HI THERE! I’M KELLY MAHLER
Occupational Therapist, Educator, Research Enthusiast, Trying-My-Best Mom and Interoception Groupie.
I teach professionals, caregivers, and self-helpers how to use evidence-based supports that facilitate discovery and validation of each person’s unique interoception experience, which in turn empowers people with self-understanding, self-regulation, health, well-being, and social connection.
Some time ago, one of my clients gave me a picture that reads:
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
And do you know what I’ve come to realize that fiery pursuit is for me?
Helping people flourish.
And to accomplish this, I believe that we can do better at providing effective supports. I want to change the way we view what is often called ‘challenging, disruptive or purposeful’ behavior. I want to inspire people to think differently, dig deeper and discover what is at the root cause of the behaviors we may observe.
If we can do this, I believe that we can provide more effective, more kind, more meaningful supports so that our clients, students and loved ones can flourish.
That’s why I’m so excited to share my discoveries about interoception with you. I want to help you gain a better understanding of behavior. To learn how to dig deep. To ask the right questions. To honor and validate each person’s unique inner experience. To implement an interoception-based approach for supporting self-awareness, self-regulation, social connection and so-called ‘challenging behavior’.
Most of all, though, I want my clients themselves (and people everywhere!) to feel more understood. To feel more effectively supported, and to be more successful at identifying and managing the way that they feel. I want people to feel safer in their environments and within their bodies. I want them to be able to live a life full of purpose, meaning and joy. That is what sets my soul on fire!
I’ve been an occupational therapist since 2002. I love my job. I love my clients and their families. (Hint: many of my clients call me Miss Sunshine because I just can’t contain the joy of hanging with some of the most talented and most interesting people in the entire world). And I love educating others about how to support self-understanding and self-regulation in effective and kind ways.
From the very beginning, as a baby OT, I was always drawn to supporting the regulation needs of my clients. And what I quickly realized was that people who experience chronic dysregulation are often significantly misunderstood—many times mislabeled with so-called “challenging behaviors” (Yuck! Let’s banish that term, shall we?!). But maybe you may know what I mean—those “observable behaviors” such as yelling, aggression, elopement, self-harm, meltdowns, shutdowns, refusals, and so on. In order to support the regulation needs of my clients, I started implementing strategy after strategy, teaching coping skill after coping skill, reading book after book, taking course after course—doing my best and going by what I was taught to do. My clients were making gains, but I knew there was still something missing, something that was preventing them to achieve the level of self-regulation needed for life-long flourishing.
And then it happened one day… being a huge research geek paid off (yes—spending hours getting lost in a maze of research articles is a dream evening for me)! I read an article about a sense called interoception and my world completely changed. From this point, I had many conversations with my clients and their families only to discover that most of my clients were completely unaware or very confused about how their bodies feel. This made understanding and regulating their emotions nearly impossible. And yikes…I was missing this crucial foundation all along!!
Interoception has been widely studied for decades but is only now making its way into practical application. Thankfully, this information is rapidly improving our ability to understand dysregulation a little bit better which in turn is driving more effective (and kinder) supports that honor each person’s inner experience.
Research states that interoception can be improved and I see this daily with my clients. It is really meaningful to watch my clients discover and understand their own unique body signals and emotions.
Gone are the days where we stay on the surface and (mis) label outward behaviors. Gone are the days where we view dysregulation as “purposeful” or “challenging” behavior. Gone are the days where we automatically assume that a person understands their interoceptive body signals and/or emotions. Here are the days that we promote self-regulation by inspiring curiosity in everyone. Curiosity about the inner experience of our clients or loved ones and the impact it has on their ability to thrive. Curiosity about our own inner experience and the impact it has on our connection to self and others. We dream of better supports that lead with curiosity and help people feel safe, heard, valued, connected and better understood. Whether you are a professional, caregiver, or self-helper, we hope to inspire your own personal journey of inner curiosity. #InnerCuriosity #Interoception
Will you join me on this interoception journey of making things better? Better for our clients? Better for our loved ones? Better for ourselves?
“Based on her years of experience, Kelly offers practical tools that can be used to guide attention to the messages that our bodies are constantly sending to our brains. We all need to listen to our bodies and understand its messages. Kelly knows how to listen, and she knows how to help others listen better to their bodies. Here she shares her natural understanding of interoception and her recommendations for how we can help others to improve their own interoceptive awareness.”A. D. (Bud) Craig, PhD
The Official Bio
Kelly Mahler OTD, OTR/L, earned a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Misericordia University, Dallas, PA. She has been an occupational therapist for 19 years, serving school-aged children and adults. Kelly is winner of multiple awards, including the 2020 American Occupational Therapy Association Emerging and Innovative Practice Award & a Mom’s Choice Gold Medal. She is an adjunct faculty member at Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA as well as at Misericordia University, Dallas, PA. Kelly is a co-principal investigator in several research projects pertaining to topics such as interoception, self-regulation, trauma & autism. Kelly is an international speaker and presents frequently on topics related to the ten resources she has authored:
- The Interoception Curriculum: A Step-by-Step Framework for Developing Mindful Self-Regulation–winner of Mom’s Choice Award Gold Medal
- Interoception Activity Cards–winner of Mom’s Choice Award Gold Medal
- Interoception Yoga Cards
- Interoception Exercise Cards
- My Interoception Workbook: A Guide for Adolescents, Teens and Young Adults
- Interoception: The Eighth Sensory System
- The Comprehensive Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness
- Sensory Issues and High Functioning Autism (with Myles and Robbins) —winner of National Parenting Publications Bronze Medal
- Destination Friendship: Developing Social Skills for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders or Other Social Challenges (with Benton, Hollis, and Womer)
- Hygiene and Related Behaviors for Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum and Related Disorders — winner of Mom’s Choice Award Gold Medal