Rebecca Thompson: Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Kate White, Director of Education here at APPPAH, about the Embodiment seminars. Welcome, Kate!
Kate White: Thank you, Rebecca! I’m so glad to be here.
Rebecca: Tell us a little bit about your role here at APPPAH and how you got started.
Kate: I am Director of Education. I was hired two years ago to start the online education program for the PreNatal and PeriNatal Educator Certificate. I started with writing papers, then expanding the curriculum and inserting objectives, putting it all into an online learning management system, then writing quizzes. It has been very fun. We are now a community of over 140 students around the world.
Rebecca: Wow! It’s amazing how much you’ve done in just two years! So, you also work directly with the students in the certification program. What happens when the students begin the certification program and suddenly are looking at this PreNatal and PeriNatal information? Specifically in terms of their own early stories?
Kate: Great question! Students are finding that their own early material gets stirred by reading the materials APPPAH has integrated into the 11 module course. Students get inspired, and also, moved and sometime activated by the material. They have started asking for more preparation for the course, actually.
Rebecca: So, what I’m hearing is that you saw a real need for the students to have an opportunity to develop some skills to both work through some of their own early imprints and to help others. As a response to that request for preparation for the course, you developed the embodiment seminars. Tell me about the embodiment seminars that you developed.
Kate: An experiential component came with the online course. Many of our best practitioners and teachers came together a year ago to create a short experiential course that introduced tools, skills and attributes that help the PPN educator to present the material. Those of us who have been in the field a long time, or maybe even a short time, know that you have to model the material, live it to show how to be with these early patterns for an audience to better comprehend what you are talking about. Invariably, people will be moved by the stories from the preconception, prenatal, birth and postpartum periods that our program offers. The tools that help in presenting this material include tools such as grounding, settling, orienting, tempo, pacing, orienting, self regulation, co-regulation, the Principles created by Ray Castellino that help create containers for families and small groups, and so much more. These small, experiential courses offer tools for educators so they can be better at their work. We called them Embodiment Seminars, but we are going to change them to Introduction to Perinatal Somatic Psychology and add some more preparation material. We expect the name and course material change to happen the summer. This change came about through feedback from students and trainers.
Rebecca: What do students who have taken the seminars say about them?
Kate: The students have been very moved by the material. They say these tools and skills are powerful and help them to be better human beings all around. They have also said they want more . . . more preparation, more experience, more material. Only 14 of our 145 students have taken the course so far. I want the APPPAH community to see that this is a work in process.
Rebecca: Who are the embodiment seminars for? Who do they help?
Kate: The seminars are for our students, and they can also be for anyone wanting to learn PPN tools and educator attributes. One thing I really want to get across is that we are telling a "new story" about education here. PreNatal and PeriNatal Psychology education is necessarily right brain first, then left brain. Our culture is predominantly left brain when it comes to learning. However with PPN, if you follow the correct sequence of development, we are somatic first, right brain first, then left brain. So, we are introducing these seminars and the tools that students can learn in them as part of our educational pacakge.
Rebecca: What exactly happens in an embodiment seminar? What you are describing sounds like it is so experiential and seminar suggests sitting in a room being told something.
Kate: Specific tools and skills are explained and practiced. The information is distilled down into small digestible bites. Participants work in triad and dyads, telling stories and practicing skills together. I feel like an example would really help here. For the listener or reader to this interview, I would ask that they just notice their body as they listen or read. Pre and perinatal psychology is mostly somatic and this procedural or implicit bodily-felt experience is the basis for our psyche, and our emotional and cognitive development. The embodiment pieces that we work with are the template for regulation of the nervous system, a house for the autonomic pieces that start in utero. Each baby has experiences prenatally, during birth and postpartum that encode into the body. So for example, simply noticing when you speed and slow down, and how you feel within each category is useful. A lot of what happens from this early, implicit place can run in our lives quite unconsciously. Perhaps we are sped up all the time and that is our normal. What happens when we slow the pace? Make eye contact, or even physical contact? What happens when we say, we have enough time here to tell the whole story and take pauses to help our nervous system integrate the information. We offer simple exercises and how to integrate them into a presentation on pre and perinatal psychology and health. Example here is the Body-Low-Slow-Loop from John and Anna Chitty. We offer many exercises like that one to help build up the capacity for being with early information in our educators. It’s fabulous!
Rebecca: It sounds amazing and so interactive! Like it is really a personal experience and not something where you are just told about the information. If students are looking for additional ways to process their early stories, what other resources are available to them?
Kate: APPPAH is supporting a team of leaders in the field, some of the best trained professionals in PPN. There is a list on our website. We strongly encourage students to get sessions, sign up for process workshops, and attend the International Congress so that they can increase their capacity to be with their own early imprints. The more a person works with their own early imprints, the better an educator they will be.
Rebecca: That sounds really important. The more a person works with their own early imprints, the better an educator they will be. What a great opportunity! On a different note, are the embodiment seminars a requirement for certification?
Kate: Experiential work is required for the certificate to be awarded. We want to nurture our educators so that they feel the support we are trying to live, to educate, to elicit in them. There are many ways to gain access to PPN experiential workshops. I highly recommend these workshops. It will make the educators, or anyone, a better presenter. The next seminars are with Chanti Smith in Brooklyn, NY at the end of July, and with Shelli Worrall, Ahara Vatter, Kerry Francis, and myself in Boulder, CO in August. More are coming soon.
Rebecca: Is there anything else you'd like us to know?
Kate: Keep an eye on our website and become a member of APPPAH, if you’re not already. We have more exciting things coming down the pike. We will be expanding our educational offerings to parents and individuals, and we are working in partnerships with other organizations. Now is the time for APPPAH, as science and culture are really discovering this early period and the importance of skills to work with overwhelming events that can happen here. We have gotten really good at understanding what families need, and also, what adults need who have experienced early trauma. Stay tuned and become a member of our community if you have not already.
Rebecca: Thank you for sharing your time, your talents, and your passion for the future of Birth Psychology. I have so much appreciation for the work that you are doing here.
Kate: You are so welcome, and thank you for the interview, Rebecca.