Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we are very excited to bring you an exclusive interview with two Bringing Baby Home Master Trainers. We recently sat down with Carolyn Pirak and Joni Parthemer to discuss the history of the BBH program and their work to re-launch it. As a reminder, The Gottman Institute will be sponsoring a BBH Educator Training in Seattle, WA on October 26 – 27 of this year. Click here for more information. Before we get to the interview, allow us to introduce you to these two wonderful women:

Joni Parthemer holds a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and is both a Master Trainer and Education Director for the BBH program. She also holds certification as a Childbirth Educator and International Childbirth Association Approved Trainer.

Joni is a faculty member at the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Professions at Bastyr University as well as a Birth and Family Educator at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA. She has developed, published, and implemented a variety of training materials for educators interested in providing support and growth programs for families.

Carolyn Pirak holds a Master of Social Work and works with children and families in both medical and educational settings. She is the Founding Director of the Bringing Baby Home program, a Master Trainer, and the author of the Bringing Baby Home Sections: Curriculum, Emotional Communication, and Children.

Carolyn is currently a consultant for a variety of organizations and Parenting Programs and works at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA in Birth and Family Education. he is a nationally recognized speaker on the topics of children, couples, and families. She is married and is the mother of two children.

The Gottman Institute: How did you first hear about the Bringing Baby Home program?

Joni: I have worked as a professor, educator, and birth & family health care specialist for over 30 years. In my role as a birth and family educator at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA, I was approached by Dr. John Gottman, along with two other colleagues (Carolyn Pirak, MSW and Rosalys Peel, RN) to create, implement, and train couples and professionals in research-based information about what works and doesn’t work in relationships – and pivotal to the Bringing Baby Home Program – the profound effects the transition to parenthood has on familial relationships. Our first meetings occurred in the late 1990’s and fifteen years later the BBH journey continues! 

Carolyn: I have been involved with the BBH program since 1998. The Gottmans had identified through their couple’s research that the arrival of a new baby caused couples to have increased challenges and conflict in their relationships. They believed that a psycho-educational program could help couples learn what to expect during the transition to parenthood and have tools to manage the changes and they wanted to test their hypothesis. They approached Swedish Medical Center, the hospital where I worked, to be a site for their research study. I was part of the team that designed and facilitated the workshop intervention for new parents. After seeing the data showing the success of the workshop, I was excited to make the program available to parents worldwide, increasing my involvement and commitment to the program. I have been a part of BBH for the past 15 years as a facilitator, trainer, and the Founding Director. Currently, I am a consultant for TGI overseeing the new curriculum for BBH and helping with program design, training, and marketing. 

The Gottman Institute: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your involvement in the BBH program?

Joni: I can honestly say that I’ve followed my passions throughout my career and found a way to jive those into my professional endeavors. There are transformative touch points in our lives – the birth of a baby is the birth of a new family. Women have always been daughters, men have always been sons. What does it mean to be a mother, a father? Parents become grandparents and children become siblings. Family constellations morph. Core introspection about life goals and what “family” means – these are big philosophical questions of one’s life that emerge and evolve, whether you are ready or not! The profound journey parents make as individuals, couples, and parents is life affirming. This program offers couples insights, reflection, and tools to navigate their new normal and weave their unique family tapestry.

Carolyn: Being involved with the Bringing Baby Home program has been rewarding on several levels. First, I have gotten to meet many wonderful, dedicated professionals who are working together towards a common goal to change the lives of children and families. Second, the opportunity to hear from couples about how their relationships changed once they incorporated concepts from the workshop has inspired me to keep the program going. New parents are “born” everyday so our work is never done. Teaching parents important concepts such as how to take a good break, how to play cooperatively with a baby, or simply how to express appreciation changes lives. My hope is that the material we have taught parents will make changes in families around the world so that children benefit from growing up in a sound relationship house. This will allow them to grow up and lead more happy, productive, and satisfying lives. That is rewarding!

The Gottman Institute: What is the most important takeaway that participants can expect to walk away from the BBH Educator Training with? 

Joni: Concrete, research-based, and research-tested tools for growing healthy parent-parent and parent-child relationships.

Carolyn: Professionals who take the October Educator Training will leave prepared to teach the BBH workshop to pregnant couples and new parents.

The Gottman Institute: What can participants expect to be new at the October Educator Training? 

Joni: The October Educator Training will use the newly revised BBH curriculum. While the research is the same, the presentation of the material is different. There are new teaching icons, new photos and graphics, a significant change in tone of voice, and recommended teaching activities throughout. 

Carolyn: There are also updated references and citations, updated material on fathers, a new connecting with kids chapter, and a newly designed couple’s manual.

The Gottman Institute: How many people have been trained as BBH Educators?

Joni and Carolyn: 1,500 worldwide 

The Gottman Institute: How many couples have gone through the BBH curriculum?

Joni and Carolyn: It’s difficult to say exactly, but we know for sure that we have helped several thousands of couples worldwide through the Bringing Baby Home program! 


You can meet Joni and Carolyn at the BBH Educator Training this October! Questions? All inquiries about the training can be directed to Alan Kunovsky at alan@gottman.com or 206-523-9042 x 108. As always, we invite you to join the discussion on our Facebook page


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Bringing Baby Home: Interview
Michael Fulwiler

Michael Fulwiler is the Editor in Chief of The Gottman Relationship Blog and Director of Marketing for The Gottman Institute. A proud University of Washington graduate, Michael is an avid fan of love, live music, and Seattle sports teams.