The Margaret L. Shaw Institute for Perinatal Mental Health
The Margaret L. Shaw Institute for Perinatal Mental Health (Shaw Institute)’s mission is to improve the lives of mothers and their families by transforming systems of care.
We achieve this mission by:
- Changing the conversation around maternal mental health in our community.
- Partnering with local stakeholders to provide early mental health screening, assessment, and referrals to perinatal women and their families.
- Reducing stigma regarding the perinatal transition and its related challenges.
- Offering high-quality training and exceptional mentorship to mental health professionals, thereby increasing the number of qualified specialists.
- Partnering with the Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder (PWCB) to offer low-fee support to ensure that all women and their families are able to access the support that they need.
We envision a world where all parents receive the support and care that they need so that they and their children can truly thrive.
Our Namesake’s Legacy:
Margaret L Shaw (1945-2017) dedicated her life to both the achievement of women and the support of healthy partnerships. She was fierce in her mothering and in her professionalism. She maintained strong attachments with her children through attuned and empathetic parenting and through a willingness to be uncomfortable. Throughout her decades of professional development, she was a pioneer among a rising tide of women engaged in the field of law, and she helped develop the mediation and conflict dispute resolution movement. Her skills in effective communication, needs assessments, and negotiation are celebrated internationally. Beginning her career with a professional commitment to the health of families and finishing with professional commitments to the health of organizations, Margaret’s intellect, grace, and spirit brought people together. These same qualities inform the very foundation for the Shaw Institute, and her legacy lives on in the organization’s dedication to changing the landscape in the field of reproductive mental health.
Our Service Model
The Shaw Institute places qualified clinicians and clinical interns in medical practices in order to provide 4-week mental health checks to all postpartum women. Using a combination of validated measures and biopsychosocial interviews, clinicians provide a supportive presence and are able to normalize challenges, assess for symptoms and vulnerabilities, and provide appropriate community referrals as needed. Clinicians and clinical interns are also available to provide assistance during prenatal visits when medical practitioners believe that their patients would benefit from a mental wellness check, and in this way are integrated into these practices to offer preliminary assessment and ad-hoc support. For people struggling with perinatal mood or anxiety issues and who lack the resources necessary to connect with private therapists in the community, interns are able to provide low-fee specialized psychotherapy via their partnership with PWCB. While pregnant and postpartum biological mothers have been the primary focus of assessment and intervention efforts, our work in clinics has also afforded us the opportunity to interface with fathers and non-carrying mothers, and we have been able to provide appropriate assessment, referrals, and treatment that meet the needs of various family configurations. Shaw Institute plans to continue expanding the scope of services to address a diverse spectrum of need in our community. By offering these integrative assessments and low-fee counseling possibilities, Shaw Institute ensures that fewer people who are struggling fall through the cracks, and makes certain that every woman receives the support she needs to successfully transition into motherhood.
Current medical partners include: Boulder Community Hospital; Boulder Women’s Care; Boulder Medical Center (Boulder and Longmont offices) and Avista Women’s Care. We are looking to expand our partnerships in 2018.
Our Training Model
Through a partnership with PWCB, The Shaw Institute offers opportunities for clinicians to refine their knowledge base around perinatal mental health theory and practice, including differential diagnosis, biopsychosocial models of assessment and treatment, evidence-based approaches, and attachment theory. Interns and Externs receive extensive training, ongoing supervision and mentorship, and hands-on experience in various assessment and treatment modalities. Through nine-to-twelve month placements, clinicians develop expertise in assessing, diagnosing, and treating perinatal women and their families, and may provide psychotherapy to individuals, parent-child dyads, couples, or in a group context. Clinicians-in-training learn about the importance of balancing the needs of the parents with the needs of infants and young children during a critical period of the family’s life, and provide psycho-education, appropriate referrals, and evidence-based treatment to support the mental and emotional well-being of families. The goal of this training program is to increase the capacity of the mental health field at large to effectively assess and treat a wide spectrum of perinatal families.
