Musings on Doula Certification Pt 3

Jan 26, 2018 | The Doula Profession

or “Follow the money…!”

We’ve discussed the relevance of certification in our individual practices as well as its impact on our profession as a whole.

We last left off by asking WHY we keep reinventing the same “box” over and over again.  Now I invite you to think critically about those “boxes”, our dizzying array of certifying bodies and companies.

If certifying organizations have not been working cohesively toward development and protection of the profession, what HAVE they been doing for the last decade or longer? That’s a great question!

Obviously they’ve continued splintering off each other, competing with each other, suing each other, and even diluting the definition of the term “doula”. In general, each of these organizations/companies have been focused on their market share (“How do we get and keep more members? How do we ensure more people certify and recertify with US as opposed to THEM?”).

In addition, a growing number of doulas are shunning certification or re-certification altogether, whether because of philosophical differences or outright disillusionment. And let’s face it – doula work is HARD and few of us stay active in the field as long as I did (17 years, and only stopped because of a car accident and back surgery).

Consequently, the number of certifying/re-certifying doulas doesn’t grow as much as you might think. As doula certifying organizations multiply exponentially, the market share of working doulas willing to pay dues and fees gets smaller and smaller for each organization.

Ultimately, this creates some obvious problems. The need to protect the bottom line can result in certifying bodies taking creative and unwelcome measures to increase their income.

Members find themselves facing multiple unexpected fees, or having to deal with other upsetting problems such as discovering that much of the available continuing education is not accepted for recertification. Members are then told to take accepted courses from the organization itself, at an additional fee, of course.

And when you have to cram in extra tasks, you wind up paying extra fees because you’re now over the deadline! That is a situation I’ve seen many doulas experience as certifying bodies limit their list of acceptable credits to maximize their own profits. Are you asking yourself why we are throwing our hard earned money at this? You’re not alone.

What ARE these certifying organizations/companies doing with the funds doulas invest? Do you even know? Let’s explore that a little.

Some organizations employ expensive and detached management companies to handle day to day operations. Others employ administration directly. Top-heavy admin can eat a lot of dollars. Maybe you think the fees you’re paying are being used to create training materials. But not necessarily. You might be surprised to learn how much volunteers do within these organizations, despite all the fees being paid into them. Ask some questions – you may be surprised at the answers!

Some organizations or companies that train and certify doulas are non-profit and others are not. But just because a company calls itself a non-profit does not automatically mean they are, or that the funds are used in a way you’d expect. Laws governing non-profits vary by state, resulting in some pretty eyebrow-raising ways a non-profit can be run. But you don’t have to speculate and wonder. You can look up any non-profit organization at Creating a free account can provide you with additional information such as tax filings.

Next, look up the organization you’re researching on the Secretary of State website for the state in which it was originally incorporated, remembering to look at all the variations of its name. These are public records and free to view. A few minutes investigation can be quite eye opening! If the certifying body you’re investigating is a privately held company, financial records will not be publicly available and what they disclose about their organizational structure is on an entirely at-will basis. However, you can learn a great deal by paying close attention to their websites, and asking a few good questions.

Is what you’re paying worth what you’re getting from a certifying body/company? Do you feel good supporting that?

I challenge you to think outside the box rather than limiting your thinking to deciding which box you’re going to support. This is about your financial support and the endorsement of your name and reputation. Think long and hard about that. Doulas are realizing that being an entrepreneur takes A LOT of energy and time, and that resources are best devoted to creating a practice that can withstand the cultural and financial challenges of the times.

Put your money into something you can actually believe in and use, that will bring you future benefit in a real way.

Join the conversation! Comment below and let me know your thoughts, or share this post with your friends.