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Preparing to thrive before the baby arrives: Three steps to support new moms’ mental and emotional health

When a family prepares for a baby, the world around them focuses on one thing: the baby. What will the baby need? What clothes will it wear? What will it eat? Sleep in? Look like? How will you take care of it and keep it alive? All super important things to know!

However, in modern American parenting culture, we forget that a new baby (whether it’s a family’s first or not) signifies a massive physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual transition for parents, most especially for the mother or birthing person.

Tami Lyn Kent, author of Mothering from Your Center, writes that when we become parents, we “begin a process of transformation that reveals who we are and who we will become.” Others write about the process of matrescence: a mother’s identity shift after a child is born.

When I see expectant parents in my office, we spend a lot of time tending to this transition and honoring its significance as a major life event. Through this work, I was inspired to create the Passage Pregnancy Support Circle, a virtual workshop for expectant mothers who want to prepare mentally and emotionally for parenthood. This list is a condensed version of what we explore in that space.

So what can be done? What can you do before your baby arrives to ensure you arrive into parenting intact and supported? How do you honor your own needs as a new parent by constructing a container to keep you safe, whole, and nurtured once your baby is here?

Step 1: Seek therapy – on your own AND with your partner

Generally, therapy is viewed as useful only when there is a problem: a mental health issue, a traumatic event, or a question in need of resolution. Good therapy typically helps those who are struggling to feel well again. However, hopeful and expectant parenthood doesn’t always equal an acute problem; things might even feel quite good, which is terrific! In these cases, therapy can help deepen that experience of fulfillment, and, more importantly, safeguard it as you move forward.

Most expectant parents, however, land somewhere between “I have a major problem” and “I feel good.” The transition to parenthood can open us to all kinds of experiences. Common ones are:

  • challenges with fertility or conception
  • difficult births, mood changes
  • relationship strain
  • family conflict
  • health issues
  • questions of identity
  • professional concerns
  • unresolved trauma

Many normal life circumstances can even create an increased risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) such as postpartum depression. If you identify any problems (or even if you don’t), finding a safe, supportive space where you can explore what’s coming up with a trained professional will bolster and protect your health, and the health of your family.

Similarly, finding couples therapy support for you and your partner can not only protect your relationship as you navigate new territory together. It can also strengthen the bond you already have, offering skills for supporting each other and communicating effectively within your new roles.

To find a perinatal therapist, use the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Directory to search for qualified providers in your area.

Step 2: Identify who will support you and how

One of the first questions I ask a pregnant person who comes to my office is: who will be supporting you when your baby arrives? This question is intentional  (I really do want to know) and also presents a gentle challenge. Have you considered that you will need and want many different kinds of support, some of which you may not even know yet? I find this question helps parents step away from the frenzy of planning for their baby and offers them space to center their own experience.

What will I need when my baby is born? What tasks will I need help with, both physically and emotionally? How will I feed myself and tend to my energy so I can care for my baby? How do I want my body, mind, and spirit to be cared for as I recover from birth? How will I tend to my feelings and thoughts as I move through this transition? Who do I want listening to and seeing me in this vulnerable moment?

Most respond with “my partner” or “my family” – both perfectly reasonable options. But in the reality of American nuclear families, almost everyone needs more. (There’s a good reason why we say it “takes a village.”) Among those who can be uniquely supportive and nurturing in the postpartum period are: partners, parents, postpartum doulas, therapists, doctors, midwives, body workers, lactation consultants, nutritionists, community elders, spiritual leaders, friends, grandmothers, and other mothers.

Take some time to imagine what support would feel good to you after your baby arrives. Discuss this vision with your partner or family members and make a list of potential support people. Reach out to those people soon and often to ensure they are available, willing, and capable of supporting you in the way that you need (see Step 3). Process and problem-solve anything that comes up around this with a trusted listener (see Step 1).

