Choosing Your Doula Training: 10 Questions to Ask

Not all doula trainings are alike. They vary widely in quality and value! If you are considering becoming a doula, you would be wise to choose your training organization as carefully as you would hope your clients choose their doctor or midwife! These 10 questions will help you to find the program that is the best fit for you to help you become the doula you want to be:

  1. How rigorous is the training program? Unfortunately, there are doula “certification” programs out there that are basically diploma mills. You pay, you get certified. No work needed! But nothing learned and you are not any better prepared for the work, either. Look for a program that will make you learn and grow over one that is the path of least resistance.
  2. What are the reviews? Please, please, look for reviews on the program you’re considering. Don’t just rely on the testimonials on the site, as those are chosen carefully for marketing purposes. Look at independent reviews! Not all programs are what they are cracked up to be. For large organizations like DONA, look at reviews for the individual trainers as well as the organization as a whole.
  3. How long has the organization been around? While this should by no means be the only criteria, an organization that has stood the test of time is one that is more likely to be stable. I have seen training organizations come and go, and have witnessed women invest money and time into becoming certified, only to have the organization go under before they were able to complete the program!
  4. Does the organization care about continuing education and staying current? While some people might consider the lack of required continuing education and recertification to be a bonus, I don’t! Staying current is vitally important, and when things get busy, it’s often the first thing that people let slide. I attended my first doula training in 1997, and many of the things that were current then are sadly outdated now. I’d be a poor doula if I was still operating under what I was taught when I first started out. Having your certifying organization keep you accountable for staying current is a *good* thing!
  5. Does the organization provide support after certification? Do they offer continuing education? Listings for marketing? How easily can you access these benefits? Again, look for reviews and talk to other doulas to find out if the organization meets their ongoing needs.
  6. Do you agree with the general philosophy of the organization? If they have a code of ethics and a scope of practice, read them. Read them well and understand them. Don’t sign them if you don’t agree with them. Really don’t sign them if you don’t plan to abide by them!
  7. Will the training adequately prepare you to do the job? Will you learn both labor or postpartum support and the skills to run a business? Carefully consider your strengths and weaknesses, and choose a program that will feed your strengths and build up your weak areas.
  8. Does it include hands on training? Doula work is hands on work. I personally believe that hands-on training is crucial. There are online certification programs that are amazing, and if you choose one of those, I recommend you add an in-person training or apprenticeship to that program so that you can get in person skills training and feedback.
  9. Is the organization well respected? Reputation is important. Some doula training organizations are based on a single charismatic leader and use controversy to generate publicity. This makes for a reputation that is less than professional, and has the potential to cross lines you may not be okay with. Some organizations have a reputation of certifying anyone, just to keep the money coming in. Word gets around, and be careful who you align yourself with.
  10. Does the organization have a way to weed out the bad apples? There are people out there who call themselves doulas and then do things very outside what a doula should do. I won’t go into the specifics, but since I teach at a hospital and am a doula, I’ve heard some pretty wild stories of things that should *never* happen. A certification that means something will have some kind of review process where parents can file a grievance and the organization will look into it.

Certainly other factors like budget and convenience of location or timing play a role as well, but I hope these questions keep you from making a costly mistake in the early part of your doula career.

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