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SHE Serves: Jackie Klaver

#SHEserves: Jackie Klaver
#SHEserves: Jackie Klaver

Dr. Jackie Klaver received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, including time in Boston, MA, and Akron, OH. She has since made it her mission to bring pediatric neuropsychology services to the amazing and rapidly growing city of Nashville, TN! She is the founder and owner of Nashville Neuropsychology & Family Services, PLLC, which is a pediatric mental health private practice. She specializes in infant/toddler (0-3 years), preschool (3-5 years), school-age (6-18 years), and young adult (18-25ish years) evaluations with a focus on cognitive, attention, and/or learning issues through the completion of a comprehensive evaluation. Common presenting concerns include underlying neurologic issues (e.g., concussion/TBI, epilepsy), as well as ADHD, Learning Disability (e.g., dyslexia), and Autism Spectrum Disorder.  When she’s not in the office with patients, writing reports, or messing around with Quickbooks, Dr. Klaver enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and two young children, going out to eat with friends, and attempting to make her house look like something from HGTV.

Name: Jackie Klaver, Ph.D.
Company: Nashville Neuropsychology & Family Services, PLLC
Industry: Healthcare/mental health
Age: 35

Who are you, where are you from, what do you do? How do you serve your community?
I am a career-loving mother of two from Milwaukee, WI, who moved to Nashville almost 2 years ago (after moving numerous times for professional development in my training). I am the founder of my own private practice that focuses on pediatric mental health service delivery. As a pediatric neuropsychologist, I conduct neurodevelopmental and neuropsychological evaluations with children, adolescents, and young adults who have medical/neurologic (e.g., concussion, epilepsy, stroke) or developmental conditions (e.g. ADHD, autism, learning disability). I also see a small number of therapy clients, but I limit those cases to primarily focus on my specialty area of assessment. When my husband (also a psychologist) and I were deciding where to grow our roots as a family, we immediately thought of Nashville. It is a vibrant and growing city with many of our must-haves (e.g., mild winter, close to family, friendly attitude, accessible to outdoor activities) and a place that we had visited many times when taking a respite from the rural area where I attended graduate school in southern Illinois.

What inspired you to a position of service? What was your path there?
I have always been a natural caregiver and probably would have been voted most likely to be fine after having a teen pregnancy (thankfully I dodged that bullet!). As a tween, I started nannying for a family of 4 boys down the street who I loved like my own and who embraced me with equal adoration and kindness. I gravitated toward many other pediatric specialty interests throughout high school and college such as working with children with special healthcare needs and those with Autism.

I chose psychology as a major and was particularly drawn to developmental psychology courses because I was drawn to the idea of how much the environment can impact the developing brain above and beyond someone’s genetic predisposition.

After realizing that my goal of attending medical school was not the best fit for me, I quickly realized that a path toward a doctoral degree in clinical psychology with a dual specialization in child and adolescent development and neuropsychology was more in line with my true passions all along (to be fair, I was either going to be a pediatrician or a psychiatrist if I did end up as a physician). After landing a dream gig at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington, DC, after college, I began working on a neuroimaging study of mood and panic disorder in adults. I loved the fast-pace of information gathering and the optimism and eagerness associated with the drive to find answers to complex, but very ubiquitous, problems. It was there where I gave my first set of neuropsychological assessments, and I really never looked back.

I found it fascinating how a sheet of numbers could tell a story about an individual from the patterns and themes that emerge after testing.

I particularly enjoyed the clinical aspects of the research studies which I coordinated, which validated my suspicion that I wanted to be a clinician rather than a researcher behind the scenes. The only part of this job that was missing (other than a bigger paycheck in an expensive city!) was that I knew I wanted to work with children instead of adults.

What about serving others brings you the most joy? What’s most challenging part of serving others?

My passion for serving children and families derives from the fact that I can literally see how I am changing the trajectory of a child’s life (and usually their family system as well) through the process of a comprehensive evaluation.

My training as a child and adolescent psychologist and extensive work with families with children with social, emotional, and behavioral disorders throughout my training is ever-present in my work as a neuropsychologist. I view completing a high-quality evaluation as an intervention, which often includes therapeutic interventions and validation of parents’ experiences along the way given the emotional impact that a child’s struggles can have on the family unit. Being able to provide complex information in an easy-to-understand and validating way is one of the most important and satisfying parts of my job.

I can literally see light bulbs going off during those “Ah-ha!” moments.

It is challenging to me that neuropsychology is often an unknown or misunderstood service for many families. In addition, medical providers are often hesitant to refer to us in many appropriate cases until it has resulted in a crisis resulting from a series of failures. Parents know their children best, and, as service providers, we need to do a better job of listening to and validating their concerns and being more aggressive with referrals to early intervention given what we know about brain development and plasticity. The Internet has become both a boon and a thorn in the side of the mental health world because so much misinformation is easily accessible to desperate parents who are unified by wanting to do the best for their children as quickly as possible. It can be frustrating for parents to hear that it took years to get to where they are, so it will take more than a quick fix to rewire circuits of the brain to promote more optimal outcomes.

What obstacles have you faced, internal or societal, in your pursuit of service?
My journey as a working mother has not been easy, but I have been steadfast in my dedication to obtaining the appropriate credentials and training experiences needed to arrive at my desired career. I had my first child in graduate school, and it was challenging, nerve-wracking, and occasionally hurtful to navigate the overt or covert whispers about how it was probably an “accident” (it wasn’t) or bad timing (I challenge you to find me a time when it’s good to be sleep deprived!). Luckily, we were surrounded by an amazing group of friends, and I had support from a few wonderful faculty members who kept me motivated and on track. My second child was born during my post-doctoral fellowship, which allowed for more than 3 weeks off and some institutional support (i.e., a measly 6 weeks of paid leave and a requirement to use all of my vacation days for the remainder of my maternity leave). However, this still felt insufficient when adjusting to life as a new parent while being sleep deprived and another person’s primary food source.

From a societal level, despite the many years of graduate-level training required to become a neuropsychologist (7 for me), [working mothers] often do not get the esteem that is awarded to our medical colleagues. That can be reflected on a small scale in how people address you (e.g., using your first name instead of calling you “Doctor”) and on a higher level in terms of lower pay and reimbursement rates.

Working in an institution felt like a sure way for me to be overworked and underpaid, which is what ultimately led me to the decision to open my own private practice where I have more freedom and flexibility to be an active part in my family’s life (e.g., drop-offs, pick-ups, attending school celebrations or class parties).

What advice would you give SHEs considering a career path that involves serving others?
I tell all of my graduate student trainees that a career in neuropsychology (or psychology in general) is very fulfilling. However, it can also be a thankless job in many ways, so you need to be self-assured, confident of yourself, and independently motivated.

It is equally important to know that these skills are not taught to us in school (and often not modeled well by others), so it is crucial to find family-centered mentors (they can be males sometimes, too!) who support your personal and professional aspirations.

Oftentimes, we are expected to navigate a stressful graduate school path without the psychological support that is necessary for developing the whole self along the way to our desired careers in pursuit of service (and yes, I am painfully aware of the irony of that as a psychologist).

ICYMI:  Check out the first in our #SHEserves series with Courtney Ligon,Social Worker and Tennessee State Supreme Court Rule 31 Listed Family and Civil Mediator. 

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