Step 3: Practice asking for help

For some, the idea of leaning on partners, family, friends, or community can feel somewhat icky. Many women describe feeling anxious or embarrassed to rely on others, for fear of appearing dependent, weak, or incapable. However, the child-bearing years are often when strengths and weaknesses, needs, and roles get turned upside down for everyone involved.

As a baby grows, so too do the birthing parent’s physical and emotional needs. When a baby is born, both parents can experience a new, unexpected level of need for support. Asking for and securing support is not only a tremendous sign of strength, it’s also an essential component of successful parenting.

Luckily, pregnancy is a perfect place to start training. Make a list of your current needs, from “I need someone to walk my dog” all the way up to “I need more love from my partner.”

List with abandon, never mind whether it seems silly or outsized. When you feel complete, sit with your list and imagine what it would feel like to receive help with any of your items. Notice what emotions, messages, or reactions come up for you. Then take 1 or 2 items from your list – they could be the easiest asks, with the lowest stakes – and commit to identifying someone you can ask for help. Then make your ask.

If you are someone for whom this is new and uncomfortable (I have been one of these people!), remember that you are practicing. You may need to make several tries before you get it right. You might consider making a disclaimer before you ask for what you need: “I’m feeling nervous/uncomfortable right now because I’m not used to needing help. But I really want to practice so that I can feel more supported once the baby arrives. Would you be willing to help me with that?” (Bonus: making this disclaimer means you’re already asking for something.)

This list may feel overwhelming: I thought making a baby registry was hard, now I have to do more?! Keep in mind that everything listed here is a process, unlike a baby registry. The intent of this list is not to overwhelm you but to help you refocus your attention to your own experience as you encounter a major transition. Building up these muscles before your baby is born will put you so far ahead of the game once she is here.

And here’s a secret: everything described above is actually for your baby. All babies and children thrive when in the care of a healthy, whole, and supported parent who can stand strong in their vulnerability.


Preparing to thrive before the baby arrives: Three steps to support new moms’ mental and emotional health

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Preparing to thrive before the baby arrives: Three steps to support new moms’ mental and emotional health

When a baby's on the way, your thoughts as a parent are mostly focused on your soon-to-be bundle of joy. But expert Bridget Cross is here to help new moms get the mental and emotional support they need for this next step.

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Key takeaways

1

When a mom is expecting, everyone’s usually focused on the baby

2

But there is so much preparation an expecting mom can do that will support her mental and emotional health

3

Maternal mental health therapist, Bridget Cross, give us three key steps toward mental and emotional health expecting moms can take right away

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When a family prepares for a baby, the world around them focuses on one thing: the baby. What will the baby need? What clothes will it wear? What will it eat? Sleep in? Look like? How will you take care of it and keep it alive? All super important things to know!

However, in modern American parenting culture, we forget that a new baby (whether it’s a family’s first or not) signifies a massive physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual transition for parents, most especially for the mother or birthing person.

Tami Lyn Kent, author of Mothering from Your Center, writes that when we become parents, we “begin a process of transformation that reveals who we are and who we will become.” Others write about the process of matrescence: a mother’s identity shift after a child is born.

When I see expectant parents in my office, we spend a lot of time tending to this transition and honoring its significance as a major life event. Through this work, I was inspired to create the Passage Pregnancy Support Circle, a virtual workshop for expectant mothers who want to prepare mentally and emotionally for parenthood. This list is a condensed version of what we explore in that space.

So what can be done? What can you do before your baby arrives to ensure you arrive into parenting intact and supported? How do you honor your own needs as a new parent by constructing a container to keep you safe, whole, and nurtured once your baby is here?

Step 1: Seek therapy – on your own AND with your partner

Generally, therapy is viewed as useful only when there is a problem: a mental health issue, a traumatic event, or a question in need of resolution. Good therapy typically helps those who are struggling to feel well again. However, hopeful and expectant parenthood doesn’t always equal an acute problem; things might even feel quite good, which is terrific! In these cases, therapy can help deepen that experience of fulfillment, and, more importantly, safeguard it as you move forward.

