HYBRID EVENT: You can participate in person at Singapore or Virtually from your home or work.

3rd Edition of

International Public Health Conference

March 21-23, 2024 | Singapore

IPHC 2023

Heather Olivier

Speaker at International Public Health Conference 2023 - Heather Olivier
Southeastern Louisiana University, United States
Title : Therapeutic approaches to working with perinatal loss clients: A grounded theory study


Perinatal loss (i.e., miscarriage, stillbirth, termination, and infant death) is commonly referred to in the literature as an invisible loss, non-loss, and even medical event. It is an ambiguous loss exhibiting the dialectical contradiction between the physical absence and psychological presence of the baby accompanied by disenfranchised grief, a reaction to a loss that is unacknowledged by society. Despite the likelihood of mental health clinicians working with clients who have experienced perinatal loss, there has yet to be a therapeutic model designed specifically for the unique grief and trauma reactions presented in this population. Existing grief models do not address the traumatic nature of the loss, and oppositely, trauma models do not address the life-long grief symptoms experienced subsequent to perinatal loss. Lack of clinical trainings and cultural norming processes that do not acknowledge the significance of the loss leave clinicians without resources, tools, and interventions to effectively work with this population. Thus, the purpose of the study is to co-construct a therapeutic model to utilize when working with perinatal loss clients. Exploring therapeutic approaches employed by mental health clinicians, the proposed grounded theory study will collect three forms of data: (a) intensive interviews, (b) elicited documents (i.e., case studies), and (c) extant documents (i.e., perinatal loss specialty training agendas). The qualitative study will include 8-12 participants certified in perinatal mental health (PMH-C) to ensure participants’ clinical experience in working with the perinatal loss population for at least two years. Additionally, the proposed study will investigate the following three elements informing therapeutic approaches applied to this population: (a) cultural perceptions of perinatal loss; (b) how the cultural perceptions impact the therapeutic relationship regarding establishing goals, measuring client change, and determining effectiveness; and (c) identification of barriers within the therapeutic process. The findings of the study will be significant to not only mental health clinicians working with perinatal loss clients and the existing perinatal loss research, but they will also illuminate the nature of the therapeutic process for this population to decrease ambiguity surrounding the loss and enfranchise the griever.

Audience Take Away Notes:
Participants will benefit from this presentation as they will be able to:

  1. Conceptualize how the systemic factors contributing to the socialization of emotions, and subsequent cultural norming processes formed to maintain the monolithic infrastructure of the centralized group, impact the therapeutic process;
  2. Expand their understanding and teaching of ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief as products of cultural perceptions responsible for how mental health professionals identify maladaptive behaviors subsequent to perinatal loss;
  3. Broaden their understanding of perinatal loss to be inclusive of all losses within the perinatal period, and the psychosocial impact of various forms of perinatal loss; and
  4. Employ a relational approach to interaction grounded in symbolic interactionism, which rejects individualism and emphasizes the co-construction of self as a reciprocal, continuous process throughout the lifespan that is inherently impacted by cultural norming processes and socialization.


Heather Olivier is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Orleans in the United States researching cultural norms surrounding perinatal loss, and the subsequent impact on the therapeutic process. Heather is a mental health counselor specializing in working with clients experiencing traumatic loss, complicated grief, and those in the perinatal period. In addition to being among the first cohorts trained in Brainspotting through the perinatal lens as well as Parental Leave Coaching, Heather holds specialty certifications in perinatal mental health and trauma therapy.