The Reproductive & Maternal Wellbeing Focus of the SWG Certificate!

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FOCUS ON MOTHERS. The Reproductive & Maternal Well-Being Focus is a natural extension of the Maternal Psychology Laboratory and the Sexuality Women & Gender Project (SWG)’s mission to create an educated workforce able to address the much-needed and complex questions arising from the changing procreative lives of 21st century women and families locally and globally. This sub-specialization provides training in this burgeoning field by:

  1. promoting learning through didactic courses and colloquia open to all
  2. providing intensive research training through mentoring programs
  3. applying learning through fieldwork in community-based organizations. 

RATIONALE. Despite mothers forming the cornerstone of psychological and social theories about human development and systems, interest into their own mind and needs remains largely marginalized. This curriculum speaks to the absence of graduate-level coursework and training on maternal development and reproductive mental health. Coursework will focus on the dynamic biological, social, emotional, cultural, and political forces that shape a mother/parent’s development. We envision it effectively addressing the holistic needs of families, broadly defined, and inclusive of the diversity of care-taking roles and experiences.

CERTIFICATE. SWG now offers a NY State Approved masters- and doctoral-level certification program with a focus on Reproductive & Maternal Wellbeing. We actively collaborate with TC departments to integrate sexuality and gender lenses into course offerings, and network with outside organizations to establish fieldwork and internship placements. SWG developed TC’s first permanent courses on Maternal Psychology.


CCPX 4126: Mother Matrix: Developmental and Clinical Implications*
Dr. Aurélie Athan

Few areas in psychology have developed as slowly as research and theory about mothers.  The purpose of this course is to explore matrescence: the biological, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual factors that influence women’s well-being as they transition to motherhood. Theories of maternal development from conception through pregnancy, the postpartum period, and beyond - inclusive of adoption, surrogacy, and various forms of family building - will be critically examined and applications for practice discussed. Readings include empirical, descriptive, theoretical, literary and popular readings. Topics covered include: preconception care, motivation/timing of family planning, infertility, psychological stages of pregnancy, decision making in birthing and feeding practices, maternal “instinct” and trends in parenting styles, maternal distress and of diagnostic criteria, work/life balance and social support, global and anthropological perspectives, and positive psychology/spiritual reconceptualizations of maternal experience among others. Project-based learning includes fieldwork and research with participating organizations and individual experts.

CCPX 4199: Perinatal Mental Health
Dr. Shara Brofman

This course will utilize history, theory, research, student discussion, personal anecdotes (e.g. videos, podcasts, blogs), news, and social media to develop a broad understanding of the issues related to perinatal mental health, including in historical and modern contexts. Course objectives include understanding the etiology, theories, and treatment modalities for psychopathology before, during, and after pregnancy and family building. An additional focus of the course will be to expand current thinking about perinatal mental health with an emphasis on understanding women’s diverse experiences, as well as the changing landscape of perinatal and reproductive mental health.  Special topics include fertility issues, reproductive trauma, family policies, and advocacy among other increasingly complex topics. Guests lecturers and cutting edge-specialists in the field will also be invited.

CCPX 4125: Women and Mental Health*
Dr. Raia Margo

The course will explore the multitude of factors that affect women’s mental health over the lifespan. We will address issues such as sexuality, motherhood, work, intimate relationships, traumatization among many others. The focus of this class is clinical rather than sociological. We will examine the class topics with the purpose of helping you to be more sensitive, aware, and informed in your practice with female patients. Themes about common affects that dominate the female experience in psychotherapy and in life such as shame, fear, envy, and anger will be recurring throughout our discussions. We will use relational psychodynamic and feminist theories to understand these experiences.

CCPJ 4199: Special Topics: Working with LGBTWQ Couples and Families
Dr. Gregory Payton

This Special Topics course will provide a foundation for supporting and intervening with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) couples and families across a range of helping contexts.   The course will begin with an examination of social constructions of sexual identity/orientation, gender identity/roles and relationship or familial norms.  Following this, the course will explore the experiences of LGBTQ-identified individuals within a broad range of helping contexts:  education, healthcare and counseling.  Lastly, drawing from the literature, case study analysis and current professional codes of ethics, the course will present helping professions with interdisciplinary and multiculturally competent recommendations for working with LGBTQ couples and families.

Past examples of "Special Topics" Courses:

CCPX 4199: Brave New Birth: Psychosocial Issues in Reproductive Technology & Genetic Testing
Dr. Karen Hurley

Advances in reproductive technology and genetic testing have reshaped the natural contours of giving birth: altering the definition of family, preserving fertility in the face of aging and disease, creating choice where once there was only chance, and peering into the uncertainties of inherited risk.  We will discuss clinical, ethical, and policy implications of these emerging technologies, balancing conceptual issues with social forces that influence access to reproductive care.  These larger issues will be balanced with consideration of the lived experience of making hard choices on this shifting frontier. 

WHO ARE WE? The Sexuality, Women, and Gender Project (SWG) was co-founded by three professors in the Teachers College, Columbia University's Counseling and Clinical Psychology Department, Drs. Aurélie Athan, Melanie Brewster, and Riddhi Sandil. SWG was created to envision and implement the next wave of theories and practices to improve well-being forLGBTQ individuals and women. SWG’s mission is to play a vital role in the creation of research initiatives, innovative curriculum, and institutional programming on campus and with partners beyond Teachers College, Columbia University.

*Denotes required courses for the certificate