Most expectant parents, however, land somewhere between “I have a major problem” and “I feel good.” The transition to parenthood can open us to all kinds of experiences. Common ones are:

  • challenges with fertility or conception
  • difficult births, mood changes
  • relationship strain
  • family conflict
  • health issues
  • questions of identity
  • professional concerns
  • unresolved trauma

Many normal life circumstances can even create an increased risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) such as postpartum depression. If you identify any problems (or even if you don’t), finding a safe, supportive space where you can explore what’s coming up with a trained professional will bolster and protect your health, and the health of your family.

Similarly, finding couples therapy support for you and your partner can not only protect your relationship as you navigate new territory together. It can also strengthen the bond you already have, offering skills for supporting each other and communicating effectively within your new roles.

To find a perinatal therapist, use the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Directory to search for qualified providers in your area.

Step 2: Identify who will support you and how

One of the first questions I ask a pregnant person who comes to my office is: who will be supporting you when your baby arrives? This question is intentional  (I really do want to know) and also presents a gentle challenge. Have you considered that you will need and want many different kinds of support, some of which you may not even know yet? I find this question helps parents step away from the frenzy of planning for their baby and offers them space to center their own experience.

What will I need when my baby is born? What tasks will I need help with, both physically and emotionally? How will I feed myself and tend to my energy so I can care for my baby? How do I want my body, mind, and spirit to be cared for as I recover from birth? How will I tend to my feelings and thoughts as I move through this transition? Who do I want listening to and seeing me in this vulnerable moment?

Most respond with “my partner” or “my family” – both perfectly reasonable options. But in the reality of American nuclear families, almost everyone needs more. (There’s a good reason why we say it “takes a village.”) Among those who can be uniquely supportive and nurturing in the postpartum period are: partners, parents, postpartum doulas, therapists, doctors, midwives, body workers, lactation consultants, nutritionists, community elders, spiritual leaders, friends, grandmothers, and other mothers.

Take some time to imagine what support would feel good to you after your baby arrives. Discuss this vision with your partner or family members and make a list of potential support people. Reach out to those people soon and often to ensure they are available, willing, and capable of supporting you in the way that you need (see Step 3). Process and problem-solve anything that comes up around this with a trusted listener (see Step 1).

Step 3: Practice asking for help

For some, the idea of leaning on partners, family, friends, or community can feel somewhat icky. Many women describe feeling anxious or embarrassed to rely on others, for fear of appearing dependent, weak, or incapable. However, the child-bearing years are often when strengths and weaknesses, needs, and roles get turned upside down for everyone involved.

As a baby grows, so too do the birthing parent’s physical and emotional needs. When a baby is born, both parents can experience a new, unexpected level of need for support. Asking for and securing support is not only a tremendous sign of strength, it’s also an essential component of successful parenting.

Luckily, pregnancy is a perfect place to start training. Make a list of your current needs, from “I need someone to walk my dog” all the way up to “I need more love from my partner.”

List with abandon, never mind whether it seems silly or outsized. When you feel complete, sit with your list and imagine what it would feel like to receive help with any of your items. Notice what emotions, messages, or reactions come up for you. Then take 1 or 2 items from your list – they could be the easiest asks, with the lowest stakes – and commit to identifying someone you can ask for help. Then make your ask.

If you are someone for whom this is new and uncomfortable (I have been one of these people!), remember that you are practicing. You may need to make several tries before you get it right. You might consider making a disclaimer before you ask for what you need: “I’m feeling nervous/uncomfortable right now because I’m not used to needing help. But I really want to practice so that I can feel more supported once the baby arrives. Would you be willing to help me with that?” (Bonus: making this disclaimer means you’re already asking for something.)

This list may feel overwhelming: I thought making a baby registry was hard, now I have to do more?! Keep in mind that everything listed here is a process, unlike a baby registry. The intent of this list is not to overwhelm you but to help you refocus your attention to your own experience as you encounter a major transition. Building up these muscles before your baby is born will put you so far ahead of the game once she is here.

And here’s a secret: everything described above is actually for your baby. All babies and children thrive when in the care of a healthy, whole, and supported parent who can stand strong in their vulnerability.


