Perinatal Psychology: 
Certification Training in the Peterson Model of
Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis

Gayle Peterson, LCSW, PhD

This course meets the qualifications for 36 hours of continuing education units, and includes certification in the
Peterson Model of Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis

Part One may be taken for 12 hours of continuing education units

CE units can be obtained by simply passing the post test for the course ( 12 or 36 units).
Additional Certification in Perinatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis may be obtained by successful completion of the 5 homework assignments (36 unit course).

We are pleased and honored to offer courses by Gayle Peterson, LCSW, PhD,
a renowned family therapist, prenatal and child development specialist.

Pregnancy and childbirth presents women with an opportunity for profound insight and self-understanding. Gayle Peterson is a pioneer in the field of perinatal psychology and has worked with pregnant woman since 1973, to plumb the depth of this transformative period in a woman’s life. Dr. Peterson’s brief term perinatal counseling model addresses the specific anxieties a woman experiences at the threshold to motherhood. Psychological counseling using this method enables a therapist to effectively transfer the powerful experience of pregnancy and childbirth to her client’s core sense of self.  The training will also cover advanced applications of hypnosis to premature labor, breech positioning, healing traumatic birth and childbirth experience and vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).


Childbirth is not a neutral event. It can be either very positive or extremely traumatic. Gayle Peterson’s model allows a practitioner to harness the natural power of nature to assist a woman in feeling not only empowered by this process, but to become ready for motherhood. Healing past birth and childbirth trauma and realistic preparation for labor is elegantly addressed in this prenatal program.

Participants will learn to identify birth related issues in a woman's personal history and apply principles of hypnosis and counseling to improve both psychological and medical birth outcomes. Primary focus will be on the woman’s needs and development in relationship to her developing identity as woman and mother. Family history, past childbirth, present family support, the woman's own birth experience and realistic preparation for giving birth will be covered. Supporting a woman’s development through the psychological and physical transition to motherhood will be the goal of this orientation.

Furthering our understanding of the whole woman as we support her growth and development through this pivotal life experience is integral to the philosophical direction of this training program.  Participants will learn about themselves, the family life cycle and cornerstones of psychological growth and development that can be harnessed within the ordinary miracle (and ordeal) that is childbirth.

The four-part model will include:

Prenatal Assessment Interview

to assess birth, childbirth, and childhood history to identify issues that can affect the childbirth process. Relationship with mother, father and general family relationships, past childbirth, the woman's own birth experience and realistic preparation for giving birth, may impact her readiness or trepidation, for labor. Participants will learn to identify birth related issues in a woman's personal history.

Body-Centered Hypnosis

to address specific issues related to the individual woman's assessment (above) to achieve a sense of mastery necessary for this transition. Participants will learn how to facilitate normal birth through hypnosis and visualization technique, which address the woman's fears in a realistic manner that decreases anxiety of this life transition.

Identification of Individual Coping Styles

for effective pain management in labor. Participants will learn to identify visual, auditory, and kinesthetic coping to augment a woman's natural ability and style for coping with pain in labor. This session increases the couples' ability to master anxiety related to managing pain through effective relating to one another, and forehand knowledge of the woman's natural response to pain.

Postpartum Interview

to assess and support family adjustment issues in the period immediately following birth, including reframing traumatic birth, and incorporating the phenomena of the birthing event into the fabric of a woman's identity.

Participants who successfully complete this training will be certified to offer pregnant women educational counseling in Dr. Peterson’s model of childbirth preparation. Participants will learn to assess and address women's needs on an individual basis to effectively decrease anxieties related to pregnancy and childbirth and promote normal delivery. In-depth training will prepare participants to offer counseling to pregnant women and their families for mastering anxieties related to this transitional period in the family life cycle.

View the Syllabus!

  • Assessment and treatment of post traumatic stress following a history of perinatal loss in the previous or current generation
  • Uses of visualization and hypnosis in prenatal care: breech presentation, vaginal birth after cesarean and prematurity
  • Introduction to a holistic model for prenatal care: research and clinical application for healing
  • The Birth Counselor Interview: developing a birth inventory of a woman’s anxieties for the upcoming childbirth
  • Body-mind integration for pregnancy and childbirth: beliefs, feelings and body memory and their effect on birth outcome
  • The experience of pain in birth: yielding to the creative process of birth and incorporating pain as a healthy aspect of labor
  • Exploring and reframing cultural beliefs and attitudes towards women in the childbirth process: how do our cultural beliefs affect our adaptation to the birth process?
  • The Birth Visualization: teaching the birth journey through metaphor, imagery and vocal intonation and the impact on the limbic system.

