5 Simple Tools for the Self-Actualized Doula

“Self-actualization” is a term that comes from Abraham Maslow, a leading figure in the Positive Psychology movement. Self-actualization refers to the “realization or desire for self-fulfillment.” In other words, it’s the motivation to realize one’s full-potential.

As doulas, we place a lot of emphasis on self-actualization, whether we know that term or not. We do this by striving to live out the values in our Mission Statement, namely to:

  • facilitate empowerment, connection, and self-advocacy in families
  • foster culturally relevant education/support/training (for perinatal professionals)
  • forge positive, productive relationships with organizations that support healthy, informed family decisions
  • build bridges of understanding, respect, and communication with all healthcare professionals in our community and around the globe (CAPPA, 2017).

Those are our goals, and we strive to live them every day. However, sometimes it’s hard to know how to:

  • advocate without getting in the way
  • empower without taking over
  • educate without enabling
  • nurture and give without compromising our own boundaries.

Having a clear understanding of our Scope of Practice is one way of empowering ourselves towards self-actualization and accomplishing our goals. Additionally, having a clear understanding of our client’s own rights and responsibilities will help us to avoid blurred professional boundaries or grey expectations within our client/doula relationship. Here are some simple tools that will help you to self-actualize as a doula and be the “best version of yourself”.

  1. Be Open. A phrase I find useful in doula work is “I expect nothing.” While that may sound pessimistic, it reminds me that most emotional suffering in life is a result of over-attachment to how something “should” be. You can make room for a lot of good things by expecting “nothing.” (Nepo, 2000)
  2. Differentiate. We don’t want to project our experience/beliefs/opinions onto our client but we do want to give them the informational support they rely on us to give them. Sharing information with your client from a 3rd party perspective will help to differentiate your personal point of view from their own (i.e. avoid “I think…” and “you should…” statements). Try statements like, “We know that evidence shows an increase in/reduction in… so what about considering……,” OR “I hear you saying that you are {worried; tired; happy; excited} with how you’re labor is going. Would you like to try the {labor tub; squat bar; birthing ball….}?”
  3. Stay grounded. Feel your feet on the floor or the weight of your body in a chair. The place you make the most contact with is the place that will keep you at attention, especially in stressful circumstances, and help to avoid trauma or overstepping boundaries. This can be hard, emotional work. Take a moment to feel this place. Doing this slows the pace and helps to create presence. (Strange, 2011).
  4. Breathe & Relax. Deep abdominal breathing delivers oxygen to the woman’s working body and to the baby. Breathing also provides an inner focus for concentration during hard contractions. It’s good for you too! Focus on your own breath-awareness. Relaxation is an active process. It is a self-directed interaction between mind and body. (Nepo, 2000)
  5. Communicate. Ask for what you need. Your needs are important too! You may need to get some lunch, step outside and take a breath of fresh air, or make a phone call. Talk through what this may look like for you during your prenatal appointment with your client so that expectations are clear and boundaries are in place. Practice good self-care so that you go to work with your “love tank” full more times than it is running-low.


  • CAPPA Labor Doula Manual, Mission Statement and Scope of Practice. 2017
  • Nepo, Mark. The Book of Awakenings. 2000
  • Strange, Karen. The Midwifery Management of Neonatal Resuscitation. 2011

Erica Manto-Paulson

CLD, CCCE, Labor Doula Faculty

Erica Manto-Paulson, BFA, CLD, CCCE is a certified labor doula and childbirth educator, hypnobirth instructor, labor doula trainer, writer, and mother to a blended family of seven children. She is the president of the Cincinnati Area Doula Society and president of Dar a Luz of Dayton. Erica is passionate about community and it’s relevance to birth and maternity care in the modern world. When she is not packing her SUV with anatomy charts and knitted uteri for a labor doula training, or striving to stay-grounded at a birth, she can be found in the kitchen cooking up a storm for her growing brood or walking off the beaten trail through a hike in the woods. Find more of her musings, visit her website: www.nurturebirth.com.

Browse Topics

Blog Archives

1 thought on “5 Simple Tools for the Self-Actualized Doula”

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top