Frances Bilbao is a Clinical Psychologist and founder of Mums Matter Psychology. Mums Matter Psychology’s mission is to provide accessible, quality, tailored therapy and resources for women and their families during the perinatal period to promote positive and joyful parent-child relationships.

Tell us a bit about you and your family.

I’m a westside mama of my daughter aged 5 and my son who is almost 2. My husband and I moved to the west of Melbourne after having our daughter for more living space and absolutely love the family friendly environment here. We enjoy taking our bikes out on the weekend and riding along the beautiful waterfront that is Hobson’s Bay. You can usually catch us having a sneaky ice-cream along the way.

What’s the story behind you wanting to start up Mums Matter Psychology?

Prior to my having my children I was working as a management consultant. I worked on global projects for large companies and government agencies which involved a lot of travel and quite long hours. As my husband and I looked to the future and started to think about having a family, I felt this lifestyle would not be sustainable. More importantly, the work itself didn’t inspire me. At that point I returned to university to complete my clinical psychology training and follow my interest and passion in this area. As part of this I completed a placement in perinatal mental health and realised how important this time of life was and how much support is really needed. This became even more evident to me after my daughter was born in 2014. This is when I started Mums Matter Psychology.

What does Mums Matter Psychology offer?

We offer individual and group therapy and workshops for women experiencing emotional difficulties in the perinatal period (anywhere on the journey from attempting to become pregnant through to raising young children). We partner with three local councils (Brimbank, Hobson’s Bay and Maribyrnong) to deliver our services from the Maternal & Child Health centres as well as Sunshine Hospital to provide integrated and holistic care through the client’s perinatal journey in a non-stigmatising, family friendly environment. We have a team of 11 registered clinical and general psychologists all with a minimum of 6 years university training (some closer to 10!) who work daily with pregnant women and new parents. Everyone has additional training in perinatal mental health. 

What do you like most about what you do?

I am very passionate about providing mums and families the support they need during the difficult and vulnerable time of transitioning to parenthood. It is a privilege to be a part of someone’s deep personal journey and incredibly rewarding to witness the changes that people can make to their lives. My client’s bravery is inspirational to me.

Having my own business also allows me to be flexible and craft my work schedule around my children’s needs. I also enjoy being able to offer other working mums the opportunity for flexible work hours with most of my team of psychologists having young families also.

How can women look after themselves when their children are small?

For many women, the postnatal period can be overwhelming and stressful, so it is important to prioritise, plan and schedule your own self-care. This starts with the basics of sleep, eating well and keeping active even if in small ways. Try to do something pleasant or enjoyable every day or every other day and plan these for the week ahead. Access your social supports and spend time with family and friends, particularly those people who are most likely to provide comfort or boost your mood. Most importantly, try to be kind to yourself the way you would a close friend.

How can a psychologist or counsellor assist?

When in moments of emotional pain, confusion, sadness or despair, many of us have probably been advised to “talk it through” with someone.  While intuitively we know that talking about our problems has benefits, there is also solid research to show that words do have a real impact on how we experience emotions. Of course, different approaches work for different people, but in general, scientific studies show that when we speak about our thoughts and emotions they actually decrease in intensity. This seems to be because talking about things can help us to work through confusion, problem-solve, see things from a new perspective, discover solutions and find clarity. Chatting can also help us to get some distance from our thoughts and feelings, and to feel less alone. A psychologist or counsellor may also teach specific strategies and techniques to improve emotional regulation, communication in relationships (including parent and child), self-care and mood. Therapy is also a space reserved just for you. You can let go of the need to check-in with and take care of others. Your sessions give you time to focus solely on yourself.

Where you can find you?

Mums Matter Psychology is located in 12 Maternal and Child Health centres throughout the Brimbank, Hobson’s Bay, Maribyrnong and Hume city councils.