If you're researching doula training, you've probably noticed there are a LOT of organizations and training programs out there. A decade ago, there were only a handful, mostly comprised of the original organizations involved in researching and establishing the doula profession; in 2017, there are dozens available, with YBE Doula Training and Certification joining the ranks. There are a variety of mindsets, philosophies, and training methods, some of which you can do completely online without even attending an in-person workshop. How on earth do you know which one is best?
How to Choose the Best Doula Training
The first thing we have to discuss here is this issue of "best." What does best mean? Something we teach in YBE to parents and professionals alike is there is no such thing as right or wrong, only what is right for you. This means that "best" is fundamentally different for every person, and ultimately you must be deeply in tune with yourself, who you are at your core, and what you think and feel in order to know whether or not any doula training is going to be "the best," or in other words THE BEST FOR YOU. Knowing yourself then, is of primary importance for you as you decide how to invest in your own professional doula training and certification.
How YBE Doula Training is Different
"What makes this doula training different (or better) than xyz doula training," is a question any discerning consumers would ask themselves, and it's a great question. I'll begin by stating unequivocally that YBE Doula Training absolutely may NOT be the best training FOR YOU, and I can definitely tell you how it is different from the rest (or most). To do that, we've got to establish what a doula is and what exactly one might need training to do!
Most agree on a general definition of a doula as a non-medical professional who provides physical, emotional and informational support to a birthing person during the childbearing year. While this is true, many doula training programs see these three aspects of doula support as three separate (and probably equal) legs on the doula definition stool. In my experience, it seems much more accurate to say that the top of the doula stool IS emotional support, or more specifically Emotional Intelligence. I might even go so far as to say Emotional Support or Empathy is the seat of the stool with physical, emotional and informational support as the legs. Science and biology support the fact that childbirth is primarily an emotional experience, so it would make sense that doulas focus the bulk of their training on honing this skill. If you're still not sure, see the post Why My Work as a Doula Requires Emotional Connection and Amy Gilliland's research on emotional support methods, as well as her series From Novice to Expert.
In my ten years as a doula, the bulk of training and continuing education I've received has heavily focused on the physical aspect of the role, and my own gaining of information. Very little has focused on HOW to transmit that information to clients and HOW to deliver on the emotional support aspect of my role. I would venture to say that many doula trainings teach you a lot about WHAT a doula is, but not all of them teach you HOW to be a doula when the rubber meets the road (For this reason, I'm grateful to have invested my own dollars and time into an education degree!). YBE Doula Training, and all of our programs for that matter are "How" programs.
How to Deliver Emotional Support by Increasing Emotional Intelligence
We can really go down the rabbit hole on this one, so let me sum this up by saying the ONLY way a person can truly engage in the act of emotional support or empathy for and with another human being is by increasing his or her emotional intelligence, which is defined as "the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth" .
Not-so-coincidentally, the hormonal physiology of childbirth shows us that this entire process is regulated by hormones, which originate in the limbic system of the brain, which is ALSO the part of the brain where memories and emotions are stored and regulated! It's not that far of a leap to suggest that a birth worker have a substantial grasp on managing activities regulated by this part of the brain in order to support a process regulated by the same part of the brain! In relation to health care workers, and in turn birth workers,
"Empathy is the "capacity" to share and understand another’s "state of mind" or emotion. It is often characterized as the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes”, or in some way experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself. Empathy is a powerful communication skill that is often misunderstood and underused...
"Sound management of relations is an element of Emotional Intelligence. It is actually the ability to handle our emotions and our relations in a way that leads to harmonious coexistence. They also recognize others’ feelings, allowing their expression, they withstand negotiation and they can protect themselves from any ‘bad’ expressions - behaviour feeling guilty or responsible for the way other would handle it. Empathy is an important element of healthcare professionals and patient communication and is a key feature of emotional intelligence. Health professionals should be trained to effectively implement empathy, in order to achieve the desired therapeutic results" .
Everything taught in YBE Doula Training is under the umbrella of personal growth as it relates to increasing one's emotional intelligence and ability to engage in the act of empathy. This thread is woven through all components of the training, including birth and postpartum doula skills, childbirth educator skills and entrepreneurship training.
YBE Doula Training and Continuity of Care
Since pregnancy, birth, and early parenting are inextricably linked, YBE Doulas are trained and mentored in birth and postpartum doula training, as well as in childbirth education. Since informational support is a critical role of doula support, ALL YBE doulas are trained in HOW to share the information they have in childbirth, breastfeeding, postpartum recovery and newborn care whether or not they ever intend to formally teach a childbirth education class.
With regards to entrepreneurship and business basics, YBE Doulas receive training from the YBE Business Essentials course so they leave training equipped to establish and manage a doula practice, whether it be independently, or collectively as an agency or partnership.
How YBE Doulas Engage in Learning
Just about every seasoned doula I know will tell you that they learned about WHAT a doula is in their initial doula training and they learned HOW to do their job through experience as a doula. While this is true of almost any profession, I think we can do better for a profession that is not only highly experiential, but takes place in such high stakes settings as the intimate, personal lives of our clients. Professions that require internships exhibit this, like my education degree, which required me to actually teach students while receiving mentorship from a seasoned teacher. What I do know from my teaching background is HOW people learn is just as important as WHAT they learn.
What if you could actually engage in the actual work of being a doula WHILE attending doula training? That's exactly what we do at the YBE Doula Training Retreat. Yep, I said retreat! Since experienced doulas tell us experience is the key, we have created an intense, week long retreat comprised of highly experiential training where participants engage in intellectual and physical challenges, team building and emotional care for themselves and for one another. While learning specifically HOW to be a doula, we actually practice giving each other physical, emotional and informational support with our collective wisdom and talent. Research shows us that we need to be cared for ourselves in order to care for others, so you will have the opportunity to relax, receive love and care from the YBE team and the peaceful surroundings of nature, so you understand the value of self-care, as well as the nurturing care your clients need from you!
How to know if YBE Doula Training is Right for You
First off, you should start by reading YBE's Core Values, the first of which states that we cannot give what we don't have. None of YBE's programs will spoon feed you anything, and you have to be willing to put in the work. While we can give you the path, you're the only one who can walk it. Empathy and the work of a doula is challenging (understatement of the year), and the best way for you to learn how to do it is to learn the skills for yourself, and while there are basic skills and tools, every doula displays those skills and utilizes those tools in vastly different ways. If you're not willing to put in the work, YBE probably isn't right for you, but if you're willing to be real, to be you, to do the work, to ask the questions, and to find YOUR answers, you're in the right place. Only you will know what is the right way for you to live your doula practice, and we will support you every step of the way as you struggle, grow and succeed.
I hope you'll join me soon at a YBE Professional training so we can create something great together!
Owner and Creator of Your Birth Experience
- Salovey, P., Kokkonen, M., Lopes, P. N., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Feelings and Emotions, 321-340.
- Ioannidou F, Konstantikaki V. (2008). Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: What is it really about? International Journal of Caring Sciences, 118–123, Vol 1 Issue 3http://www.internationaljournalofcaringsciences.org Sept - Dec 2008 Vol 1 Issue 3