Provider Spotlight: MotherWise Builds community and connection

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May 10, 2021: For Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re spotlighting providers and advocates who are making a difference in our communities. We spoke to Jessica Purcel, Director of Programs and Community Outreach at Thriving Families, to learn about their unique approach supporting maternal mental health. MotherWise is a community partner of Tough as a Mother, an initiative of OBH.

A baby sleeps on her mom's shoulder.

What is MotherWise? 
MotherWise is the flagship program of our organization, Thriving Families. It’s a healthy relationships program, and the mission is to empower women and their families to thrive. The program includes group-based workshops, where women can consider skills and tools, like how to manage family problems, resolve conflict together and improve communication, and receive one-on-one coaching. We enroll women who are pregnant or postpartum, and we also recently expanded the program to teen moms with children of any age. We’re not county-specific, so we’re able to serve all of metro Denver.

How do you support participants’ mental health needs? 
We saw a gap in mental health services for the families we serve, especially for those who are undocumented. About a third of the women that we enroll are monolingual Spanish speakers. We were seeing increased rates of postpartum depression or anxiety, and unfortunately, a lot of the women that we work with have experienced trauma. Thriving Families decided to start the Wise Wellness program, which offers therapy services in English and Spanish available to individuals, couples, families with no set amount of sessions. It’s such a great opportunity to remove those barriers to access, especially for the Spanish-speaking community. These services have really grown during COVID. We’ve seen an increased need across the board.

We also launched a new program during the pandemic called La Luz. It’s about preventing postpartum depression. La Luz is group-based workshops for women after their baby is born, and it’s an opportunity for her to connect again if she went through the MotherWise program when she was pregnant. There’s a new set of issues when she’s postpartum—plus there’s isolation and feelings of loneliness. La Luz really came about in response to wanting to foster additional connections in a mental health environment.

Can you share a success story? 
Yes! We just heard from a mother enrolled in our teen expansion program. She said she feels like the class is saving her future and her baby’s future because it’s giving her the tools to not make the same mistakes and to not be in toxic relationships again. She said she realized that she wants to take a break from relationships and just focus on school and the baby for now. Our staff is so proud of her for all the work she has done! 

The whole idea of MotherWise and Thriving Families is to empower her to know she can have healthy relationships, and that can make such an impact on her baby. We often hear participants using the skills and tools they learn in class with their own children, and even their siblings and coworkers. So we’re not just talking about romantic relationships—we’re talking about all relationships. They influence every part of our life. That’s why our team is so invested in this work—we use it personally, too! Knowing how to slow conversations down and emphasize listening can really lead to positive change in relationships. 

How can we support the pregnant and parenting people in our lives? 
There are so many ways to support parents and their families during pregnancy and postpartum. I think a really big one is community. When our participants have that community support—when they feel like they have someone they can turn to—we see more positive outcomes. If you do know someone who is pregnant or parenting, just check in and remind her that she’s a person too. Remind her that she’s important, valued and heard. 

Jessie Purcel is the Director of Programs and Community Outreach for Thriving Families. She has been with the organization from the very start and has been central in developing the programs offered and in raising awareness in the community about the needs of families during pregnancy and postpartum. Before joining Thriving Families, she was with the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association. Although a native of South Carolina, she moved to Colorado from New Zealand where she worked on policy and legislative issues for the government. 

MotherWise's mission is to empower women and their families to thrive during pregnancy and after a new baby is born. Our core program includes six weeks of workshops plus one-on-one coaching for mothers on knowing themselves, what healthy relationships are to them, communication and relationship skills for all kinds of relationships, and connecting with a newborn baby. For more information, visit