When a family prepares for a baby, the world around them focuses on one thing: the baby. What will the baby need? What clothes will it wear? What will it eat? Sleep in? Look like? How will you take care of it and keep it alive? All super important things to know!

However, in modern American parenting culture, we forget that a new baby (whether it’s a family’s first or not) signifies a massive physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual transition for parents, most especially for the mother or birthing person.

Tami Lyn Kent, author of Mothering from Your Center, writes that when we become parents, we “begin a process of transformation that reveals who we are and who we will become.” Others write about the process of matrescence: a mother’s identity shift after a child is born.

When I see expectant parents in my office, we spend a lot of time tending to this transition and honoring its significance as a major life event. Through this work, I was inspired to create the Passage Pregnancy Support Circle, a virtual workshop for expectant mothers who want to prepare mentally and emotionally for parenthood. This list is a condensed version of what we explore in that space.

So what can be done? What can you do before your baby arrives to ensure you arrive into parenting intact and supported? How do you honor your own needs as a new parent by constructing a container to keep you safe, whole, and nurtured once your baby is here?

Step 1: Seek therapy – on your own AND with your partner

Generally, therapy is viewed as useful only when there is a problem: a mental health issue, a traumatic event, or a question in need of resolution. Good therapy typically helps those who are struggling to feel well again. However, hopeful and expectant parenthood doesn’t always equal an acute problem; things might even feel quite good, which is terrific! In these cases, therapy can help deepen that experience of fulfillment, and, more importantly, safeguard it as you move forward.

Most expectant parents, however, land somewhere between “I have a major problem” and “I feel good.” The transition to parenthood can open us to all kinds of experiences. Common ones are:

  • challenges with fertility or conception
  • difficult births, mood changes
  • relationship strain
  • family conflict
  • health issues
  • questions of identity
  • professional concerns
  • unresolved trauma

Many normal life circumstances can even create an increased risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) such as postpartum depression. If you identify any problems (or even if you don’t), finding a safe, supportive space where you can explore what’s coming up with a trained professional will bolster and protect your health, and the health of your family.

Similarly, finding couples therapy support for you and your partner can not only protect your relationship as you navigate new territory together. It can also strengthen the bond you already have, offering skills for supporting each other and communicating effectively within your new roles.

To find a perinatal therapist, use the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Directory to search for qualified providers in your area.

Step 2: Identify who will support you and how

One of the first questions I ask a pregnant person who comes to my office is: who will be supporting you when your baby arrives? This question is intentional  (I really do want to know) and also presents a gentle challenge. Have you considered that you will need and want many different kinds of support, some of which you may not even know yet? I find this question helps parents step away from the frenzy of planning for their baby and offers them space to center their own experience.

What will I need when my baby is born? What tasks will I need help with, both physically and emotionally? How will I feed myself and tend to my energy so I can care for my baby? How do I want my body, mind, and spirit to be cared for as I recover from birth? How will I tend to my feelings and thoughts as I move through this transition? Who do I want listening to and seeing me in this vulnerable moment?

Most respond with “my partner” or “my family” – both perfectly reasonable options. But in the reality of American nuclear families, almost everyone needs more. (There’s a good reason why we say it “takes a village.”) Among those who can be uniquely supportive and nurturing in the postpartum period are: partners, parents, postpartum doulas, therapists, doctors, midwives, body workers, lactation consultants, nutritionists, community elders, spiritual leaders, friends, grandmothers, and other mothers.

Take some time to imagine what support would feel good to you after your baby arrives. Discuss this vision with your partner or family members and make a list of potential support people. Reach out to those people soon and often to ensure they are available, willing, and capable of supporting you in the way that you need (see Step 3). Process and problem-solve anything that comes up around this with a trusted listener (see Step 1).

Step 3: Practice asking for help

For some, the idea of leaning on partners, family, friends, or community can feel somewhat icky. Many women describe feeling anxious or embarrassed to rely on others, for fear of appearing dependent, weak, or incapable. However, the child-bearing years are often when strengths and weaknesses, needs, and roles get turned upside down for everyone involved.

