Joanna C.M. Cole, PhD, PMH-C

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Joanna C.M. Cole, PhD, PMH-C, is a perinatal psychologist and Clinical Director, Perinatal Psychosocial and Bereavement Programs with the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at CHOP, caring for families diagnosed with a birth defect.

Areas of Expertise: Perinatal mental health, Adolescent pregnancy and parenting, Dialectical behavioral therapy, Grief and bereavement, Motivational interviewing, Pain and stress management, Pediatric psychology, Substance abuse disorders, Trauma and mood disorders, Trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy
Locations: Main Hospital
Appointments and Referrals (800-IN UTERO): 800-468-8376


In her role as perinatal psychologist and clinical director of perinatal psychosocial and bereavement programs for the Richard D. Wood Jr. Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment (CFDT), Joanna Cole, PhD, PMH-C, leads the psychosocial service team available to families facing the diagnosis of a birth defect. Working closely with the medical team, social workers and child life specialists, Dr. Cole provides comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and counseling, ensuring that families feel emotionally supported every step of the way.

In collaboration with the Center’s social workers, Dr. Cole assesses families’ understanding, readiness, coping mechanisms and chronic life stressors in order to identify how the news of a fetal diagnosis might intensify symptoms of distress. Her work includes evaluating for preexisting mental health conditions or issues of safety, and determining the risk for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

An important element of Dr. Cole’s role in the CFDT and Special Delivery Unit is providing supportive psychotherapy to identify, understand and help balance the emotional toll of a complex pregnancy within the context of other life stressors. Dr. Cole counsels individuals, couples, siblings, and family members on effective coping strategies, communication and emotional preparation for different stages in the medical experience, from pregnancy and delivery through the intensive care stay and well after discharge.

Dr. Cole also provides options counseling and grief support and is involved in the development of an expanded Perinatal Palliative and Bereavement Care Program within the CFDT, committed to helping families plan for and cope with the death of a baby or the knowledge that their baby might not survive.

Dr. Cole’s research interests include the development of a mental health screening tool that identifies significant symptoms of anxiety, stress, trauma or depression among expectant parents. This research will help to identify risk factors and provide therapeutic intervention at the earliest possible point of care, with the goal of decreasing symptoms of trauma and depression in the postpartum period. She is also in the process of developing therapeutic support groups for mothers.

Dr. Cole joined the Center in 2012. She earned her PhD in Clinical and School Psychology from the University of Virginia. She completed a pediatric psychology internship and an adolescent and young adult health fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. She is also a certified birth doula and is trained as an alcoholism and substance abuse counselor.

In addition, Dr. Cole is an active member of the Postpartum Support International (PSI) as their Curriculum Manager and one of their international trainers for the 2-day and advanced skills PSI Components of Care Course, a nationally recognized, evidence-based approach to working with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. She also co-teaches the Perinatal Loss: Clinical and Supportive Care course, to increase the levels of comfort among mental health, nursing and medical providers offering support to grieving parents. She is one of the members of the National Perinatal Association working to develop guidelines that define clinical support for parents during their baby’s time in neonatal intensive care. Dr. Cole completed a Post-Graduate Certification Program in Sex Therapy and counsels individuals and couples to address pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction, engage in sex after perinatal loss, and to effectively discuss intimacy and sexual health concerns.

Education and Training


Pre-doctoral Psychology Internship - Children’s Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA


Post-doctoral Psychology Fellowship - Children’s Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Graduate Degree

PhD in Clinical and School Psychology - University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
MS - University of Rochester, Rochester, NY

Additional Training

Birth Doula Certification Program - DONA International, Boston, MA
Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor Trainee - National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Rochester, NY
Post-Graduate Certification Program in Sex Therapy from the Council for Relationships - Philadelphia, PA

Titles and Academic Titles

Clinical Director, Perinatal Psychosocial and Bereavement Programs, Richard D. Wood Jr. Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment

Perinatal Psychologist

Sex Therapist

Professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Departments and Services




Geller PA, Spiecker N, Cole JCM, Zajac L, Patterson CA. The rise of tele-mental health in perinatal settings. Semin Perinatol. 2021 Apr 5;151431. doi: 10.1016/j.semperi.2021.151431. Online ahead of print.


Teefey CP, Hertzog J, Morris ED, Moldenhauer JS, Cole JCM. The impact of our images: psychological implications in expectant parents after a prenatal diagnosis. Pediatr Radiol. 2020 Dec;50(13):2028-2033. doi: 10.1007/s00247-020-04765-3. Epub 2020 Nov 30. PMID: 33252767.

Cole JCM, Budney A, Howell LJ, Moldenhauer JS. Developing an Infrastructure for Bereavement Outreach in a Maternal-Fetal Care Center [published online ahead of print, 2020 Aug 31]. Fetal Diagn Ther. 2020;1-6. doi:10.1159/000507480. Read the abstract.

Dempsey AG, Chavis L, Willis, T, Zuk J, Cole JCM. Addressing Perinatal Mental Health Risk within a Fetal Care Center. J Clin Psychol Med Settings. 2020 May 29.


Cole J, Spatz DL. Section 5: Supporting Families and Care Providers Through the Nuances of Palliative Care Lactation and Breastfeeding in the Context of Perinatal Palliative Care. Handbook of Perinatal and Neonatal Palliative Care. Springer Publishing Company, New York, NY, 2019. Chapter 20, pg. 326-337.

