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VENA - Love Method


WIC VENA homepage / VENA Newsletter / VENA Archives

March 15, 2008

Love Method

Those agencies that are fortunate to have a Peer Counselor Program know the peer counselors are focused on the clients’ needs.  Texas WIC Peer Counselors are trained to use the LOVE method to offer clients sound breastfeeding information and support.  LOVE is an acronym for Listen, Observe, Validate and Educate/Empower.  The peer counselors use the VENA philosophy.  The following article is another example of how VENA can be implemented into a counseling session.  This article is breastfeeding specific and is provided to show staff another way to offer VENA.

Counseling with LOVE

A counselors’ job requires understanding that we are not making decisions for the mothers we counsel and we are not responsible for the decisions she makes.  We need to assist the mother by offering information in a non-threatening way so she can make an informed choice for herself and her family.

The LOVE method has three steps. Our counseling is more effective when we remember to use all three steps.  The letters are to help us remember the steps. If we are careful to Listen and Observe our clients we can discover the fears, barriers and perceptions that are affecting their choices.  Once we know what the mother is worrying about, we can Validate her concern.  Once she knows we respect her concerns, trust is built and she is ready to listen to us.  Then we can Educate and Empower her to overcome her personal barriers.








Empower / Educate

Counselors can learn to guide their conversations with the LOVE counseling method.
Step one Listen and Observe requires identifying the mother’s real concern and that may or may not be the first issue the mom presents. Active listening, clarifying and interpreting are some good methods to use in the discovery part of your session when you are listening to your client and making observations to help you determine what specific issues you can help her with today.


  • Listen to what the mother says as well as the feelings behind her words.
  • You may need to ask questions to clarify what she says. Use questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no.
  • Listen for hidden factors: What’s the real issue or challenge?
  • Listen for the positives.  What is good about what she is saying?

Active Listening

Paraphrase what the mother said, and reflect the message back. This clarifies, shows acceptance, and encourages a response.
You’re wondering.....
You feel worried about.....
You’ve heard.....
You’re wanting..


Do you mean…?
Do I have it right?
Are you saying…?


  • What does her body language tell you?
  • How is she relating to those around her?
  • How does she interact with the baby?
  • Does she look like she is in pain while breastfeeding?

Identifying the real issues

  • When a mother begins the conversation, the first question she asks may not be what is worrying her most.
  • Listen for clues during the conversation while you are answering her questions.
  • Listen for topics she repeatedly brings up in the conversation.
  • Listen for her feelings.
  • Look for related issues.

    For example:
    When a mom asks about weaning, she may really be having problems with breastfeeding and not realize there are other solutions besides weaning.  Always, try to find out why she wants to wean.


  • All feelings are acceptable
  • It’s OK that she feels the way that she does.
  • Try to respond in a way that reflects your acceptance of the logic in her thinking.

    For example:
    Mom says: My breasts are too small.
    Counselor validates: It does seem logical that big breasts would produce more milk than little breasts.

  • Acknowledge that her feelings have been expressed by other women too.
    You could say:
    Many women feel the same way
    That’s a common concern
    I’m glad you brought that up
    I’ve also felt that way


  • Address her question or the comment she has made.
  • Provide information so she can make an informed decision or select a course of action.
  • List options.
  • Provide resources for further information.
  • Make referrals to health professionals as appropriate.
  • Help her find her own solutions.

Soften the comments by saying…

Many women have found…
We have information that may help you make a decision
Everybody used to do it that way, but we have new information…

When giving information ask yourself…

Does this mother need information?
How much?
Is this the best time?


Keep it simple and uncomplicated.

  • Do not overwhelm with facts and suggestions.
  • Give information in small pieces…show and tell.
  • Look for ways to praise the mother
    You’re doing a good job.
    You handled that well.
    You did the right thing.
    You’re going through a rough period.  The first ten days are the hardest.  It will get easier as you and your baby get more experienced.
  • Summarize the issues. Especially after a long talk.
  • If problem solving, write down suggestions mother agrees to try.


The mother is an expert on her baby.

It is easy for a counselor to assume she knows what a mother’s concern is and what the mother should do about it.  It is a lot more difficult to Listen and Observe to be sure she is identifying the real and sometimes underlying concerns and then to take the time to Validate and build trust before providing the Education that will Empower the mothers who are counseled. 

This article is an excerpt form the Texas WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Manual.

Last updated February 23, 2011