Importance of Support During and After Pregnancy

September 25, 2012

Ok quick announcement before I get started with the regularly scheduled blog for today. For all my loyal followers (I know there are a few of you out there) I have had to make the executive decision to switch my blogging day from Monday to Tuesday due to my little guy deciding he no longer needs naps and being in a preschool program on Tuesday mornings. So from now on, look for blog posts on Tuesday, end of announcement!

I don’t think I have really posted much on here about the new group that I have started. I was lucky enough to get to present to the Space Coast Birth Network on this subject on Friday and wanted to finish the presentation before I started posting about all my research (I feel a blog series coming!) If you haven’t already guessed, my new group is a pregnancy support group. In Brevard County, where I am, there are no support groups and only a few programs in place for pregnant women, especially ones who are not having a high risk pregnancy or at high risk for other things. So obviously there was a void in the area but why might you ask did I feel the need to fill it? Well, it was due to research that I had been reading.

To recap some of the research very quickly, a new field has emerged called fetal origins that states that everything a woman is exposed to while pregnant can effect her baby’s health and mental health throughout the baby’s entire lifespan. Of course I’m no medical doctor but I found this to be amazing and wanted to do something to help women create healthier individuals. So, the mental health piece of this for me is stress, or helping women to reduce the amount of stress they are exposed to as a result of circumstances, depression, anxiety and so forth through relaxation techniques and support in order to minimize the amount of cortisol the fetus is exposed to. Fetal origins is still pretty new to the research scene and there haven’t been a lot of studies on these specific factors but here is one article that talks about how extreme levels of cortisol effect the fetus.

Another related topic that has been studied is how to prevent mental health disorders during and after pregnancy. The childbearing years for women is when they are most likely to experience anxiety and depression. I will go a bit more in detail in another blog entry but suffice it to say that hormones can play a big part in flipping the switch for some women who are predisposed to these disorders. When a women becomes pregnant or shortly after she has her baby, she is especially likely to experience a mood episode or a bout of anxiety as well as other possible disorders. Knowing that we cannot change one of the main causes, hormones, it has been important to find other ways to reduce the chances of these disorders being experienced by pregnant and postnatal women.

One of the biggest factors that has been proven to be helpful in greatly reducing this risk is support during and after pregnancy. Think about it, it can be a very stressful time in one’s life with a multitude of changes ocurring and other people having strong views and not always correct information and this can cause a lot of pressure for a soon to be or new mom. Add to the mix that mom is likely to be home, trying to keep baby away from germs and dad will go back to work within a short amount of time and she is likely to feel lonely and isolated. Combine this with the hormone changes and it can very well be a recipe for depression and anxiety. As I stated, however, women who have an increased amount of support are better able to deal with this and are less likely to feel lonely and isolated. Support starts becoming a protective factor during pregnancy in order to reduce the likelihood of postpartum depression. This is very important considering once a person experiences an episode of major depression they are more likely to experience another one in the future. You can get this support from friends, family, church, or a formal group such as the one I have started.

My pregnancy support group is designed to specifically help create the sense of support needed to reduce the risk of postpartum depression when attended regularly. The group begins with a guided imagery or relaxation technique and then is opened up for each member to have a chance to talk about whatever they desire and to receive feedback and advice from the group as needed. The group then closes with an assignment that will help to increase the level of mother-fetal bonding. If you are in the Brevard County area, you can attend this group on Thursdays from 6-7pm at Discovery Institute, P.A. in Rockledge. The first session is free and each additional session is $10. No need to R.S.V.P., you can just stop in!


Jessica Stebbins, LMFT

July 23, 2012

After two years of graduate school, three and a half years as a registered intern with taking time off between positions and starting a family, a month of waiting on my application to be completed and processed (lol my supervisor filled out the wrong form 3 times delaying my application) I can finally say that I am a fully Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist! I am very excited to share this news as I received it today! We have been preparing a press release with the information which I will share on the blog soon! In lieu of this news, I will be skipping a normal blog entry for the day. I think it deserve to take the week off, don’t you?