Statement of Need
While many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety. ‘Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders’ (PMADs) is an umbrella term that encompasses maternal mental health issues during pregnancy and up to one year postpartum. PMADs are a leading complication of childbirth in the US, however, they are the most underdiagnosed obstetric complications in America with more than 75 percent of new mothers remaining undiagnosed. According to a 2015 study, 78 percent of women who are appropriately screened and diagnosed with PMADs do not in fact get mental health treatment. This gap in necessary services can be attributed to a host of issues, including stigma, lack of appropriate resources, and the general overwhelm associated with this particular life transition. Furthermore, biological mothers are by no means the only people affected in these circumstances. A 2014 study published in Pediatrics found that depression among new dads increases by 68 percent during the first five years of baby's life. While there is not a great deal of research published regarding the prevalence of PMADS in non-biological mothers or adoptive parents, anecdotal evidence suggests that perinatal mental health issues are challenges for these populations as well, and may be further obscured by additional layers of stigma. It is therefore imperative that screening and treatment protocols are sensitive to a diversity of experiences, and are constructed in a manner that seeks to overcome this stigma. While screening for and treating perinatal mental health issues may be complex and challenging, the research has demonstrates that it is essential to the health and well-being of the entire family system. Parents struggling with untreated mood or anxiety issues may experience challenges to effectively nurture and parent their children. The relationship between infants and their primary caregivers is a critical period, where consistency, responsiveness, and engagement create positive attachments that support healthy social-emotional development. It is via the attachment relationship that optimal child development occurs. It has become clear that in order for caregivers to offer this sort of consistency and responsiveness, they themselves must feel adequately supported. The Shaw Institute exists to promote the healthy development of families by ensuring that all perinatal women and their partners receive the support that they need to successfully transition to parenthood.
Kate Kripke is the Founder and Director of The Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder. The PWCB was founded from Kate’s passion and expertise in maternal mental health, and was created to address a community need for evidence based clinical care with a wrap-around approach. PWCB allows perinatal families to receive a wide spectrum of support under one roof in a collaborative manner, with providers working together to promote optimum health and well-being. As the PWCB grew, it encountered a need for increased assessment, outreach, and professional training in our community, and Kate subsequently offered classes, workshops, trainings, developed an internship program, and also began piloting integrative perinatal mental health screening and assessments in medical settings. Emily Horowitz joined the PWCB in 2016 as a psychotherapist and Training Director, bringing with her a background in maternal and parent-infant mental health, clinical supervision, and nonprofit management experience. As Kate and Emily joined forces to continue developing community partnerships and training at PWCB, it became clear that the community need was immense, and this inspired the development of a new organization that could help solidify and grow the pro bono advocacy, outreach, and training work that PWCB had begun. In order to truly meet the demand presented, Kate and Emily realized that this work required additional staffing, research, and further development, and ultimately necessitated funding. The Shaw Institute is partnering with the Trailhead Institute as a fiscal sponsor for this work, and they are in the exciting phase of enhancing the existing assessment and training structures, considering methods for formalization and expansion, and are creating an advisory board, strategic plans, and initiating a fundraising strategy so that the Shaw Institute can grow to meet current demand.
A great deal of foundational work has already been achieved, and with your support the Shaw Institute will be able to solidify its current practices, expand its scope, and enhance its impact. Currently therapists and interns offer services in four different medical settings, with additional sites being negotiated for the coming months. Over the past two years, PWCB was able to provide assessment and referrals to hundreds of women who would have not have received this service in any other capacity. They’ve made countless referrals, and have offered specialized training to four clinical interns. Your support is crucial in helping us staff these efforts so that we may enhance training assessment and training protocols, increase the professional capacity of the community, and ensure that all perinatal women and their families in our area receive the care and support that they need to successfully parent their children.
The Shaw Institute is a program of Trailhead Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. As our partner, Trailhead Institute provides our fiscal management and nonprofit status