gradually tried to embrace this approach
in dealing with her own darkest memo-
ries. Soon she hopes to work through the
experience with a therapist.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned about
trauma from my own personal experience
is that you have to deal with it incrementally,” Kreppel says. She feels she now has
a better sense of when to push patients
to confront their deepest fears and anxieties, and when to hold off. “I needed to
be a victim before I could get to a place
where I was ready to be a survivor.”
WHEN KREPPEL FINALLY RETURNED
home on Jan. 31, 2015, adjusting to life
outside of the burn unit’s protective
atmosphere posed its own challenges.
“The first day back was scary,” she says.
“The thought of not having my vitals
checked all through the night was
Her left leg wasn’t healing prop-
erly, and she developed complications.
Changing her bandages was tough.
Taking a shower required careful plan-
ning and pain meds. (Her mother helped
with all of that.) Even the feel of cold air
from the refrigerator hurt her skin—
dashing any hopes of skiing with her kids
anytime soon. As Kreppel tried to adjust
to her new normal, her father suffered a
mild heart attack in her home just a few
weeks after she left the hospital, another
devastating medical scare for the family.
(He made a full recovery.) Sheryl Margolis,
a neighbor and longtime friend, remem-
bers walking into Kreppel’s house for a
visit one morning several months after
the surgery only to find her dressed for
work. “She was going to see a patient,”
Margolis says. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,
you’re a superhero,’ and I don’t say these
Friends and relatives say one of the
cruelest twists in the ordeal was the
timing of the accident, which happened
just as Kreppel was opening her private
practice and positioning herself to be her
own boss again. Getting to that point
Monica Garcia Harms co-chairs the Family Law department at
Stein Sperling. Her thorough knowledge and understanding of her
clients’ circumstances and needs distinguish her approach to the
practice of family law. Monica represents clients in complex matters
including divorce, contested custody, support and property allocation.
Family Law Attorney
25 West Middle Lane • Rockville, Maryland 20850
301-340-2020 • www.steinsperling.com
Mental illness is a broad term covering a wide range
of conditions varying in severity. However, the rule and
analysis regarding how any parent’s condition impacts a
child custody case can be universally applied. The focus of
any child custody case remains on the child’s best interest.
Some of the questions to ask in analyzing whether and to
what extent mental illness will have an effect on a custody
• Is the parent self-aware of the condition?
• Is the parent willing to seek and adhere to treatment?
• Does the condition cause symptoms that negatively
impact the parent/child relationship?
• Is the parent prone to emotional instability?
• Does the condition cause symptoms that interfere
with sound decision making capacity?
• And most importantly, does the mental illness
impact a parent’s ability to provide a physically and
emotionally safe and stable environment for the
Mental illness does not preclude a parent from being
a fit and proper person to have custody of his/her child
as long as the condition is managed effectively. If mental
illness is an issue in a child custody case, it is important that
a parent retain the services of a family lawyer experienced
in handling these types of cases to navigate the delicate