Counselling for perinatal mental health and wellbeing- Is it for you?

The following post has very kindly been written by

Adela Stockton, Psychodynamic Counsellor MBACP

Counselling Connect CIC

Counselling is a generic term used to cover a number of approaches to talking therapy including psychodynamic, person centred, CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy), humanistic and TA (transactional analysis). It has been suggested that certain modalities treat certain conditions more effectively than others, although recent studies have focused mainly on short term CBT and wider research is needed in order to robustly substantiate this argument.

It is possible that you may feel drawn to one way of working therefore, yet what we know matters most is in fact the ‘therapeutic relationship’. That is, if you feel that the counsellor is someone who ‘gets’ you, someone with whom you can work, the process is likely to be useful to you regardless of the approach.

Every counsellor is different, so I can only comment on the way I work which is fundamentally psychodynamic, although I may also bring in aspects of trauma treatment, mindfulness and compassion focus. At times, my knowledge and experience as a former midwife and doula can help to inform my practice. Regardless of counselling technique however, principally I am led by you. It is not my role to give advice, rather to listen to what you have to say and think together with you about the themes that come up in your story.

So you may bring a certain issue to explore or be suffering from a certain mental illness, but it is likely that other aspects of your life will emerge during the process. From my perspective, everything is relevant and we may consider possible links between the past and present, including your early relationships, in order to support you to make more sense of how you are feeling.

In terms of perinatal mental health and wellbeing, I notice that the experience of giving birth and/or becoming a parent (even when things have gone well) can trigger unconscious feelings that might have been around for us during our own experience of being born and being parented. Feeling emotionally (and physically) disconnected or unacknowledged as a baby, can feel like our survival is at risk and be experienced as trauma, even if there was no intention to cause harm or neglect on the part of the adults caring for us. Re-experiencing this feeling of disconnection as an adult through traumatic birth, postnatal depression or PTSD or simply separation from your baby, I believe touches this personal trauma from our early relationships and can make us feel unsafe to the point of suffering from mental illness.

Perinatal counselling can be an opportunity to take some breathing space to think about what your feelings mean for you and why they might be arising, whether before or after childbirth or even years later. I do not ask lots of questions or poke around your past, but when something stands out for me in your story, I may wonder out loud in response to what you say, so that we have the opportunity to think together about what that thread might mean for you and you will be listened to without judgement.

I work with fathers as well as mothers, face to face, via teleconferencing (VSee) or by phone. It is always worth speaking to a few therapists before deciding who to work with however, so that you find the right person, and ideally the right approach, for you.

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