Karen Kleiman MSW, LCSW

This Isn't What I Expected

Postpartum

C'mon, Do Postpartum Women Really Need Therapy?

They need support. And they need it right away.

Posted Jan 03, 2017

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You may not know this about therapists who specialize in the treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety, but…

If you are wondering whether your symptoms warrant a visit to a therapist, pay close attention.

Therapy with a postpartum specialist is not what you think it is. Traditional talk therapy has its merits in words and processes that scream of a long-term commitment. For example: exploration of issues, self-esteem, development of insight and ego-strengthening intervention, to name a few. It can be a beautiful thing, to be sure, when the process of therapy leads to a greater sense of self-confidence, tolerance what that which we cannot change, and an overall feeling of well-being.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

We all know that’s not so easy, but postpartum women, in particular, do not have the time, the interest, or the wherewithal, to even consider the possibility that having a new baby is the perfect time to start up a therapeutic relationship.

But hear me out.

If you are fortunate enough to find a therapist who has specialized* training in the treatment of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), you are likely to find yourself in the presence of someone who understands this. She or he may understand that you are way too tired, too distracted, too unfocused, and way too concerned about everything else other than yourself to think about making that first phone call to ask for help.

But you should.

With specialized training, the therapist also knows how important it is to get you back home functioning at your previous level of functioning as quickly as possible. They understand the urgency.That does not always translate to be as quick as you'd like, but the goal is to optimize your coping and come up with a plan to get you in and out of the office as soon as you start feeling better.

Therefore, if you have recently had a baby and do not like the way you are feeling, consider these reasons why you should call a therapist:

  1. The sooner you get help, you sooner you will feel better. On the contrary, the longer you wait, the harder it may be to get relief from your symptoms, and the longer it will take.
  2. If you are not sure whether or not you should see someone, call someone who treats PMADs and talk on the phone to make an initial determination of what you should do next.
  3. Don’t call it therapy. You are going in for support and relief of your symptoms. If you feel better after one or two or ten sessions, it will be worth it. Therapists and practices that are familiar with the needs of pregnant and postpartum women are not interested in doing long-term therapy with you at this time. They are concentrating on providing symptom relief, making sure you are sleeping and eating, ensuring your safety, maximizing your support network, and helping you reconcile some of your anxious and intrusive thoughts.
  4. No one wants you in counseling for longer than you need to be there. In other words, you are not signing a contract, you are not entering into a relationship that is going to distract you from doing all that needs to be done at this time. You are building resilience and making the decision to reconnect with your best self in the face of unsettling emotions.
  5. Connecting with a therapist who knows what is going on with you right now provides clarification and essential reassurance. Anxiety skyrockets during the postpartum period and having someone provide a frame of reference helps you maintain a healthier perspective on some of your unwanted thoughts and emotions.
  6. If you are too worried about the way you are feeling to mobilize your support system, remember that postpartum specialists understand this and will help minimize your anxiety with information, resources and clinical skills that your friends and family may not have.
  7. If you are not worried about the way you are feeling and hope this will go away on its own, keep in mind that support during this time is a wonderful thing and even if you do not have troubling depressive symptoms, you might feel better if you connect with a therapist who can help protect you from future stressors and a potential crash during this vulnerable time. This is especially important if you have a history of depression or anxiety. 
  8. With new technological opportunities, consider contacting a specialist online or remotely if you know they have the experience you are looking for. It may not be ideal, but it is far better than you wasting precious time with a therapist that is not helpful.
  9. Symptoms of depression and anxiety after childbirth must be taken seriously. Treatment is available and it works. Do not deny yourself the opportunity to feel like yourself again. make a call. Get some information. Be your own best advocate.

* To find a postpartum specialist in your area, these sites can help:

The Postpartum Stress Center Clinician Referral List 

Postpartum Support International

PostpartumProgress 

copyright January 2017   Karen Kleiman, MSW postpartumstress.com