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Meet Sarah Ray LaPilusa of Advanced Health Care in Mission Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Ray LaPilusa.

Sarah, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in a small town called Saginaw, Michigan. My parents met when they were 18 & 20 years old and very quickly had children. Through the ups and downs of this, they have remained together and have always supported me to live my life in an authentic and value-driven way. They told me I could do anything I wanted with my life and supported my independence.

When I was 14 years old, I began doing the accounting for my dad’s small welding business. My dad modeled what it meant to be self-employed and to have the confidence to do things on my own. Although he pushed me to work hard, he always encouraged me to be a GOOD human being first and foremost – more than grades and achievement. My mom was a nurse, and EVERYONE loves her. People turn to her for everything. She is the most patient and selfless person I have ever known. I feel I have adopted the best sides of both of my parents: my dad’s independence and drive to work hard, and my mom’s caring, giving, be-there-for-everyone nature. This was the perfect combination to eventually run a mental health clinic.

I was the first college graduate in my immediate family. I went straight from college at the University of Michigan to get my doctorate degree in clinical psychology at Alliant International University, which is how I got to San Diego. I chose this location for a guy I was dating (lame! haha) but then stayed out here. I worked at a residential summer camp for special needs kids in upstate New York and fell in love with nature.

I took over a practice as soon as I got licensed in 2008. I have grown that small solo practice to the group practice that it is today, Advanced Health care Myself and my team therapists focus on women’s health through individual counseling, including healing from loss, life transitions, finding love, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, divorce, infertility, perinatal mental health, and other women’s health concerns… but we also treat men too! Since COVID, we have seen an even greater demand for mental health and we see around 100 clients per week. I LOVE running the business and my ultimate goal is to open a larger women’s health clinic for women of all ages and help support as many women as possible.

After MANY years of dating (I don’t miss those days – we counsel so many women trying to find love and I am so fortunate to have a success story!) I was introduced to my husband, who is also a clinical and forensic psychologist. I didn’t believe in the idea of a soul mate until I met him. We were older when we met, and we both immediately knew we were THE ONE. Marriage is something else, but he is that person I was meant to do life with.

After a few miscarriages and other fertility challenges, we were SO blessed to have two beautiful daughters, now ages 5 and 6. Opening my own clinic in 2008, my intention was ALWAYS to create a work system in which I could have children and be there for them while also working. Having my first child, was a big transition, but we managed okay. But when we then got pregnant with our second daughter (and the older one was only 14 months old), things got utterly ugly and challenging for the next 2-ish years. Halfway through the pregnancy, they saw something that looked wrong with her internal system, but could not confirm what it was. (And of course, I was a “geriatric” mom at age 35!!). We were sent back-and-forth from specialist to specialist for the rest of my pregnancy, but we’re never able to confirm what we would be dealing with once she arrived. Prior to her being born, the list of potential challenges that she may be faced with was quite frightening and some dire. I ended up with an early C-section and thankfully the most angelic little girl was born. She had NO health problems whatsoever, and, wow, are we reminded how uncertain medicine can be. We were beyond grateful for her health, but unfortunately, the trauma of that pregnancy lead to severe postpartum depression and anxiety after she was born. My entire mood system was altered and I was having symptoms that I couldn’t even imagine would occur based on how I usually function. I did not realize the severity until my husband and mother intervened on me. Thankfully, I was able to stabilize through medications and counseling, but when I stopped nursing, it came back with a vengeance (which I didn’t know could happen! NOTED!) Trying to make maintain the clinic, my employees, my clients, and my marriage during this time, while raising these two beautiful girls, was a stress and darkness that I had never before faced. Thankfully, it eventually evened out, although motherhood has definitely made me more anxious of a person in general.

My older brother, who lives in Massachusetts, was one of my biggest supporters during this time. This led to me opening an online support group for working mothers, called Working Moms Collective. I figured with my typical low-stress demeanor (prior to having kids I rarely got stress with work, school, friends, etc), if I was drowning in the weight of this, other women must be too. This grew my passion for women’s health even more and I did further trainings on perinatal mood disorders. There is so much to help women understand about perinatal mood disorder – the commonly known postpartum depression is just the tip of the iceberg for pregnancy loss, infertility trauma, birth trauma, postpartum OCD and psychosis, and so much more.

So, here I am today: I have a wonderful partner, two beautiful daughters, a business where I get to help people every single day. I hike, do barre and yoga, I have amazing girlfriends, I love nature, green tea and red wine, and I try to soak in all the moments with my little girls and husband. I live in utter gratitude while also fearing (thanks to lingering anxiety, ugh!) all the time of something happening to any of us. It is not easy to juggle it all, and the balance is a constant work in progress, but it is such a beautiful full life. My husband always says – these are the problems we wanted to have, and I pinch myself every day!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My mom and dad, I am so grateful for all of their influence, and as I said earlier, my older brother. He taught me unconditional love and what it means to have someone have your back over their own. He is one of my best friends. We are so different but SO connected. He would do ANYthing for me and I have felt that in my bones since I was a little girl. And also, my husband. He has taught me to be unapologetically who I am. He has helped me, for the first time in my life, to stand up for myself. I was taught to be so helpful to others, but I forgot along the way that I didn’t always have to please. Early on in our relationship, he said to me, “Own your space in this world,” and I often use that to encourage myself to be brave and authentic. This allowed me to have some really hard conversations over the years, which ultimately only made those relationships better. And, my girlfriends, wow, I have the most amazing and beautiful circle of women spread all over the US. They are a necessity. And, my daughters, nothing teaches you about love and about yourself more than motherhood. I can only hope to have the honor to live a long life and to see them create their own authentic world that is as unique as they both are. Lastly, I must say, one of the greatest privileges is to hold space for someone in pain, and I am so incredibly grateful for our clients trusting us to help them grow.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Shiloh Colleen Photography

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