Is a Doula Collective Right for You?

After you complete your doula training you may be considering different business models and exploring options, such as: building your own doula practice, working in partnership with another doula, or joining an established doula collective. As you embark on this new journey, there are a few considerations to bear in mind.

To begin, research the groups available in your area and how they differ in services offered, organizational structure, mission statement and values.Do you know any existing team members? Are you compatible with the individuals with whom you may be working? Are you comfortable with the group’s processes and requirements?

It is also important to be aware of the particular policies and procedures of the collective, including: payment structures, social media, client confidentiality, and any additional or ongoing training requirements.

Knowing what you need from the team, and what the team requires of you provides clarity and helps you assess if your interests align. A thorough familiarity with work expectations and requirements will help you appreciate the structures they have in place.

A healthy understanding of your own strengths and desires, work habits and ability to be flexible, will go a long way in ensuring your growth and success. A team that is open to sharing skill sets, and working collaboratively provides a supportive environment to a new doula.

There are many benefits for new doulas to have experienced doulas available for guidance and mentorship. Many teams will provide continuing education, a review process after a complicated case and support in times of need.

You may find teams or collectives with alternative structures, and may have various offerings and benefits that differ from those described above. Exploring the best fit before committing is necessary.

Ensure you take time to build relationships with other members of the collective. Team-building activities help bring the team closer together; strengthening bonds through attendance at team meetings and events, or  participation in online internal discussion forums. Finding your place within a team takes time, but the effort builds lasting relationships and helps establish yourself in the community

However, working collectively does have its own set of challenges. As teams expand, there may be various opinions and personalities that impact the group dynamics. Varying degrees of success within the team can evoke a variety of emotions and responses. Various work styles or work ethics may evolve over time, which require the team and its members to re-evaluate priorities and direction on an ongoing basis.

Further, some individuals are accustomed to a work structure with clear outlines of roles, responsibilities and processes to follow to ensure deadlines are met in a timely manner.  This can be challenging if you are suddenly responsible for your own business development and working independently. Being your own boss requires self-discipline. Without it, the responsibility for building your own client base and promoting yourself within a team may lead to confusion and disappointment. Regular and open discussions and communication help foster a relationship of trust, and ensure everyone is on the same page.

In summary, working within a collective provides many opportunities to connect, flourish and grow as a Doula.

In addition to the collective model, there is also the agency model – where doulas are hired as independent contractors with administrative support: meaning the paperwork, contracts, and conduct of business is attended to and carried out through the agency. A fee is deducted for these services. You are then working for someone else. This can provide more structure and clear expectations for those who work more effectively within this model. The agency model allows you to focus on the work you love, and not the many demands of building a business.

No matter the type of team or group, in order to have a fulfilling doula career,  it is important to do your homework and carefully consider the options to ensure your work environment is the right fit for you. Best of luck!

About the Author

Sonya Duffee’s journey towards supporting and empowering families through birth began shortly after the birth of her own children. With more than 20 years experience in a variety of birth settings including home births, hospital and birth center providing prenatal, birth and postnatal care to expectant families in the community. Sonya Duffee has attended over 1000 births in Saskatchewan, Alberta, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado providing personalized, individualized care to meet the needs of her clients. From 2002 to 2007 she was the only community based Midwife in Regina, Saskatchewan providing home birth services. Sonya has held many positions in local, provincial and national organizations. Past appointed member of the Saskatchewan College of Midwives and various working committees for the implementation of regulated midwifery. Past President and active member of the Doulas of Regina Association as well past-advisor for the Canadian Doula Association and her involvement in the birthing community through CAPSAC, Birth Unlimited, Friends of the Midwives and the Midwifery Association of Saskatchewan. She was Director of a community based organization called The Family Room in Saskatchewan and contributed to the production of birth related publications such as BEARTH and BIRTHING Magazine.

Sonya is currently certified with CAPPA as a Labor Doula, Postpartum Doula and Childbirth Educator, past board member of the Doula Association of Edmonton and proprietor of Full Circle Birth Collective in Edmonton, Alberta.

In early 2020, she became one of the founding members of a non profit organization called the Birth Society, promoting inclusive education and birth support in underserved communities.

As a Certified Labour Doula Faculty member and Certified Doula, she has been sharing her passion for birth with others, instructing Birth Attendants, Doulas and Community Health workers in supportive care, continuing education and Doula training since 2005. These experiences have been instrumental in her work in the implementing and advocacy of family-centered care.

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