Skill Building Sessions

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Detailed Skill Building Session Descriptions

Objectives for sessions can be sent on request. For detailed session information scroll down or click a session below. Please contact me if you would like more details about any session.


Newborn Communication Skills for Nurses and Perinatal Professionals

Babies are communicating all the time; adults are just not very skilled at understanding them!  The key to parent satisfaction, confidence, and infant mental health is parental sensitivity to their infant’s cues, temperament, and individual communication style. Once parents learn to read their babies, they can usually lessen infant crying and develop successful approaches to sleep and feeding for their baby.

This workshop is designed to increase the skill and accuracy of perinatal professionals in recognizing infant cues and temperament to 85% agreement.  Participants will analyze videos of parents interacting with their child individually and in small groups to increase their effectiveness.  In addition, the nine measures of infant temperament and key temperament profiles will be analyzed to increase confidence of participants in their observations.  Emphasis is placed on co-creating knowledge with the parent about their child and developing a working model of that child’s temperament together.  (Isn’t it exciting to know you can learn to do this well?!  I’m excited to to see you learn!)

Here’s a ONE minute video from Dr. Amy describing the workshop.

Continuing Education:  This activity has been approved by the Wisconsin Nurses Association CEAP for 3 contact hours.  WNA is accredited as an approver of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

Who Should Attend This Workshop?  Perinatal professionals who interact with parents during the postpartum period all contribute to parent’s confidence and efficacy.  Clinic and hospital nurses, home visitors, doulas, midwives, lactation professionals, physicians, childcare providers, and parenting educators would all benefit from this course.  It is expected that participants are already familiar with state, cues, and temperament but need to build confidence or expertise in recognizing infant communication and discussing observations with parents.

Here’s the link to a 1 minute video about who the workshop is for.

Length: 3 hours, 45 minutes

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Trauma Prevention and Support for Laboring People With Hidden or Existing PTSD

This informative session covers the normal and altered neurological function of the attachment and defense systems in the laboring person’s brain; research on how pre-existing PTSD alters social behaviors and labor coping; and actions and interventions that can be taken by medical careproviders and labor support team members to prevent further trauma of the vulnerable laboring person and positive labor progress.

  1. Outline the oxytocin release process when the attachment system is activated in the laboring person.
  2. Explain the defense system for the release of adrenal hormones during perceived threatening events.
  3. Label six common actions taken by medical care providers that are often perceived as threatening by a laboring person with previous trauma experience.
  4. List six observable behaviors in the laboring patient whose defense system is being activated during labor.
  5. List three low effort and three moderate effort strategies careproviders can implement to prevent activation of the defense system in the previously traumatized patient’s brain.
  6. List five strategies that can be performed by doulas or others providing continuous labor support to the laboring person to counter stimuli perceived as threatening by the laboring person’s brain.

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Increasing Your Communication Effectiveness

Birth professionals recognize that communication skills can make or break their success, yet they can be difficult to learn without an opportunity to practice in a supportive atmosphere. This session focuses on understanding people’s needs and interests more deeply, enhancing communication between caregiver and client, and utilizing advocacy skills. Multiple strategies are covered that are rooted in communication and negotiation studies, brain based learning research, and the nitty-gritty situations birth professionals face. Attendees are expected to interact and participate with others to gain confidence in using these new tools. The first two hours focus on listening skills (I never tell you what to say, either).  The third hour focuses on internal changes you can make to become a more effective communicator.  The fourth hour adds negotiation and crisis management skills.  (Confession – I LOVE teaching this workshop – my Bachelor’s degree is in interpersonal communication and I’ve taught some of these exercises in my college courses!)

Learning Objectives: At the end of the session, the learner will be able to:

  1. Explain the role of human beings in assigning meanings to other people’s behaviors.
  2. Create non-verbal behaviors that broadcast the attitude the speaker wishes to convey.
  3. Explain the difference between “autobiographical listening” and “true listening”.
  4. Discern with greater accuracy the facial expressions of other people.
  5. Illustrate the difficulties inherent in effective communication.
  6. List three statements to use when collaborating with hospital staff.
  7. List three ways to build affiliation with medical staff or parents.
  8. Outline the four steps to negotiate a conflict successfully.

