What do we need to think about as a Companion community to ensure that we provide the best service to our DDs and develop ourselves in the process?
Firstly it’s important to have some clarity about our objectives: What is the goal of our Companionship programme? Overall, I think it is to focus on ensuring that safe, effective and community-orientated, inclusive doulas are created. Beyond that, the relationship with a Companion should be an opportunity to widen and deepen their practice, enhance their understanding of themselves and the wider birth community and explore their personal boundaries, all within the safety and support of a sustaining relationship with their Companion.
The benefits of being a Companion can be many – just as with our doula clients, we get the fulfilment of watching someone step into their own power. To see people overcoming challenges and increasing their sense of self-efficacy is truly heartwarming! The skills we develop as Companions also benefit us personally – making us better doulas and embedding us in the doula community.
So what mentoring skills do we need to be a good Companion? Essentially, you are ‘doulaing the doula’, using all the same skills we use with our clients.
We create an open and supportive climate for discussion – if your DD feels judged or micro-managed, they will not feel able to open up to you. Seek to develop trust by encouraging open, two-way communications.
The 3 As of mentoring
Some people talk about the 3 As of mentoring:
Being Analytical and encouraging that in your DDs
And being an Active listener.
In addition I think Companions need:
~ Relevant experience and knowledge and the skill to signpost their DDs to other Companions when necessary to help them develop knowledge or be supported through a particular challenge.
~ Curiosity – a genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings and the ability to ask open questions to help them explore and reflect.
~ A non-directive, non judgemental approach – we’re much more like coaches than mentors in reality. We support our DDs to find their own answers and make their own choices; recognising that no two doulas are the same.
~ Enthusiasm for sharing your knowledge and for sharing this journey with your DD.
~ A respectful attitude and a commitment to compassionate communication that is Trauma Informed.
~ An eagerness to invest in your community.
~ The ability to give honest feedback in a way that is received well by your DD.
~ Good personal boundaries, well communicated with the DD
As Companions on the journey we are in turns helping our DDs to stay in the moment when necessary (look at your feet, not the horizon) and also to look back and marvel at how far they have come and sometimes to look ahead to recognise obstacles and plan to avoid or climb over them.
In this way, we help our DDs identify risks. These may be:
Not knowing how to ‘close the deal’
Dealing with clients in a way that might put them off.
Missing deadlines/not keeping promises or conversely, over delivering.
Underestimating the overheads associated with a client.
Not knowing how to set fees or create packages or negotiate discounts or payment plans.
Doing something unethical
Compromising on quality.
Family crises etc etc.
Some of these risks your DDs will recognise, and others only you—with your wisdom and experience—recognise. Other challenges will seem more risky to your DD than they really are. Offer to help your DDs identify and determine how to handle these risks. We can learn to spot potential risks, put strategies in place for prevention and develop tools to recover when things go wrong..
There is lots of reading about becoming an effective mentor online and a load of books on the subject if you want to go deeper.