In short… not really.
You should interview prospective doulas in person (birth or postpartum). You should ask them about their doula training, their experience, their ability to reliably provide vetted back up in the case they can’t provide service to you. (Ask them for a name, and then interview that person – unless you’re going with an agency such as ours where all of that is built into the interview and selection process for you). If I were you, I’d ask questions about various scenarios (“How does your role change if I decide I want an epidural?” or “what if I have trouble with breastfeeding or decide I want to use formula?”) You should feel reassured that they respect and honor your family and your decisions. You should feel very comfortable and at ease with them. You should also trust your gut, just like with any other personal interaction.
But whether they trained with DONA, CAPPA, ProDoula, toLabor…. Is less of a cause for concern. It is not the training that makes the doula, it is the doula that makes the doula.
I can speak from experience that the training doesn’t make the doula. I have worked as a postpartum doula for four years now, and for the last year I’ve run an agency. At any given time I have 5-7 postpartum doulas working for my agency. I’ve interviewed and vetted them, called references, seen some of them in action or in trainings… and meet with them regularly to debrief, troubleshoot, and provide professional development. Our doulas at One Moon Doula Services do not come from any one training or background. Some have been doulas for years, while others have recently transitioned from nanny work, or parenting young children, into the doula world. Some have trained with multiple organizations, as have I, and others feel loyal to just one. I can see them in action, and I can see that they are professional, compassionate, and thinking adults who take what they learn, assess how it fits or doesn’t fit their practice, and make it their own. Of course, there are doulas out there who have taken excellent trainings who still don’t show good judgment or make very good doulas. Then there are doulas who have taken trainings they felt were lacking, who’ve gone on to be the best doulas anyone can ask for.
Having taken training from three separate organizations myself, I can also say from experience that there is nothing drastically different about any of these trainings. They’re covering much of the same ground. Just like there are average and excellent doulas, there are average and excellent trainers (within each organization). In the doula world there are some strong opinions about the different philosophies of different training organizations. But most of those differences have no impact on the families hiring the doulas. And the families should be our number one focus.
One final “shop talk” note. For 15 years I worked in another field, as a mediator. And provided mediation training. And I DID feel responsible for who walked out of the door after my training and how they would represent the profession. For that reason, my agency and I didn’t just train anyone who signed up. We required them to apply – and be accepted – before taking the training. Because a training can only do so much to create quality, proficiency, and ethics in a person. They have to walk THROUGH the doors with much of that already in place. My hope for you, if you are looking for a doula, is that they walk through your doors with those qualities and so much more. If you are welcoming an outsider into the fold during this momentous and deeply personal time in your life, that’s what you need and deserve.