How to Choose a Doula Training

how to choose a doula training

How to choose a doula training when there are so many options? Which is best?

Just as no one doula can be the right fit for every family, no one doula training can be the best fit for every prospective doula. Before you get lost in the Sea of Choices and are tempted to give up before you start, let’s establish some criteria for your decision-making. In this article, I will provide a framework for spotting key differences among the myriad of offerings.

Is the doula training in person or online? Consider how you learn best before choosing a doula training.

In-person training has become less common since COVID-19 began to affect every aspect of our lives in March 2020. The social aspect of a live workshop is, no doubt, a significant feature and may be important to you. For birth doulas in particular, there is greater opportunity to practice hands-on techniques, which is a benefit. Downsides can include the need to travel, take time off work, be away from home and family, and pay related travel expenses. Workshops are a very concentrated form of learning, often involving 2–4 long days.

Online training can take different forms, as follows

  • Self-paced learning. The student gains access to an online learning platform where the course is hosted, and then moves through the study materials at their own pace. This ensures time to digest the content and follow up on linked resources for a deeper dive. Check whether you have unlimited access, in case you want to review materials in the future. Self-paced learning works well for students who are goal-oriented and self-motivated.
  • Live online workshops (on Zoom or similar platform). This option involves sitting at your computer in real time. It can be a convenient choice with a surprising overlap of benefits similar to in-person training including sharing, learning, and connecting with others. For example, breakout rooms on Zoom allow for small group exercises and processing sessions. Hands-on skills can be taught as demonstrations with students arranging to have a “practice partner” available at their location for counter-demonstration and Q&A. Some trainers/organizations will offer online workshops over a weekend, while others might offer a weekly course over a longer period.
  • Hybrid courses may offer a blend of both self-paced learning and live, interactive meetings or workshops.

Is professional doula certification offered?

Most training organizations offer certification, but there are exceptions, so be sure and check. Many folks considering becoming a doula are confused about the meaning and value of certification. The main factors to consider are:

  • Cost. Is the certification included in the training fee or is there a separate fee? If so, how much?
  • Requirements. What are the requirements to become certified? If you are required to get hands-on experience serving families, how do you find the families? How long does the process typically take to complete? Can you even get into your local hospitals as an uncertified doula in order to gain the hands-on experience to become certified, if required (my not-so-favorite Catch-22 since COVID)?
  • Is re-certification required? If so, what is involved (requirements, fees)? Many organizations require an annual membership fee for certified doulas, continuing education, and so on.

What are the qualifications of the trainer?

The background and expertise of the trainer you are considering are important. How broad is their knowledge? How deep their experience? What strengths do they claim? What is their reputation? What do others say about them (e.g., testimonials on their website)?

For end-of-life doulas, I have noticed that many training programs have not been developed by experienced doulas, steeped in the doula world and the doula model of care. Rather, they have been created by hospice professionals who are often coming from a clinical perspective and then adapting the training to the doula model. Can a trainer who has never had a doula business authentically teach you to create a doula business?

What is the cost of the training?

Most doula trainings are in the same ballpark in terms of cost, but there are a few outliers. Consider whether the organizations on the higher end are truly offering more value or do they just appear to be savvy marketers? A handful of trainers may offer a significant degree of hand holding post-training, mentoring, or even internships, though this is not the norm. A strict cost comparison, searching for the cheapest doula training available, will likely not serve you well. Plus, there can be hidden costs to doula training, as mentioned above under certification. Make note of the fees, whether payment plans are available, and what you get for your money. Some trainers may offer scholarships or reduced fees for low-income trainees, especially nonprofits who can offset these losses with grant funding.

Does the trainer/organization have a niche/specialty?

We all have our strengths. Most trainers will highlight their strengths and areas of interest or expertise. They may focus on an aspect of doula work they are passionate about or a particular skill set. If their niche resonates with you, then perhaps you have found your match. Does the website you are browsing have some personality? Does it jive with you, your interests, motivations around engaging doula work, and goals for training?

Does the trainer/organization promote a political agenda?

In today’s highly polarized political climate, I have noticed that many doula trainers and organizations are promoting a political agenda. Are their values, as reflected in topics covered and language used on their website aligned with yours? Are you a good fit for their brand? If you are not in alignment, consider whether you want to engage on these topics in doula training, for example, Critical Race Theory. Prospective birth doulas may want to consider your comfort level with the elimination of the words “mother” or “woman” when speaking about birth, in favor of terms such as “person in labor” or “pregnant person.” On the flip side, if your trainer is using gendered language, will that put you off? An organization’s website will provide clues regarding what you can expect.

How is their customer service?

Are your emails promptly acknowledged? Your phone calls returned? Do you have the sense that this person/organization cares about your experience and will endeavor to ensure you are a satisfied customer? If they take days to respond to your questions up front, consider what happens once you have paid XX dollars and experience technical glitches or other issues down the road?

In Summary: What does your gut say?

In this article, we have discussed how to choose a doula training and have given you different parameters on which to base your selection. Start with considering your goals for doula work. As you are searching, makes a few notes about each of the websites, based on these parameters. You may think you will remember, but without some structure to your search, I guarantee your session will end in a cross-eyed blur! Once you have vetted the top contenders, narrow down your choice to the top two or three. You are seeking the right match for your goals, learning style, personality, and pocketbook. In the end, choose the doula training that is right for you—go with your gut!

Leave a Comment





Patty Brennan

Patty is the owner and visionary force behind Lifespan Doulas. For 40+ years, she has been a doula, midwife, educator, author, nonprofit executive, and entrepreneur. Patty has personally trained over 3,000 people to become doulas. She is the author of The Doula Business Guide: How to Succeed as a Birth, Postpartum or End-of-Life Doula, 4th Edition, and accompanying Workbook.