Discovery Institute, P.A. New Location

May 3, 2011


Discovery Institute, P.A. has reopened in a new location. We are still in Rockledge but are now off of US1. The address is

4175 S. US1
Rockledge, FL 32955

The following therapists will be seeing clients at this new location:

Connie Porter-Richard, LMHC
Marilyn Bennett, LMHC
Jessica Stebbins, Registered Marriage & Family Therapist Intern

Therapy groups will also be conducted at this location.

Modern Elegance Bridal Show

March 29, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
Serving Brevard County

I will be at the Modern Elegance Bridal Show this weekend, promoting pre-marital/marital counseling. I am certified to use Prepare/Enrich, a pre-marital and marital inventory that has questions covering the most important 20 topics to couples. The inventory helps therapists work with couples on needed areas while using the strengths they have already developed. The model also helps with communication and conflict resolution.

With the average marriage only lasting 8 years and 10% of first marriages ending within five years, pre-marital and marital counseling is a much needed area currently. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in pre-marital or marital counseling, please give me a call. I would be happy to work with you to prepare for marriage and to enrich your relationship!

Modern Elegance Bridal Show
Date: April 2nd, 2011
Time: 4pm -7pm
Cost: $7 in advance, $10 at the door

You can get tickets and more information at

Therapy Groups for Life Skills & Personal Growth

February 15, 2011

***  There are two groups scheduled to start at Discovery Institute next week and there are still some openings.  ***

Life 101” with Lola Mitchell!
Discovery Institute, P.A.
6-weeks, Monday evenings, February 21-March 28, 2011
6:30-8:30 pm
Fee:  $150.00
Lola’s group will explore the following topics:  self-esteem, self-confidence, interpersonal communications; and develop skills to handle change, manage life and career transitions, manage conflict, cope with difficult situations and set goals and make plans.
This exciting group has gotten very high marks by previous participants!

Pathfinder I” with Connie Porter-Richard, PhD, LMHC

 This 12-week psychotherapy group is dedicated to helping women learn basic life management skills.  It is designed for women struggling with transitions related to major life and/or mental health issues.  Basic life management skills include learning things like: how mindfulness sets the stage for change; how interpersonal effectiveness can improve personal relationships; how distress tolerance and emotion regulation can help you mange your own thoughts and emotions.  This is an opportunity to gain personal strength, develop insight, and learn how to create and bring change into your life.

12-weeks, Wednesdays, 5-6:30 pm
February 23-May 11, 2011
Fee:  $35.00 per session (many insurance companies reimburse group therapy)

About Me

January 27, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, LMFTLMFT
MT 2696
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
Serving Brevard County

            My name is Jessica Stebbins. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. I spent the first two years of my career working with adolescent girls and their families in the juvenile justice system in both residential and outpatient settings, and attending workshops on a wide variety of mental health subjects. A large part of learning to become an effective therapist is on the job experience and I can say that my experiences working with such a challenging population with other talented therapists has helped me to develop my own skills and learn even more about families and mental health. Currently I am contracted to work with Brevard County couples, families, adolescents, and young adults at Discovery Institute, P.A. located in Rockledge, Florida. I am also proud to say that I had a literature review article published in The Family Journal (a peer reviewed journal) titled Implications of Sexuality Counseling with Women Who Have a History of Prostitution.

I facilitate two groups at Discovery Institute, P.A. One of the groups is called Smart Steps and it is an educational and support group for stepparents. Please feel free to contact me for specifics on the group as well as the next start date for the group. The other group is a pregnancy support group which meets on an ongoing basis on Thursday evenings from 6-7pm at the office for a small fee.

           In this blog, you will find information on improving relationships including couple and parent relationships, and information on a wide variety of mental health problems and disorders, infused with some of my professional opinions and insights and links to trusted   websites that discuss the information I have given and give additional information.

            For those of you in the central Brevard County area that are looking for a therapist, please give me a call or email me. It would be my pleasure to give you more information on my services and to work with you in the future.