Learning Objectives

In the 36 unit course:


1. Students will learn how to effectively conduct the Birth Counselor Interview

This interview explores the areas of concern to the woman in her anticipation of labor, childbirth, mothering, career and family issues. Past childbirth and early childhood history are discussed with respect to expectations for adapting to labor, marital changes and parenthood. Optimal adjustment to increase a physical and emotional sense of security and well-being prior to delivery is the goal.


2. Students will become familiar with the techniques of Body-Centered Hypnosis for Prenatal Bonding & Childbirth

A recording is made addressing the history and concerns of the individual woman. This hypnosis is based on the Peterson method for addressing fears through imagery, which helps to resolve anxiety and instill a sense of confidence in the body's resources. It is a method developed from 30 years of research and clinical experience dealing with the physical and emotional experience of labor. Increased knowledge and a sense of well-being and confidence in coping with labor and motherhood is the goal.


3. Students will learn techniques for Coping With the Natural Pain of Labor

This session explores and identifies the natural coping style of the woman. The partner is able to learn how to effectively augment the mother’s coping by encouraging her style instead of relying on packaged methods which may even hinder or block her own natural coping mechanisms. The goal of this session is increased confidence in the ability to cope with labor. Strengthening the couples' bond through sharing and deeper understanding is also a potential of this body-centered preparation.


4. Students will become familiar with the period of Postpartum Adjustment

This session allows a woman to process the intensity of the labor experience and the adjustments of caring for a newborn. This is an important session, which can help a woman process positive and negative feeling, coming to a deeper integration of her new identity. She may include other family members or use this session for herself. Students will learn when and how to make appropriate referrals and support for fathers and mothers in their new roles.

In the 12 unit course:

Participants will learn to identify and assess a woman's anxieties for giving birth
Participants will learn hypnosis techniques which can be utilized to target a woman's anxieties for labor and motherhood
Participants will learn a holistic approach to prenatal care and effects of anxiety on the limbic system
Participants will learn to perform the birth counselor interview
Participants will learn to perform the birth hypnosis for decreasing a woman's anxieties for labor and motherhood

This course meets the qualifications for 12 or 36 hours of continuing education units

is approved by the:
maintains responsibility for the program.



To receive credit students must

View the Syllabus!

The Arnolfini Portrait
by Jan Van Eyck


"This program starts where traditional education ends. Here is a truly personal preparation for childbirth, reaching emotional and unconscious depths."
              - David Chamberlain, Ph.D., President of the Association for Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health and   author of Babies Remember Birth

"Peterson's work focuses on the personal reality of the pregnant couple, offering valuable approaches to explore and resolve emotional issues prior to birth. This extremely important process, which is overlooked in most childbirth books, is the essence of preparation."
             - Elizabeth Noble, author Childbirth with Insight and Exercises for the Childbearing Year

"Years from now when we look back on the childbirth reform movement, Gayle Peterson will be called a pioneer. See review for more details.
- Peggy O'Mara, publisher Mothering Magazine


Gayle Peterson, LCSW, PhD is an international expert specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Dr. Peterson is the founder of: , an online resource that has won acclaim from the  American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy for guidance about what contributes to healthy family relationships. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering, Fit Pregnancy and Parenting. She is a clinical member of The Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and a Diplomate with the National Association of Social Work. She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written a monthly family column for the San Francisco Bay Area's Parents Press and currently writes for the Sierra Foothills, Family Post.  She is an expert on numerous parenting websites and she has also hosted a live Internet radio show, Ask Dr. Gayle, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews, including The Today Show and on Canadian Broadcast as a family and communications expert in the documentary Baby's Best Chance. She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University and has served as adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco.

Gayle also enjoys playing music, attending ballet classes and an active family life. She and her husband are parents of two adult children and proud grandparents to two lively boys, and a sparkly new granddaughter!

APA Ethics

We do adhere to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists. Our courses are carefully screened by the Planning Committee to adhere to APA standards. We also require authors who compose Internet courses specifically for us follow APA ethical standards.

Many of our courses contain case material, and may use the methods of qualitative research and analysis, in-depth interviews and ethnographic studies. The psychotherapeutic techniques depicted may include play therapy, sandplay therapy, dream analysis, drawing analysis, client and therapist self-report, etc. The materials presented may be considered non-traditional and may be controversial, and may not have widespread endorsement within the profession. maintains responsibility for the program and its content.

Please also visit Gayle Peterson's website

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