Length: 120, 180,or 240 minutes (2, 3, or 4 hours)

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Doulas as Facilitators of Transformation and Grief

Description: Doula work is physically demanding, emotionally draining, and spiritually life changing. In order to create the emotional space of being present with clients and touching their hearts, the doula opens her heart. When a doula assists a woman[1], she is facilitating her emotional process into becoming a mother to this baby. She transforms her identity through her labor. In addition, there may be grief over what is left behind in this transformation, and the mother will often look to her doula to help process or feel her way through her anger, fear, sadness and acceptance of this new self and new circumstances. To help a woman negotiate her fear and pain takes an authentic connection on the part of the doula.

In this powerful session, based on grounded theory methodology and 40 interviews with experienced doulas, Gilliland explores the ideas of doula work as a spiritual path and the doula as a facilitator of personal transformation in the modern world.

Objectives: By the completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe the advanced doula roles of “trusted guide” and “wise witness”.
  2. Illustrate how a woman’s personal identity and sense of self shifts during the birth process and how the doula can facilitate that.
  3. Analyze a mother’s birth story for elements of the five stages of grief.
  4. Assess doula’s stories for simple and complex emotional support strategies used by doulas that facilitate the processes of grief, loss, and transformation.

[1] The participants in this research were cisgendered women and their partners. I intuitively feel that several conclusions could be extended to laboring persons and their identity transformation processes. But that would be making assumptions about a member of a stigmatized group without any evidence, which is wrong for many reasons. So this HO is written using gendered language because that is what I am able to show accurately, not because I am unaware of the exclusion that using it implies.

Length: 90 minutes

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Advanced Positioning Strategies

In this completely revised session, participants learn in more depth about pelvic anatomy and positioning with several different applications. One, participants learn and practice three different positioning techniques to alleviate some common discomforts of late pregnancy and influence the eventual position of the baby. Two, together we review and integrate new information about positions during pregnancy and labor that enhance fetal descent – including prodromal labor (a long latent phase). Three, I cover strategies to use during labor to prevent and correct fetal malpositioning (including occupit posterior presentations when mom has an epidural). Four, I analyze the implications for the doula of the Lieberman study regarding fetal movement during labor. Fifth, I am trained in advanced use of the peanut ball in labor through Cheri Grant, RN of Premier Birth Tools and Polly Perez, RN.

This session is taught “hands on” in small groups so more than one trainer or one session may be needed depending on the size of your group.

Length: 120 minutes

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Relationship Violence and the Doula

In this session, Gilliland utilizes her training as a perinatal professional and women’s advocate to speak compassionately and supportively about the issue of relationship violence. Doulas may inadvertently find themselves supporting a mother experiencing emotional, financial, sexual or physical abuse. This session explores the realities of relationship violence, and appropriate responses that are within the doula’s role to help alleviate ethical dilemmas and keep doulas safe.

Objectives: At the end of this session, participants should be able to:

  1. Describe the different types of abuse that may be a part of a violent relationship.
  2. Illustrate why teenage women often experience relationship abuse.
  3. Outline the possible consequences of seeking help and how they affect a mother’s choices to leave or stay in an abusive relationship.
  4. Recognize the importance of the doula’s role as a reliable support person for the labor and birth in the mother’s life.
  5. List three strategies to maximize the doula’s safety when working with a mother who may be in a violent or abusive relationship.

Length: 60 minutes

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Powerful Prenatal Visits

My main philosophy is that prenatal visits need to empower mothers and emphasize acceptance of the client’s choices. This session emphasizes relationship building skills, strategies for discussing difficult issues, non-judgmental communication skills, exercises and handouts to make visits more effective, coming across as a professional, and typical challenges that doulas face at prenatal visits.

Length: 60 minutes

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Circumcision Counseling In A Time of Cultural Change

Birth professionals often find themselves giving parents information about the intact penis and circumcision while having personal feelings regarding the procedure. In this webinar, Dr. Gilliland explores the dilemma faced by professionals and solutions for tailoring information for different audiences with clashing values. In addition, she offers strategies for professionals who wish to not serve clients planning on circumcising their male infants. As a professional doula, birth doula trainer, childbirth educator, and certified sexuality educator, she brings over twenty years of experience to her presentation.

Objectives: At the end of this session, participants should be able to:

  1. Review facts and trends regarding the intact penis through the lens of cultural change.
  2. List four strategies for discussing the intact penis and circumcision with clarity, compassion and avoiding emotional escalation.
  3. Examine the dilemma of choice through a variety of ethical frameworks.
  4. Explore two techniques for respectfully avoiding service to families who plan not to leave their son’s penis intact (circumcise) when that is important to the birth professional.

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