Training the Modern Doula
I’m delighted to share with you today an interview post featuring the wonderful women of Doula Trainings International – Tara Brooke, Gina Giordano & Aimee Brill. When I first started birth work in 1992, DONA was just getting started and quickly established itself as the leading training and certification body for North America. In the past decade, however, a number of new doula programs have emerged, allowing for a diversity in philosophy, training style, and requirements for certification.
Doula Trainings International (DTI) is one of these newer offerings, founded in 2011, and I am very impressed. In particular, I am wowed by their desire for doulas to not only be well equipped as birth professionals, but also as business owners. In my experience this blend of training is key to ensuring the longevity of doula care as their chosen profession.
The tagline for DTI is “For the Modern Doula”. I love this idea, and wanted to take this opportunity to explore with the founders their perspective on doula care in 2014, and how they see doula training opportunities transforming in the years to come.
Given that there are a number of established doula trainings available, what inspired you to launch DTI?
We were inspired to launch DTI out of our need to offer something new and different to our field. As certified doulas, we all went through our own experiences of completing an inspiring 3-day training but then struggled to find our way to create a thriving practice. We had many questions as novice doulas and realized that finding a mentor was not always easy. Luckily though, we found each other!
DTI is a natural byproduct of what worked for us in our own evolution, going from being novice doulas to experienced career doulas. Over the course of many years we cultivated a practice that was not only about learning and continuing to educate ourselves in hands-on skills but we educated ourselves in business and marketing skills. And perhaps most importantly we mentored each other. After years creating thriving practices, we felt passionately that another model was needed in our field—one that incorporated hands-on skills, business skills, and ongoing built-in mentorship right from the beginning. We wanted to create a program that went beyond a 3-day training, so we expanded DTI into a 9-month program. The feedback has been amazing and our doulas feel very supported!
How do you feel about the current state of doula training in North America?
Over the last 12 years, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth in our field and we’re all for it! We think it’s great to see a variety of options for doulas. Some women love distance programs, some women want to be part of a larger organization. But we feel that doulas are yearning for and deserve more guidance, especially if they are interested in becoming career doulas.
As we all know, competition and a tendency for doulas to feel possessive of their territory is a huge issue in our field. We feel strongly that this type of competition only hurts, not only our own profession, but more importantly the women and families we’re serving. A primary theme in our training is about being part of a tribe. After our training, the women already have a built-in doula community. Our model promotes supporting one another from the start, which I think you don’t typically see in other programs. Our doulas don’t have to start from square one in finding a mentor, finding a back up, or asking questions about how to build a contract. Our 9 tele-classes already address those questions and the trainees feel great comfort in having a space to ask questions, get advice, and receive support.
What gaps did you see in the doula training market that helped shape DTI?
There are four main gaps that we personally experienced in our market and have applied to DTI’s unique program:
1. Combo Trainings
All three of us have been working as birth and postpartum doulas for years. Although we do offer individual birth and postpartum trainings, we believe very strongly in the power of being able to offer a family the full spectrum of care. It is really important for doulas to consider the combo training from the very beginning, which is why we added the 5-day Combo Training into our 9-month program. As doulas, we realized how intrinsically connected birth and the postpartum period are. Obviously, you don’t have one without the other! Understanding the relationship between the two, and how to support a mother throughout all stages is invaluable as doulas. We have found that being able to understand both roles only deepened our experience of working as labor support and postpartum doulas. We would love to see all doulas migrate into the combo training. And if you’re a new doula, it will only benefit you to have both.
2. Mentorship model from the start
We offer ongoing mentorship throughout the 9-month certification period. That means our doulas can call and ask us questions about anything at any time and feel supported. That includes questions before, during, and after attending a birth and/or postpartum job. It is the foundation of DTI, and we are so proud to be offering doulas what they need to navigate this field and be successful in manifesting their own vision for their practice. We receive feedback from our doulas all the time about how grateful they are that they can pick up the phone or text us when they need to ask a question (even while at a birth!), or need to process a traumatic birth or celebrate a beautiful birth! It is incredibly rewarding for us and we are very grateful to be able to be in this role.
3. Business Skills
As novice doulas, we knew we needed much more help in building out our businesses. We didn’t have any business training or support in our trainings and had to make lots of mistakes along the way. DTI has built the business piece into the training. We feel that when you become a doula, you also become an entrepreneur and we think the possibilities are endless! Our doulas have incredible visions for their practices and we encourage them to integrate all their previous work experience. Many of our doulas have created multi-faceted practices that include using herbs, massage, essential oils, and acupuncture, for example. How they create their own business is up to them, not us. For us, that’s a shift in how we were trained. Again, we love returning to a woman-centered model where our doulas are empowered to make their own choices about their business.
4. Certified for Life!
After working as doulas for over a decade, we had all spent thousands of dollars in re-certification fees as well as continued education courses in order to re-certify. We felt that the recertification process wasn’t helping us to grow; it was really about jumping through hoops and paying fees. All of this was done with no support from the certification agency. It was a program of self-study and we were lucky that we found each other to help us through the many obstacles along the way.
This is why we decided that our program would have built-in mentorship, as well as a foundation supporting the development of community for each doula trained with us. Most importantly, once you are certified, you are certified for life. Instead of a typically hierarchical, top-down model of management, we wanted our doulas to feel accountable for their own profession and be autonomous as professionals. We trust our doulas and their passion to further their own career… or not… and that’s a priority to us.
How did you make the inner shift for yourselves from direct doula services to training other doulas?
Being a triad has been a great support. Because we are all located in different states around the US, we all serve our local communities in various ways. DTI has been able to have a national presence for that reason and we’re proud that our tribe is expanding throughout the country every day! We are all incredibly dedicated to DTI and its growth, and have also been able to maintain our private practices as doulas. Not only do we mentor our doulas; we mentor each other as well. Support is key! And we’re proud that the foundation of our organization is knowing that doulas need doulas to thrive. Our business is operated by women, for women, and we love that! We truly believe in the power of a woman-centered model and we apply it to each other in our business partnership.
A Movement, Not Just Another Training
One thing that we feel so strongly about at DTI is that doulas are at the forefront of changing the culture of birth. We have not just created a training and certification program, but a movement. Our 9-month certification program is a new model for doulas wanting much more than just a training, or a wonderful 3-day experience. We’ve spent a lot of time re-imagining a new paradigm for doulas, not only in the way that we teach doulas, but also in the way we mentor.
As birth workers, we know that the current paradigm we are in has done a great amount of harm to women, babies, and families. We want to see that change and believe that doulas play an integral role in that happening. One of the reasons we certify our doulas for life is because we trust our doulas’ innate desire to learn and impact the culture of birth. We know that passion drives what we do as doulas. That passion stirs us to want to learn more, stay up on research, and be knowledgeable about our field. It also is a passion that connects us as women, professional colleagues, and as a sisterhood and tribe of doulas.
Please check out our calendar for our next Doula Trainings . Thank you so much and we hope to see you at one of trainings in the near future!
Aimee Brill, Tara Brooke, and Gina Giordano
DTI Co-Owners and Mentors