1. Perinatal mental health and wellbeing is a relatively new area in the field of psychology. Why is it a growing area of importance?
Perinatal mental health and wellbeing has always been around but not talked of because of the stigma that it holds. Society paints a picture of pregnancy and birth as an experience that is solely surrounded by happiness and extreme positivity. Although this may be true for some, this is not the case for all. The most common experience in this regard is baby blues, which occurs in about 80% of mothers. This refers to changes in mood that subside after two weeks of giving birth. We also know that 10-15% of mothers, and fathers, may also experience mood changes and other symptoms of depression and anxiety both during pregnancy and postpartum. That is quite a significant number of parents who go through these experiences and need to have the right support, both professionally and from family and friends. The importance of dealing and treating antenatal and postnatal mental health issues becomes even more significant as we find that they not only affect the individual who is struggling with the experience but also their partner and child. Unfortunately, research shows that about 75% of mothers and fathers who do go through these experiences do not reach out for support. Hence, I do believe that for this support to be present and for parents to feel that they can reach out, awareness needs to continue to spread on normalising these experiences and dealing with them with appropriately.
2. What do you wish was more widely understood about perinatal mental health?
It’s ok to speak up no matter what stage of the perinatal period you are in. This includes those who are struggling to conceive, those who cannot accept the pregnancy, those who externally seem to have everything and should not be feeling sad, and those who unfortunately lost their child through miscarriage, stillbirth or an untimely passing. There is no wrong time or wrong situation, and it does not matter if you are the mother or the father experiencing difficulty in this time. The wellbeing of both parents and the family as a whole is crucial at this stage in the family life cycle.
3. What are the benefits of working with a Gestalt psychotherapeutic approach?
Gestalt Psychotherapy is one of the primary modalities that I use in my work. The beauty of it is that it allows the focus to be on the uniqueness of the person and to raise awareness on their current state of being. Through this awareness, we work on different aspects of the self so that the client may recognise and reach their full potential. The therapeutic process that is co-created between the therapist and the client is based on working with what the client brings to the session, and doing so in a creative manner that allows for flexibility and widening of perspectives, for both the client and the therapist.
4. You are also a certified Kids Yoga Instructor; how do you feel yoga can help children?
Yoga for kids is a fun way to get kids to connect with their changing emotions and bodies through movement, breathing exercises and fun yoga games! It is a fun way for them to develop essential skills in a supportive, non-competitive environment. Yoga helps children to be able to develop self-awareness, learn to regulate emotions and understand the importance of supporting each other within the group. Thus, yoga for children does not only focus on the physical aspect of yoga but integrates mindfulness activities, creativity and, most importantly, having fun!
5. What advice do you have for persons experiencing tough times? What is your way of coping?
My main advice would be to reach out. This could be through talking with family or friends or reaching out to a professional you trust. Many people and agencies are willing to help and support persons who are going through a tough time. Having said this, reaching out is a hard thing to do for some, as needed as it may be.
Taking time to stop and reflect on how you are doing on a regular basis can be a good start to identifying what you are going through, being kind to yourself and addressing your needs. This comes hand in hand with keeping a healthy lifestyle that includes finding a self-care routine that suits you.
I do try my best to cope with life stressors and tough times by keeping up my own self-care routine and regularly reflecting on how I’m doing. I do this by reaching out to friends and loved ones, going to therapy and keeping up my yoga and mindfulness practices. What is also crucial for me, in the long run, is trying to have a healthy work-life balance.
6. In your experience working within the TAASC team, what do you think is key in developing a good team ethic?
Being part of TAASC is very exciting. I think the qualities that make a good team ethic around TAASC are respect, communication, laughter and support. Trying to balance professionalism and human touch in the work that we do as a team, looking out for one another and encouraging each other’s ambitions and endeavours are things that I feel are shared by team members at TAASC. It does get hectic sometimes since the team is continuously evolving, but it helps to know that I can communicate my concerns easily and that they are listened to.
Ms Elena Felice graduated with a Bachelor in Psychology and a Masters in Counselling Psychology from the University of Malta and has also finished a Postgraduate Diploma in Gestalt Psychotherapy with the Gestalt Psychotherapy Training Institute of Malta. Currently, Ms Felice is furthering her studies by reading for a Masters upgrade in Gestalt Psychotherapy while participating in continuous training in other psychotherapeutic modalities such as Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.
She also specialises in the field of perinatal mental health and wellbeing, working with mothers and fathers who experience difficulties during pregnancy and the postpartum period. This is in addition to her experience working with adults and young adults who experience mental health issues, as well as those who wish to delve deeper into their own self-exploration and self-awareness or who may be struggling with dealing with challenging life events. Her passion for mindfulness and yoga practices has led her to a certification with the Yoga Alliance International as a kid’s yoga instructor through which she is able to help children by guiding them on how to balance their inner emotions with their outer movements.
Her role within TAASC’s multi-disciplinary approach to treatment is to provide psychotherapy, psychological assessments such as personality testing, and groups for children through the art of yoga.