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Joan Getz-Heller

PSI Regional Coordinator, Mountain States
Colorado Co-Coordinator

As many others before and after me, my interest in this area developed during my pregnancy as well as after the birth of my daughter 24 years ago! I was a licensed clinical social worker and also had a background in psychiatric nursing. Yet when I brought my daughter home, I was unprepared emotionally for the changes that I was experiencing. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.

It was an isolating time, with little outside support for a new mother. My family was out of state and, at the time, I did not have many friends who were having children. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I had worked since I was a teen and now had the luxury of being home with my daughter. I remember feeling so inadequate and ill prepared for motherhood. I was receiving so many conflicting messages from well meaning people. My identity was changing, but I was not prepared for the profound psychological changes that I would be going through. Who was I now? Would I be a good enough Mother? I had a small group of very good friends who were supportive, and I met a few women in a pregnancy exercise class. Over time, I built a support network.

What astounded me was that during my nurses training and my clinical social work training there was no mention of the adjustment to this time in a woman’s life or of the risk of mood disorders in pregnancy and postpartum. I knew in my heart that other women were having similar experiences, but I didn’t know any of these women; I hadn’t heard their stories. I felt very isolated and unsure of myself.

It was during this time that I began my research into this field. I contacted the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center library and asked them to do a library search for me on pregnancy and motherhood. When my daughter was napping, I was reading. My own experience was validated as I read and learned about the developmental stages of becoming a Mother, the identity changes one goes through and the grieving of one’s past. I experienced mild postpartum anxiety but did not know what that was until years later when I was reading a book entitled The Mother Syndrome by Carol Dix that further explained postpartum depression and anxiety.

When my daughter was about six months old, I returned to my private practice part time. It was then that I began to focus much of my work on educating professionals as well as expectant parents. Over time I gained confidence and began to feel very comfortable in my role as a Mother.


Joan is honored to be featured in PSI Coordinators’ Corner, since PSI has been such an integral part of her education in the very specialized field of perinatal mood disorders.

Additionally, she is honored to be a participant in the development of the nationwide network of coordinators by being the Regional Coordinator for the Mountain States.

In 1984, shortly after the birth of her daughter, Joan began her research into perinatal mood disorders. She attended a conference in Atlanta in the early 90’s on perinatal psychology. It was at this conference that she may have met Jane Honikman or picked up a brochure on PSI. She learned about the Marcé Society at about the same time and attended a joint conference of the Marcé Society and PSI.

When she began her consultation work with hospitals, Joan knew that preventive intervention was the key to helping mothers and families. Before any articles were written, she was focusing on educating the hospital staff, MDs and nurses about postpartum mood disorders so that they could a) educate patients while they were in the hospital and b) be cognizant of early onset symptoms of mania, psychosis and postpartum depression.

Over the course of her career, she has consulted with several hospitals to develop preventive programs for postpartum mood disorders in obstetric hospital settings, as well as to continue to serve women and families in her private practice. More recently, she has enjoyed mentoring other professionals, through consultation and supervision, who are new to this area and who are interested in developing their work in perinatal mood disorders.

PSI has been an invaluable resource for networking and supporting Joan’s work. More importantly, PSI has enabled her to develop some very special professional relationships throughout the years, relationships that she looks forward to continuing.