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Kelley Gunter        

Best-Selling Author, Mental Health Advocate Addressing Trauma, Addiction & Eating Disorders

Kelley Gunter is an internationally acclaimed inspirational speaker, compassionate life coach, and a number one best-selling author. Her compelling memoir, You Have Such a Pretty Face, explores Gunter’s painful journey to find peace and self-worth after enduring a childhood riddled with trauma and sexual abuse. Following a remarkable 243-pound weight loss and the 22-year maintenance of that loss, Kelley discovered that unhealed trauma from the past would continue to create destruction in the form of life-altering cross-addictions.

Mired in her own suffering and unable to reach out for help, Gunter’s career followed the path of a wounded warrior. She graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in counseling, both of which she used in her 30-year career as a licensed social worker. Gunter’s education enabled her to aid others on their own journeys toward peace, but it wasn’t until 2016 — when an untreated gambling addiction caused her to lose everything — that she was able to begin her own true healing process.

Sober now for seven years, Gunter, who is a clinical supervisor on the national suicide hotline, remains refreshingly candid about the trauma-induced cross-addictions that wreaked havoc on her life and forced her to her knees. Armed with personal experience and vast therapeutic knowledge, Gunter is able to apply both to the creation of her written and spoken work. To further her education and expertise, Gunter is now pursuing her doctoral degree in counseling and traumatology.

Kelley’s powerful speaking is infused with the kind of wisdom that’s only learned from hitting rock bottom and living to tell the tale. In this, she’s uniquely equipped to connect to others, relying on equal parts professional insight and an endless wellspring of empathy. Listeners will find that her message isn’t simply a pretty speech tied off with a bow, but rather an open invitation for conversation, growth, and understanding.

In speaking, coaching, and writing, Gunter addresses the painful reality that weight loss alone doesn’t heal the traumas that contributed to the weight gain in the first place, nor does it address the high likelihood that cross addictions can and may arise in weight loss patients who don’t acknowledge their trauma. Gunter asserts that the root of addiction lies in shame, and she works to undo the stigma surrounding trauma by opening up about her own life-long feelings of shame, which once strangled the hope from her existence.

Gunter also acknowledges that without her strong faith in God, she wouldn’t be here today. As one who’s walked the path of deep suffering, Gunter’s message stands as a true weapon against darkness: “When the world says, ‘give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘try it one more time.’”

Speech Topics

Maintaining Sobriety Through the Aftershocks of Childhood Sexual Abuse – A Survivor’s Perspective

Trauma is like an earthquake that happens in a child’s life. The destruction that remains shakes the core of all who survived the disaster and can leave them feeling vulnerable and powerless. Long after an earthquake has ended—aftershocks can occur. Aftershocks can be just as devastating as the main quake itself and sometimes cause more damage than the original incident. In this presentation, Kelley Gunter compares childhood sexual abuse to an earthquake. Unhealed trauma, which may remain long after the abuse ends, can send shock waves throughout the entirety of the survivor’s life. Some of those aftershocks are just as powerful and damaging as the original abuse.

Ninety percent of children who are sexually assaulted develop PTSD. Individuals who are diagnosed with PTSD are 14 times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder. Historically, professionals felt that one issue had to be resolved before treating the other, but achieving or maintaining sobriety can be incredibly difficult while living with the complexities of resurfacing trauma. A realistic and effective approach must address both. This session focuses on navigating these journeys simultaneously. This powerful topic will speak to those who are healing and embracing recovery and is crucial for professionals searching for a fresh perspective and approach from which to assist their clients.

Using a dynamic speaking style, Gunter merges genuine compassion, sharp clinical insights, and a vibrant sense of humor to create a one-of-a-kind lesson about life’s hardships and the beauty that can be discovered throughout the healing and recovery process. Having walked this journey herself, Gunter provides a personal look into surviving the unthinkable, achieving and maintaining sobriety, and utilizes her thirty years of post-master's degree clinical experience to provide professional insight and expertise.

Participants will:

  • Understand the correlation between childhood sexual abuse and addiction.
  • Identify the three main forms of trauma that lead to substance use/addiction.
  • Identify the similarities/differences in healing from childhood sexual abuse and walking the path of recovery/maintaining sobriety.
  • Gain an understanding of how these two entities often coexist and how their individual treatments focus on opposing core principles.
  • Understand addiction responsibility vs. abuse responsibility.
  • Gain insight into why the chance of relapse is higher following a disclosure of childhood sexual abuse.
  • Learn methods to navigate the recovery journey and healing from childhood trauma simultaneously.

The Cemetery of My Soul - Healing from Trauma

As a speaker in any format, Kelley Gunter wields her personal story to discuss the trauma that resulted from a childhood riddled with sexual abuse and how that trauma, left undisclosed and untreated, became the catalyst for a life plagued with addiction, self-destruction, and mistakes. This presentation not only digs into the process survivors can use to transform tragedy and tears into triumph but also delves into the role childhood trauma plays in impaired consequential thinking, impulsivity, and ultimately, how the brain can be formed differently because of that trauma. Yes, trauma changes our brain, but the good news is that so does healing.

Also discussed is the powerful role grief and mourning play in the healing process and why they cannot be overlooked. Gunter's unique blend of clinical expertise and first-hand experience allows her to serve as a powerhouse advocate for trauma and addiction recovery and healing. Survivors do not have to live haunted forever by the painful traumas that they have endured or by mistakes they may have made while attempting to numb and escape their pain. Healing begins to silence those ghosts, allowing peace to take root and grow. This presentation is as unique as Gunter is a speaker—one who can truly connect to her audience and educate them in the same breath. Perfect for survivors and professionals seeking to better understand and assist them. One comment from a past attendee: “Wow. This session was everything. I am forever changed.”