As a baby grows, so too do the birthing parent’s physical and emotional needs. When a baby is born, both parents can experience a new, unexpected level of need for support. Asking for and securing support is not only a tremendous sign of strength, it’s also an essential component of successful parenting.

Luckily, pregnancy is a perfect place to start training. Make a list of your current needs, from “I need someone to walk my dog” all the way up to “I need more love from my partner.”

List with abandon, never mind whether it seems silly or outsized. When you feel complete, sit with your list and imagine what it would feel like to receive help with any of your items. Notice what emotions, messages, or reactions come up for you. Then take 1 or 2 items from your list – they could be the easiest asks, with the lowest stakes – and commit to identifying someone you can ask for help. Then make your ask.

If you are someone for whom this is new and uncomfortable (I have been one of these people!), remember that you are practicing. You may need to make several tries before you get it right. You might consider making a disclaimer before you ask for what you need: “I’m feeling nervous/uncomfortable right now because I’m not used to needing help. But I really want to practice so that I can feel more supported once the baby arrives. Would you be willing to help me with that?” (Bonus: making this disclaimer means you’re already asking for something.)

This list may feel overwhelming: I thought making a baby registry was hard, now I have to do more?! Keep in mind that everything listed here is a process, unlike a baby registry. The intent of this list is not to overwhelm you but to help you refocus your attention to your own experience as you encounter a major transition. Building up these muscles before your baby is born will put you so far ahead of the game once she is here.

And here’s a secret: everything described above is actually for your baby. All babies and children thrive when in the care of a healthy, whole, and supported parent who can stand strong in their vulnerability.


When a family prepares for a baby, the world around them focuses on one thing: the baby. What will the baby need? What clothes will it wear? What will it eat? Sleep in? Look like? How will you take care of it and keep it alive? All super important things to know!

However, in modern American parenting culture, we forget that a new baby (whether it’s a family’s first or not) signifies a massive physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual transition for parents, most especially for the mother or birthing person.

Tami Lyn Kent, author of Mothering from Your Center, writes that when we become parents, we “begin a process of transformation that reveals who we are and who we will become.” Others write about the process of matrescence: a mother’s identity shift after a child is born.

When I see expectant parents in my office, we spend a lot of time tending to this transition and honoring its significance as a major life event. Through this work, I was inspired to create the Passage Pregnancy Support Circle, a virtual workshop for expectant mothers who want to prepare mentally and emotionally for parenthood. This list is a condensed version of what we explore in that space.

So what can be done? What can you do before your baby arrives to ensure you arrive into parenting intact and supported? How do you honor your own needs as a new parent by constructing a container to keep you safe, whole, and nurtured once your baby is here?

Step 1: Seek therapy – on your own AND with your partner

Generally, therapy is viewed as useful only when there is a problem: a mental health issue, a traumatic event, or a question in need of resolution. Good therapy typically helps those who are struggling to feel well again. However, hopeful and expectant parenthood doesn’t always equal an acute problem; things might even feel quite good, which is terrific! In these cases, therapy can help deepen that experience of fulfillment, and, more importantly, safeguard it as you move forward.

Most expectant parents, however, land somewhere between “I have a major problem” and “I feel good.” The transition to parenthood can open us to all kinds of experiences. Common ones are:

  • challenges with fertility or conception
  • difficult births, mood changes
  • relationship strain
  • family conflict
  • health issues
  • questions of identity
  • professional concerns
  • unresolved trauma

Many normal life circumstances can even create an increased risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) such as postpartum depression. If you identify any problems (or even if you don’t), finding a safe, supportive space where you can explore what’s coming up with a trained professional will bolster and protect your health, and the health of your family.

Similarly, finding couples therapy support for you and your partner can not only protect your relationship as you navigate new territory together. It can also strengthen the bond you already have, offering skills for supporting each other and communicating effectively within your new roles.

