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Pregnancy and Motherhood Support

Indvidual Therapy and Support Groups for pregnancy, birth and motherhood

scottwilson_Jemandalasessions67.jpg Support groups for mums and mums-to-be

"Motherhood... the defining event in a woman's life,
a seismic transformation, apath we travel forever"

                                         (Pleshette Murphy, 2005:ix)

The background
Research shows that becoming a mother, whether positively anticipated, unexpected, uncomplicated, difficult, or traumatic, involves total reorganisation of women’s self-concept.  On her unique and personal journey into motherhood each woman will experience profound change in her life, informing every aspect of her personality, her relationships, and her lifestyle.  Especially when that journey is made for the first time, it is a voyage into the unknown, attended by a complex array of challenges and emotions.  Whilst women are aware enormous life changes lay ahead of them, the reality of those changes can seem elusive and frightening.

Pregnant women very easily lose confidence when disconnected from their changing narratives and, in seeking to address underlying anxieties and make safe passage through transition, will usually appeal to medical and/or natural childbirth discourses to predict their experience.  However, accepting or challenging these powerful discourses can circumscribe women’s antenatal journeys, creating a disjunction between expectations and actual experiences:  of pain in labour; assumptions about natural and instinctive caring capacities of mothers; and experts’ knowing best.  When individual thoughts and feelings experienced in pregnancy are suppressed, and when subsequent experience does not live up to expectation, and/or when childbirth is traumatic, the stage is set for any feelings of failure as a birthing woman to impact upon women’s ability to adjust to and cope with the realities of early motherhood.  Indeed, a majority of women now report feeling shocked, traumatised and completely unprepared for birth and their unique and individual experiences of change during early motherhood.

The Theory
Transition is not simply change, but involves vital processes of recognition and awareness: of change, loss, and engagement with the need to construct a new reality, thereby allowing sense to be made, and meaning to be created.  Incorporation of a woman’s new identity as a mother, which supports her ability to care for herself and her new family, occurs through psychological processing of the different phases of her own individual experience.

Eleanor Scott Wilson has conducted in-depth research  and practice in dramatherapy during maternal transition, and developed an 8 session perinatal therapeutic model based in a synthesis of: client-identified issues; Van Gennep’s maternal rites of passage; and Emunah’s five progressive therapeutic phases.  Dedicated dramatherapy groups, beginning in pregnancy and continuing through into early motherhood, act as a safe container in which women explore pre-liminal, liminal and post-liminal phases of maternal transition.

“Participation in the arts leads to significant improvements in health [which] can boost self-esteem and reduce feelings of isolation and exclusion.  Arts therapy has an important role to play in providing better, more personalised care for patients.  I would like to see the benefits of participation in the arts recognized more widely by health and social care professionals, particularly those involved in commissioning services.”
(Alan Johnson MP, Secretary of State for Health, 2008)

The Practice

The practice complements medical and natural physiological birth preparation practices, focussing on psychological, emotional support.  Sharing experiences with other women has enormous value in and of itself.  Within a safe, dedicated, creative space, small groups of women meet regularly to observe, explore and reflect on their own and others’ changing narratives through playful methods such as stories, myths and fairytales, songs, ritual, movement, role-play, art making, guided imagery and relaxation techniques.  Women identify and explore their emotional responses, their coping strategies for addressing fear and anxiety about pregnancy and loss of former identity, childbirth, being a mother, sexuality, and changing roles and relationships in their new family.  This active engagement with real feelings and experiences, as they occur, facilitates increased self-awareness throughout the processes of change, enabling women to consciously reconstruct their new integrated identity from their own unique perspective.  Increased self-awareness enables development of positive self-concept, both as a labouring woman and new mother, helping women prepare for and process their individual birth and early mothering experiences, supporting positive attachments with their babies.

The practice meets recommended standards for preventive programmes to support new parents, as outlined in Maternity Matters and the Child Health Promotion Programme.  Groups for clients with specific vulnerabilities are tailored to need: e.g. women at risk of, or experiencing, PND and/or other mental health issues; teenage mothers; single mothers; pregnant women in prisons; as well as groups for women who have experienced previous birth trauma or loss of a baby; and women who simply want to explore their individual experience of becoming a mother more fully, to give themselves and their new families a best possible start to family life.


[1]  Scott Wilson, E. (2008) Exploring a Woman’s Experience of Birth Preparation and Role Transition from Maiden to  Mother within Group Dramatherapy, University of Plymouth as a dissertation toward the degree of Master of Arts by advanced study in Dramatherapy

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