Participants will:

  • Learn how and where trauma can change the developing brain of a child.
  • Learn how changes in the brain can affect individuals for the rest of their lives.
  • Learn how healing can change all of that.
  • Learn why it is crucial to make grief and mourning an part of the healing process.
  • Learn why it’s important to take responsibility for past mistakes and at the same time have self-compassion regarding those mistakes.
  • Learn to stop attempting to breathe life into relationships or situations that have already been declared dead.
  • Learn why it’s important to acknowledge and work through feelings of betrayal and abandonment.

Conversations in the Darkness: Surviving Suicide

As a Clinical Supervisor on the National Suicide Hotline/988, Gunter utilizes a combination of personal experience and clinical expertise to walk the audience through the devastating aftermath that survivors of suicide endure, the complications and roadblocks that can arise, and how the healing process can begin and eventually evolve into a place of acceptance and peace. Losing a loved one to suicide is an incredibly painful and traumatic experience. Feelings of loss, anger, abandonment, shock, and sadness are often exacerbated in suicide survivors by overwhelming feelings of guilt, rejection, and shame. Trauma, coupled with the powerful stigma that surrounds suicide, prevents many survivors from seeking the support and healing that they need and deserve. Survivors of suicide loss are at a higher risk of developing major depression, PTSD, suicidal behaviors, and complicated grief.

Having answered thousands of calls as a crisis intervention specialist prior to becoming a Shift Clinical Supervisor, Gunter explores the complexities involved in healing and effectively processing the myriad of grief and emotions that encompass suicide bereavement, complicated grief in suicide survivors, and grief treatment options for survivors or suicide. The darkness of depression and hopelessness that remain following a suicide can be all-consuming. How do we lead the hurting out of it and protect ourselves and our colleagues from compassion fatigue and burnout?

Participants will:

  • Receive a brief synopsis regarding the epidemiology and circumstances of suicide.
  • Understand the difference between grief and complicated grief.
  • Learn the most recent research regarding complicated grief in suicide survivors.
  • Learn the current state of research on suicide bereavement.
  • Learn new methods and approaches to support survivors of suicide and assist in their healing process.
  • Learn methods of self-care and how to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue.

Wisecracks and Wisdom From the Homecoming Queen of Crazy Town: A Journey Into Self-Worth and Self-Love

The Homecoming Queen of Crazy Town is introduced in Kelley Gunter’s memoir, "You Have Such a Pretty Face." The Queen is that hurt persona who sits just beneath the surface—she responds on raw emotion, survival skills, and pain. When we are overwhelmed, the Queen will jump into action, and unfortunately, the results are typically disastrous. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Let one more person say something to me today, and the entire world is going to find out,” that is your Queen talking.

When unhealed trauma intertwines with low self-worth, simply existing can become difficult. This presentation focuses on healing, developing self-worth and self-love, and overcoming the painful obstacles that can block our route to happiness. We are never the same after we endure trauma, betrayal, or loss, but as we work our way through the darkness of our struggles, we can develop a beautiful, new existence. This workshop explores how to discover the source of low self-worth, how that source contributed to our faulty foundation, and how we demolish those erroneous beliefs and rebuild a stronger existence.

This workshop is raw and genuine and explores the truth of how we live when we don't think we are enough. This emotionally charged presentation explores the highs and lows of the healing process, teaches how to recognize fear, shame, and self-sabotage, and how to develop the resiliency required to create the life you desire. Empowering and thought-provoking, Gunter uses her decades of clinical knowledge and personal insights to explore self-worth and self-love and explains why beating yourself up will never result in loving yourself. Kelley weaves it all together with the wit and wisdom her audiences have long come to expect. Past attendees have reported that they recognized themselves in ways they didn’t expect and stated that this workshop was life-changing.

Participants will:

  • Discover yourself and your worth.
  • Identify the internal narratives that are holding you back.
  • Learn methods to challenge those negative narratives.
  • Learn to use self-compassion to fuel self-love.
  • Connect to your own inner wisdom and align with your authenticity and purpose.
  • Recognize and eliminate self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors.
  • Recognize the source of people-pleasing behaviors and how to eliminate them.
  • Slay the shame that is stopping you from discovering your best life.

The Lost and Found Box: An Exploration of Abuse, Trauma, Grief, and Recovery

Have you ever considered what is contained inside the lost and found box of your soul? Maybe there are broken dreams, broken promises, or broken parts of you that were never acknowledged. Perhaps shame lurks inside your box or it’s filled with ghosts of all the people you think you should have been able to become. This presentation focuses on healing for adults who have experienced childhood trauma, the inherent difficulties faced by individuals who are also in addiction recovery, and the necessary role that grief and mourning play in the entire process.

The brain perceives unhealed trauma as actively happening repeatedly, and one of the secrets to processing PTSD grief is to learn to mourn. This discussion explains how traumatic losses live in the mind, body, and soul as shock and denial, thus contributing to the many hypervigilant symptoms of trauma. For successful, long-term healing to occur, a focus on grief and mourning must be included in the process.

Have you ever considered how strangely odd it is that the lost and found are contained in the same box? We cannot heal what we don’t acknowledge, and many times, the answer to healing is found in the very place where an individual was lost.

Participants will:

  • Learn to recognize or assist others in recognizing their own trauma.
  • Learn the importance of understanding that what adults consider traumatic and what a child experiences as traumatic can be two very different things.
  • Learn the difference between grief and mourning.
  • Learn the importance of grief and mourning in the process of healing trauma.
  • Identify appropriate ways of expressing both.
  • Identify the roles that grief and mourning play in recovery and sobriety.
  • Learn the role authentic mourning plays in bridging the gap between the heart and the brain.
  • Develop a comprehension of the courage it takes to grieve and mourn and how to encourage and support others to do the same.

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