To find a perinatal therapist, use the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Directory to search for qualified providers in your area.

Step 2: Identify who will support you and how

One of the first questions I ask a pregnant person who comes to my office is: who will be supporting you when your baby arrives? This question is intentional  (I really do want to know) and also presents a gentle challenge. Have you considered that you will need and want many different kinds of support, some of which you may not even know yet? I find this question helps parents step away from the frenzy of planning for their baby and offers them space to center their own experience.

What will I need when my baby is born? What tasks will I need help with, both physically and emotionally? How will I feed myself and tend to my energy so I can care for my baby? How do I want my body, mind, and spirit to be cared for as I recover from birth? How will I tend to my feelings and thoughts as I move through this transition? Who do I want listening to and seeing me in this vulnerable moment?

Most respond with “my partner” or “my family” – both perfectly reasonable options. But in the reality of American nuclear families, almost everyone needs more. (There’s a good reason why we say it “takes a village.”) Among those who can be uniquely supportive and nurturing in the postpartum period are: partners, parents, postpartum doulas, therapists, doctors, midwives, body workers, lactation consultants, nutritionists, community elders, spiritual leaders, friends, grandmothers, and other mothers.

Take some time to imagine what support would feel good to you after your baby arrives. Discuss this vision with your partner or family members and make a list of potential support people. Reach out to those people soon and often to ensure they are available, willing, and capable of supporting you in the way that you need (see Step 3). Process and problem-solve anything that comes up around this with a trusted listener (see Step 1).

Step 3: Practice asking for help

For some, the idea of leaning on partners, family, friends, or community can feel somewhat icky. Many women describe feeling anxious or embarrassed to rely on others, for fear of appearing dependent, weak, or incapable. However, the child-bearing years are often when strengths and weaknesses, needs, and roles get turned upside down for everyone involved.

As a baby grows, so too do the birthing parent’s physical and emotional needs. When a baby is born, both parents can experience a new, unexpected level of need for support. Asking for and securing support is not only a tremendous sign of strength, it’s also an essential component of successful parenting.

Luckily, pregnancy is a perfect place to start training. Make a list of your current needs, from “I need someone to walk my dog” all the way up to “I need more love from my partner.”

List with abandon, never mind whether it seems silly or outsized. When you feel complete, sit with your list and imagine what it would feel like to receive help with any of your items. Notice what emotions, messages, or reactions come up for you. Then take 1 or 2 items from your list – they could be the easiest asks, with the lowest stakes – and commit to identifying someone you can ask for help. Then make your ask.

If you are someone for whom this is new and uncomfortable (I have been one of these people!), remember that you are practicing. You may need to make several tries before you get it right. You might consider making a disclaimer before you ask for what you need: “I’m feeling nervous/uncomfortable right now because I’m not used to needing help. But I really want to practice so that I can feel more supported once the baby arrives. Would you be willing to help me with that?” (Bonus: making this disclaimer means you’re already asking for something.)

This list may feel overwhelming: I thought making a baby registry was hard, now I have to do more?! Keep in mind that everything listed here is a process, unlike a baby registry. The intent of this list is not to overwhelm you but to help you refocus your attention to your own experience as you encounter a major transition. Building up these muscles before your baby is born will put you so far ahead of the game once she is here.

And here’s a secret: everything described above is actually for your baby. All babies and children thrive when in the care of a healthy, whole, and supported parent who can stand strong in their vulnerability.


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Podcast Ep. 38: Audra & Justin's In-between-isode on the Frank Anderson, MD, Interview

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Podcast Ep. 35: Christina Furnival, LPC, Leads the Yes Collective Therapist's Circle

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Podcast Ep. 35: Christina Furnival, LPC, Leads the Yes Collective Therapist's Circle

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Podcast Ep. 37: Frank Anderson, MD, on Breaking Cycles, Generational Healing, and Parenting Under Pressure

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Podcast Ep. 37: Frank Anderson, MD, on Breaking Cycles, Generational Healing, and Parenting Under Pressure

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