different expertise to the table. NATALIE GOMES supports people with dual diagnoses (fancy term for they have substance abuse struggles and they are battling with depression or anxiety), MEGAN HAVEL loves working with premarital couples, LAUREN RODGERS specializes in working with women who want to overcome anxiety, and STEPHANIE NELSON really enjoys working with teenagers. Each one of our therapists has a different ‘jam’ and that makes us such a strong team because we can help each person find the best fit for them.”

WILMA: How has it been doing during COVID-19?
Reilly: “COVID-19 is traumatizing. People are rightfully experiencing so much fear and stress right now. There has also been grief for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US. We are grieving celebrations, jobs, losses, and more. There has also been a huge increase in self-criticism. So many of the men and women we work with are ‘should’ing all over themselves. ‘I should be wanting to do things with my kids, I should be doing projects in my downtime, I should be learning something new.’ The struggle with judging our own emotions is that it causes more emotional distress. Our clients have been having a really hard time and our therapists have done a great job being supportive. Mental health therapists are definitely the unseen first responders in this. It is very emotionally tolling supporting people through this. We’ve been encouraging our therapists to take days off and block personal self-care time so that they can ensure they are able to continue being excellent healers.”

WILMA: Do you have any tips/advice for people dealing with some stress or anxiety due to the pandemic?

Eat Well

“Eating healthy includes eating healthy snacks and not keeping unhealthy munchies in the house. Have you found yourself eating a whole bag of junk food while watching your favorite movie/tv show? If you try to practice mindful eating, then you might have a better chance at putting the food down when you have already had enough. Check-in with yourself before you eat, are you hungry or bored or anxious? If bored or anxious find a different coping skill to utilize than eating for self-soothing.

Exercise in Creative Ways

“One of my clients last week shared that he has been jump-roping in his garage with an extension cord! I love the creativity. Other ideas are: watching Zumba classes on YouTube, doing one-song workouts throughout the day, live stream yoga classes, or taking up jogging. There are a billion ways to live stream workout sessions, and you have plenty of time now to work out from home. Get creative and don’t make any more excuses; now is the time to prioritize exercising while you don’t have to leave for work every day.”

Stay Connected to Support Systems

“What we are having to do right now is called ‘social distancing’ not ‘social isolating!’ It might not be the same as meeting up together in person, but there are so many ways to continue socializing while being safe! You could schedule a happy hour on Zoom or Google Hangouts, start to play a game online where friends can join and participate, have more phone calls than normal, or even set up video dinner dates. It is so important to stay connected and to check in on your loved ones during this time. Don’t isolate yourself completely, especially when there is so much you can do to stay involved!”

Take Screen Breaks

“With everything being online, it is too easy to be on screens every day. Make sure you give yourself time each day away from technology. Maybe go outside for a walk around the neighborhood or take a nice long bath without any distractions. Put the technology away, turn off the TV, and have a short break from everything.”

Finally, Reilly recommends seeking help when needed.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need a session with your therapist, schedule one! Many practices are still open via telehealth, and there are so many ways to improve your telehealth sessions if you are nervous about privacy while having too many people around you. Check here for our tips regarding improving your sessions. It is never too late to ask for a little help!”

Want more Wilma? Click here to read the May WILMA digital issue.

Categories: Health