Since the formation of our network, there has been much discussion amongst doulas and those who run doula courses on the issues of how long it should take to prepare a woman to be a doula. The simple answer to that is: forever!
Anyone can set themselves up as a doula and many women start doulaing informally, supporting friends and family, before they undertake any preparation. However, we believe that it is helpful for doulas to do a preparation course that includes learning about and reflecting on different topics. Doula UK has a Core Curriculum, developed by experienced doulas, and all Doula UK approved courses share this Core Curriculum and our Philosophy. We refer to our approved course as Initial Doula Preparation, rather than training.
Unfortunately, the word and concept of ‘training’ gives rise to the idea that to become a doula one gets trained and then has all the skills and instinct needed to work with parents at this vulnerable time of their lives. A ‘training’ implies completion and it is not useful to believe that someone can attend a weekend or a three or five day workshop or course and believe that they are ready to be a doula with no further learning.
There is more to consider when thinking of becoming a doula than just which course to take. We feel strongly that someone with the desire to support mothers and families at the time of birth should undertake a period of self-examination and reflection in which personal experiences and prejudices are thoroughly debriefed and then put to one side so that each doula enters into their work with a clear mind, heart and motivation.
To be a doula is to be a traveller, to embark on a journey. Along the road the doula meets up with other travellers (other doulas, healthcare professionals and the families they support), learns from them and they continue their individual journeys. The birth doula role in particular, we believe, is a way of ‘being’ not ‘doing’, so reflection is particularly important. Doulas are learners, they are explorers, they are guides, friends, sharers — it goes on and on. Without an open approach to self-development and human growth, it is impossible to be available to help and empower others.
That said, as doulas we recognise that it is essential that we are in some way or another seen to be regulated. It is useful for doulas themselves to come under the umbrella of a professional body and this is, after all, why the Doula UK community came into being.
We have a ‘Recognition process’ for doulas in the UK, whereby they attain a certain level of experience as a doula in order to achieve a Recognised status by Doula UK. After a new doula has completed her course work with one of Doula UK’s Recognised courses, she then works with a personal Doula Mentor through a process that involves reflection and supplying documentation to support her experiences as a doula over a period of not less than 6 months and preferably not more than 2 years. This then leads to a formal assessment interview with the Doula Mentor before the doula herself is Recognised.
Undertaking a Doula UK approved preparation course and engaging with the Mentoring and Recognition Process is a condition of becoming a Doula UK member, as is a commitment to life-long learning and continuing personal/professional development. Membership of Doula UK can give parents and healthcare professionals confidence in a doula.
The doula courses listed on this site are ones that share the Philosophy and Core Curriculum of Doula UK. Periodically we work with other providers and assess their courses for inclusion so that we can provide details of a wide range of doula courses available in the UK. Our approved courses, which we refer to as Initial Doula Preparation, are all taught by experienced doulas and are regularly inspected and monitored. The wide choice reflects a flexibility towards accommodating each novice doula’s needs.