Occasionally, I receive emails from women who have attended a doula training course and felt that it didn’t give them what they had hoped for; they wished that they had done a little bit more research rather than simply picking the nearest or even the cheapest course to attend.
In the UK, there are a number of different doula training courses, both online and in different locations around the country. As a potential doula student, it can be tricky to know which course to pick and to know which one is the right fit for you. I’ve put together these seven questions to consider as you navigate your way through what is on offer.
I hope these questions will guide and help you in discovering and finding the doula course that will start you on your journey.
1. Why do you want to become a doula?
A recent study discovered that only around 30% of women who attend a doula course do so because they want to “become a professional doula”. Other reasons for taking a doula course were:
It can be helpful if you are able to identify the reasons that you would like to become a doula so that you can choose a course that resonates the most with your needs.
2. Who did the doulas working in your area do their doula course with?
It is a good idea to speak to other doulas in your area to find out who they did their training with and why. All the doula courses tend to follow a certain core curriculum but each course facilitator will teach this in their own personal way. However, it might be more relevant to ask what the name of the course facilitator was rather than the name of the actual course, as in my opinion, the course leader is what makes the difference. This is not only true for doula courses but for all types of learning and education.
3. Does the course facilitator have knowledge of your local birthing scene and community?
I’d like to think that most doula course facilitators would be completely honest with you about the work that is out there and explain that there is some groundwork to be done when you setup your own doula business. It is a fact that in the UK, there are around 700,000 babies born every year and only around 1000 doulas. In my view, it’s not the lack of work out there that is making it difficult at times for doulas in more rural areas to make a decent living but lack of awareness of doulas and the many benefits we bring. Find out what knowledge the course facilitator has about the local community and how they went about building up their doula business. You want to learn from someone that has entrepreneurial skills as well as the experience that comes with running your own business. Your course facilitator should be able to tell you about the common pitfalls and hurdles that you can expect to encounter as it’s very likely that she’s been there too at some point.
4. What are the qualifications, experience and philosophy of the course facilitator?
I’ve already mentioned this but it is vital that you choose a course and a facilitator that resonates with you and your particular needs. The course facilitator will be the one person that will make a huge difference to your overall doula course experience. They all have different teaching abilities and knowledge and will put emphasis on what they consider to be most important. Make sure you read testimonials, speak to doulas that have already completed the course, and also find out what the support is like afterwards. Picking the cheapest or nearest course might not necessarily be the best thing to do if you’re serious about doula work and running your own business. Find out who the course facilitators trained with, if they have any teaching qualifications, and how much experience they have as working doulas. It is always worth having a conversation with the course facilitator before booking to make sure you feel a connection and get that gut feeling that this is the right course for you!
5. What is covered in the course and what support is there afterwards?
Most courses should be able to send you a detailed curriculum of what is taught in the course, and be able to demonstrate a solid structure with well developed lesson plans in place. Whilst courses will include a lot of discussion and learning from each other, there should be established outcomes and learning goals behind what is being taught.
Being a doula is a vocation - but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to make a reasonable income from your work! This requires some training on how to run your own business, as well as ongoing support from your course provider. This is crucial to keep you motivated and to keep you going when the going gets tough, so if you want to train to run a business, make sure this is included in your course.
6. What budget do you have for your doula business startup?
As with any new startup, you will need to invest some money to get your business off the ground. If your plan is to be a professional doula you will most likely need to not only invest in a doula training course but also other essentials, including a website, insurance, DBS check (enhanced police check), membership fees, and marketing materials. I believe spending a bit more on your initial doula preparation course to ensure you get as much solid and good content will be save you money in the long run. It is not just about learning to become a doula, it’s the practical things like interviews, how to write a good doulaography, setting up and branding your company, and the ongoing support of a professional organisation that can really make a difference. If you’re on a very tight budget it might also be worth finding out from the course facilitators if they offer payment plans or even partially funded places on their courses.
7. What other skills might I need in order to run a successful business?
I believe you ‘qualify’ to be a doula just by wanting to support women and their families during the childbearing years. It is important to have empathy, to be compassionate and to be able to truly listen to your clients. Most doula training courses will support and further develop these skills that you will most likely already have. What the majority of women find more difficult is the business side of being a doula. Registering with the Inland Revenue, doing tax returns and asking people for money can feel rather daunting. Ensure that these basics are covered in the course that you choose.
Doulas support and help their clients to make informed choices and getting all the information before them so that there are no hidden agendas. Taking the time to research, speaking to the different course providers as well as to other doulas that have attended the courses should help you in making a choice that is right for you! I hope taking these questions into consideration will assist you as you start on your doula journey! I promise you, it will change your life!
Kicki Hansard is a member of Doula UK, however any opinions expressed on this blog are personal views and not necessarily the view of Doula UK.