What Is a Change Doula?

When I tell people I’m a change doula and a writer, inevitably the first question is “…a what?” Change doula is a term I came up with describe myself when conceptualizing my business late in 2020 and as far as I know there’s no one else using it in this way. (I did find one person using the term as a brand for their therapy practice, but I am definitely not a therapist!)

As I’m launching this new blog, I thought it would be the perfect time to share what exactly I mean by “change doula,” why I align myself with the doula tradition, and why supporting folks who are navigating personal and systemic change through a radical lens is so core to what I do.

Is a Change Doula Like a Birth Doula?

Well, yes and no.

I first learned about doulas in the early 2000s and was immediately drawn to the concept, so much so that I almost considered becoming a birth doula. I learned that doulas serve a unique role as an advocate and support person for the birthing parent, unlike other professionals who are focused mainly on the child or on balancing the needs of both (and in some cases, the priorities of the healthcare system as well). A doula is there for whatever the parent needs—whether it’s a hand to hold, a cup of tea, a run to the store, or an explanation of hospital policies.

My first reaction was: um… can I just have one of those for life?

(Worth noting: Doulas also serve as advocates against racism and other forms of oppression in the healthcare system, which is crucial in a country like mine where birthing parents are frequently treated as incompetent and inconvenient vessels for future life, even more so when they are marginalized.)

While doulas have branched out over the years, with many folks serving as doulas for death, abortion, and other experiences of transition, I still haven’t seen quite that thing I imagined, a doula for plain old life experiences.

At first I thought I might take on this role of “life doula” myself, but over time I solidified around the theme of change.

Why Change Doula?

Okay, so change. Why change? What kind of change?

I’ve found that whether I’m doing spiritual advising, intuitive support, tarot readings, astrology readings, coaching, whatever, a constant theme is how to process and work through change, how to grapple with uncertainty and surprises. As much as we’d like to be able to plan and predict, we often find ourselves sitting in the discomfort of inevitable change and unpredictability. That discomfort isn’t natural or inherent—it’s part of a culture that teaches us to predict, to expect, and to rely on an illusion of certainty.

When we experience this discomfort at the individual level, often in the small everyday frustrations of things not going according to plan, we don’t always realize that it’s tied in to a larger worldview, or that there’s another way. And at the same time, many of us dream of huge changes—to our culture, society, and planet. I believe that bridging the gap between present dissatisfaction and the future possibility has to include, in the spirit of emergent strategy and “small is all,” directly confronting our relationship to change at the individual level. This is where healing and justice come together (and are, I believe, the same thing.)

My work as a change doula responds to questions like:

  • How do we chart a path for ourselves when we don’t even know whether we’ll be able to leave our houses within the next year?
  • What are our responsibilities if we want to be part of systemic changes that result in greater justice for marginalized people?
  • How do we hold the tension between our desires and dreams for more and the fact that we have to support ourselves and others while living within the realities of systemic oppression?
  • If we experience challenges around our nervous systems and mental health, how do we manage to weather change without falling apart?
  • What possibilities does healing our relationship to change hold for unlearning capitalist narratives, resisting oppression, trusting ourselves, operating within our true capacities, being able to ask for help, and just generally feeling more easeful in our lives?

The Culture of Change Resistance

Even if we’re not intentionally going through a big life transition, uncertainty is a reliable constant. But myths of consistency are foundational to a capitalist culture. We’re expected to be able to keep producing, keep moving in a straight line towards a clear goal, keep following so-called best practices to uphold the myth of constant growth.

In reality, of course, constant growth is not how nature works. Expansion comes with contraction. Growth requires decay. But we’re educated and encouraged to believe that we can outrun these natural laws through human ingenuity—in fact, we’re expected to. And so when we slip, when we stumble, when we miss a goal, when we burn out, when we need a break, when we can’t honor a commitment, we often feel like we’ve failed.

So many of our challenges come from the fact that we are human and can’t meet unrealistic standards—but also don’t have the affirmation we need to understand that those standards are, in fact, unrealistic! We don’t see enough positive examples of uncertainty and adaptation because this binary culture of “success” encourages us to hide our “failures” and feel shame when things don’t go according to plan.

