As a perinatal mental health therapist, my specialty is working with individuals in all stages of raising a young family. From pregnancy to postpartum and beyond, I focus on helping those who feel like they are overwhelmed, stuck, or lonely in their stage of life. 

One common belief people have about therapists is that our education and training focus on preparing us to work well with lots of different groups of people–that we learn specialized skills for working with different groups. The reality is that instead therapists in school learn a more generalized approach that will work for a lot of people.

In my years of experience as a therapist who focuses on the lived experience of moms, I’ve realized that a generalist approach does not adequately meet the unique needs of moms who are living, working, and raising a family in 2023. 


This isn’t a reflection of any one therapist, but instead a reflection of a field that (similar to a lot of the world) was based on the idea of men as its primary client. As I’ve adapted and changed my approach to be both evidence-based and also tailored to the unique needs of women in their stage of life.

In my practice, I have altered these three approaches as elements of traditional therapy to better serve my clients and their needs.

Focusing on Diagnosis.


For many people, the idea of therapy is synonymous with treatment of a diagnosis. Depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, adjustment…all of these are based in the belief that something is inherently wrong with you. 


My approach is different; most of my clients do not even qualify for a mental health diagnosis and instead want to reflect and grow in their unique challenges, and unless it is a goal of my client, I do not spend a lot of valuable session time trying to find a label to describe your needs.

Many mental health symptoms overlap; for example, irritability (or “mom rage”) could be a symptom of depression, anxiety, or ADHD, but rather than focusing on a diagnosis, I’d like to spend our time sorting through the irritability itself.

What’s causing it, how is it affecting you, and–most importantly–how can you live a life that’s more fulfilling for you?


Another element of a diagnosis-first approach is that it requires clinicians to identify that the challenges their clients are experiencing aren’t normal. I can’t help but push back on these implications with moms…Does she have generalized anxiety disorder or is she raising kids in a world with climate change and school shootings? Does she have ADHD or is she unable to focus on a single task because the mental load of motherhood mean she is carrying a to-do list that has her frazzled? Is she depressed or is she feeling undervalued in her marriage or like a failure at work?


Many clients worry about receiving a mental health diagnosis, and when seeing a therapist through insurance or an employee assistance program, it’s a requirement for the clinician to diagnose immediately.

Instead, I have chosen to see clients in a way that prioritizes them as people, not as a label that doesn’t fully capture their experience as a mom, spouse, employee, friend, and person.


Stay tuned for parts two and three in the coming weeks! 


As a part of my launch with Anchor Wellness in providing individual and couples therapy to those in the midst of raising a young family, I am providing a free, four-week lunch and learn series: Thriving in Motherhood. Our four week virtual series will cover Understanding Why Everyone is Struggling, Setting Boundaries That Work For You, Sharing the Mental Load in Your Home, and Prioritizing Yourself. Register here for our sessions starting July 25.


Hannah Smith, LISW-S, PMH-C is a mental health therapist that focuses her work on the challenges and joys of raising a young family. From pregnancy to postpartum and beyond, she is accepting individuals and couples for virtual therapy.