  • How many times has someone quit on your team at work and you’ve still been expected to meet the exact same goals within the same timeline?
  • How many times have you decided to change your life path but still felt a little guilty or unaccomplished because you didn’t meet an earlier milestone?
  • What about describing a relationship that was happy for years as one that “didn’t work,” simply because it ended, or feeling like you messed up because you identified as one thing for years and then later realized that identity doesn’t really fit?
  • Ever experienced the dreaded “FOMO” when you felt like you might’ve made the wrong choice?

I’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t give ourselves and each other enough grace around change, because we are holding unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others that are rooted in the myths of capitalism. Even if we consider ourselves radical or anti-capitalist, it’s hard not to feel like we’re not “doing enough,” like we’re “behind,” or like we’re “lazy.”

We need to confront these myths about time, progress, and the human experience directly. And then we need to learn to practice more natural ways of being, ideally with some loving support.

Change Is Natural (God Is Change)

Confession: I used to personally describe myself as “change averse.” I liked stability and predictability, and I associated change with trauma, anxiety, and loss of safety. I love comfort and understanding things, and I often experienced change as disruptive to my comfort and understanding!

My life strategies were all about preparation, so that I could minimize the risk of sudden changes and be ready to respond to any disruptions with a backup plan. With my ADHD, I relied on a lot of supports to keep myself organized and productive, and as an autistic person I cared a lot about having a safe, comfortable environment.

But being prepared only goes so far. And over time I’ve learned that the sense of disruption I associated with change was more about feelings of anxiety, shame, fear, and failure than the change itself. My relationship to change was often more of an issue than any actual outcomes—I was spending way too much time trying to prevent change, getting caught up in my emotions even when the result of a change was minor, and even resisting positive changes in my life because I didn’t want to release the status quo.

As I went through years of healing I came to see how I had internalized cultural norms of consistency, measurability, and control in an attempt to be okay in a world that’s not really okay. But the process of healing and shifting my paradigm for change actually allowed me to react in an unexpected way when my status quo was suddenly massively threatened.

When I was faced at the start of 2020 with the possibility of a life-altering diagnosis, unable to conceive of what this might mean or even picture the future, I had an unexpected offer of massive support—if I was willing to pack my bags and move across the country in a couple of months.

2015 me would’ve said “no way in hell.” I don’t do shit like that!

But 2020 me, resourced with several years of healing and staring down the likelihood that maintaining the status quo was no longer even possible, said “fuck it.”

That was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I got on a plane the first week of lockdown in the United States, and as the pandemic unfolded it became pretty obvious that I wasn’t the only one who’d be forced to make big decisions that year. That wasn’t the only big leap I took, either, but rather the first of several. Within a year I was forced to confront neurodivergent burnout and chronic fatigue as I continued to struggle with my health, decided to quit a “successful” ten-year career and surrender my financial safety net to save my health and follow my calling to do this work as a writer and a change doula. Along the way I went through many painful and powerful mindset shifts, following the spiral rhythm of healing.

My life hasn’t exactly been easy over the last few years, but it’s been a tremendous opportunity to study at the feet of change. I’ve experienced internal shifts that feel sudden and in fact have been brewing for years. I’ve also had to learn to sit with how slow change sometimes feels, the way the universe gives us opportunities to practice a new level of growth as soon as we think we’re done.

And as my relationship to change itself has evolved, my mood and felt experience of life are leaps and bounds better than they were when I was fearing disruption rather than embracing it. I’m able to look back on past anxieties and fears and understand where they actually came from, and I no longer freak out when I think about the uncertainty of the future—even in the middle of what feels like a planetary and political apocalypse.

Like many of us during this pandemic I keep coming back to the beloved Octavia Butler quote, “God is change.” As I adapt and evolve, I see the divine in myself. I see what is possible. I’ve gone from sitting in safety, terrified of what might happen to dislodge it, to sitting in uncertainty, trusting that I am capable of being present with whatever’s next.

Paradoxically, I have a greater sense of possibility and even hope for the future now—in the midst of unprecedented global events—than I did ten years ago, sitting in relative material security.

My work was born from a desire to support others in getting to this place of possibility and greater ease in moving through the unpredictability of life, because I hear so many folks struggling with challenges that would be aided by a similar shift, and beating themselves up over “failure” to meet static, predictable standards. It doesn’t haven’t to be this way.

What Does a Change Doula Do?

Okay, so all these beliefs are nice, but what do I actually do? How can you work with me? When would you want to?

So glad you asked 🙂  My business model prioritizes accessibility, so some of what I do is actually right on this here website—writing and reflecting and presenting ideas to help folks unlearn and relearn and maybe pick up some skills along the way. I also enjoy creating low-cost resources, workbooks, and courses that zoom in on a particular topic, audience, or skill to meet people where they are and address some small piece of this larger theme of change.

Change and adaptation are built into how I work, not just what I share: I don’t try to make a single program work forever, or even necessarily run a live workshop more than once. When I follow the tides of my passion and energy and listen what folks need and what’s calling me, I find that a certain magic takes place. You get to experience me lit up and excited about what I’m teaching, sharing, or facilitating, whatever that may be!

Since that means my offerings are evolving and rotating constantly, definitely check out the Work with Me page to see what’s currently available 😉  If you want to receive updates on the blog as well as free and low-cost offers as they pop up, the best way not to miss anything is through signing up for my newsletter at the bottom of this page. Subscribers are always the first to know about what’s new, and some offerings have limited spots available!

If you’re called to work with me 1-on-1, to dive deeper into your own healing journey from a place of embracing what’s unique about you and peeling off the layers of what doesn’t work, I would be honored to support you over a period of three or more months in a dedicated container. This is the heart of my work and includes guiding you through tailored exercises, doing some deep listening and reflection on your experience, supporting you in building new practices and rituals, and asking questions that will help you to dig deep and shift your perspectives where a shift is needed.

It’s a space to prioritize a way of being you may have longed for over the years, but aren’t quite sure how to access and feel into on your own. You’ll also get my support in making tough decisions, resisting “shoulds” and those who tell you the way you want to be is impossible, and nurturing ease in your life.

Folks who work with me over time are likely to benefit from greater ease, self-trust, and confidence: life skills that will support you no matter what your goals or specific interests. Even if you already agree with a lot of what I’ve said in this post, and are aware that cultural expectations are unfair, that everyone is struggling, if you’ve found that it’s a challenge to embody that knowing, that you often think “yeah, okay, I know all this, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” that’s a great sign that you might be really supported by this work with a change doula.

You might want to work with me 1-on-1 if you’re at a tipping point of “I can’t live like this anymore, something is broken, and I’ve tried to optimize my life or pick the right path for me and it just isn’t working.”

You might be considering or in the midst of big life changes such as a career change, transitioning into a different gender or other identity, or experimenting with a different approach to relationships.

You may have just started to identify as neurodivergent, wonder if you might be, or might be sick of relating to neurodivergence as a problem.

You may be struggling with chronic illness or a recent injury that’s zapped your capacity, or with all the changes to your life in the pandemic.

You also may just be feeling confused, unsettled, like you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, or dissatisfied, like everything is hard.

Wherever you are right now, if we work together I’ll be focusing on a blend of a few things, heavily tailored to exactly who you are and what you need:

  • unlearning capitalist narratives around change and related topics like time, enoughness, and success
  • re-membering in nature and natural ways of seeing things as a means of healing your relationship to change itself
  • identifying your own evolving center: what’s important to you, your natural rhythms and cycles, and your intentions
  • building deep self-trust
  • developing skills and systems that allow you to make decisions and act on the fly without becoming overwhelmed

I blend different modalities such as tarot, astrology, somatics, and Human Design into our live sessions as it makes sense, but for the most part I focus on deeply listening, holding space for you and your experience, offering questions and alternate perspectives to guide you, and suggesting practical tools you can use in between sessions.

I lean towards tools that are super accessible and simple to use in the day-to-day, whatever your lifestyle. Live sessions create a dedicated container for reflection, and in between sessions you get to apply your shifting mindsets and practice what you’re learning. When challenges come up, we talk through them! You’ll never have to come into a session with me feeling like you “didn’t do the homework,” because your life itself is the classroom. I find that this method helps folks to build flexibility and adaptability into how they think about the future, and to feel more at ease in the present.

Sound exciting? Want to dive right in, or learn more about it? The first step is a completely free Explore Session, where we’ll spend half an hour together and I can get a better sense of whether you’d be a good fit for 1-on-1 work with me. There are absolutely no obligations here. In fact, I keep a robust referral list and might recommend another provider if I think they’d be more what you’re looking for. And if you’re not quite ready for the commitment of deep 1-on-1 work, I’ll give you some immediate thoughts on your current challenges that you can take aware from the session and let you know about other ways to work with me focused to what you most need right now.

I’m so excited to meet you! Click the button below to schedule some time 🙂

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