Cole JCM, Macdonald JN, Qamar2 H. Leading up to Loss: Understanding the Perinatal Grief Experience for Expectant Fathers when a Life-Limiting Fetal Diagnosis is Confirmed. Archives of Palliative Care and Medicine, 2019 September 30.


Cole JCM. Mental Health Screening, Treatment, and Referral During the Perinatal Period. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2017 Nov - Dec;46(6):891-894. Epub 2017 Sep 11.

Cole JCM, Schwarz J, Farmer MC, Coursey AL, Duren S, Rowlson M, Prince J, Oser M, Spatz DL. Facilitating Milk Donation in the Context of Perinatal Palliative Care. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2017 Nov 24. pii: S0884-2175(17)30463-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2017.11.002. [Epub ahead of print]

Cole JCM, Moldenhauer JS, Jones TR, Shaughnessy EA, Zarrin HE, Coursey AL, Munson DA. A proposed model for Perinatal Palliative Care. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2017 Jun 8. Pii: S0884-2175(17)30086-2. Doi: 10.1016/j/jogn.2017.01.014. [Epub ahead of print].

Cole JCM, Olkkola M, Zarrin H, Berger K, Moldenhauer JS. Universal Postpartum Mental Health Screening for Parents of Newborns with Prenatally Diagnosed Birth Defects. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2017 Jun 21. Pii:S0884-2175(17)30270-8. Doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2017.04.131. [Epub ahead of print]

Cole, J, Moldenhauer, J, Jones, T, Shaughnessy, E, Coursey, A, Zarrin, H, Munson, D: A Multidisciplinary Perinatal Palliative Care Model. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2017 Nov - Dec;46(6):904-911. doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2017.01.014. Epub 2017 Jun 8.


Cole JC, Moldenhauer JS, Berger K, Cary MS, Smith H, Martino V, Rendon N, Howell LJ. Identifying expectant parents at risk for psychological distress in response to a confirmed fetal abnormality. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2016 June;19(3):443-53. Epub 2015 Sep 21.

Boyd RC, Scharko AM, Cole JC, Patterson CA, Benton TD, Power TJ. Training Pediatric Psychologists for Perinatal Behavioral Health Services in a Pediatric Hospital. J Clin Psychol Med Settings. 2016 Jun;23(2):99-111. Epub 2015 Nov 3.


Allison G. Dempsey, Joanna C. M. Cole, Sage N. Saxton (Eds). Behavioral Health Services with High-Risk Infants and Families: Meeting the Needs of Patients, Families, and Providers in Fetal, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and Neonatal Follow-Up Settings. Oxford University Press, 2022.


Cornell, D. & Cole, J. (2012). Assessment of Bullying. In S. Jimerson, A. Nickerson, M. Mayer, & M. Furlong (Eds.), The Handbook of School Violence and School Safety: International Research and Practice, 2nd Edition (pp. 289 – 303). Routledge.


Cole, J., DeMaso, D., & Walter, H.: Suicide and Attempted Suicide. In R. Kliegman, B. Stanton, N. Schor, J. St. Geme, & R. Behrman (Eds.), Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th Edition, Elsevier Saunders:  Philadelphia, 2011, Ch.25. pp. 87-89.

Posters and Presentations


Follow-up Support after a Baby Dies: A Proposed Model of Programmatic Bereavement Outreach” – Postpartum Support International Conference, Houston, Texas. July 14, 2018.

Joanna C.M. Cole, PhD. The CFDT Perinatal Palliative Care and Bereavement Program: Steps to Success. Guest Lecturer, Yale Fetal Care Center, March 2018. New Haven, CT.


Joanna C.M. Cole, PhD. Is this the Pregnancy or is She Depressed? Understanding Perinatal Mood Disorders and How to Help Women at Risk. Guest Lecturer, Fetal Nurse Network Collaborative, November 2017, Chicago, Ill.

Joanna C.M. Cole, PhD. A Parent’s Perspective When Their Baby Dies at Birth: A Provider/Parent Perinatal Palliative Care Panel. Postpartum Support International Conference, July 2017, Philadelphia, PA.

Joanna C.M. Cole, PhD. Longitudinal Mental Health Screening of Mothers and Fathers of Medically Complex Infants: From the Prenatal Period through Post-NICU Follow up Care. Postpartum Support International Conference, July 2017, Philadelphia, PA.

Joanna C.M. Cole, PhD. His Hidden Tears and Broken Tears: Attending to the Needs of Fathers Experiencing Perinatal Loss. Keynote Address, Postpartum Support International Conference, July 2017, Philadelphia, PA.

Joanna C.M. Cole, PhD. Saying ‘Goodbye’ at Birth: A Multidisciplinary Model for Perinatal Palliative Care. Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, March 2017, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Joanna C.M. Cole, PhD. An Innovative Model for Perinatal Palliative Care: When a Life-Limiting Fetal Diagnosis Is Confirmed. National Perinatal Association.


Chadwick, S., Kasperski, S., Cole, J., & Munson, D. (2014, October). A Multidisciplinary Care Model for the Family Carrying a Fetus with a Congenital Anomaly- A Primer for Support. National Society for Genetic Counselors.

Cole, J., Shaughnessy, E., & Ousley, H. (2014, October). Promoting Positive Attachment Inutero: Supporting Families Carrying a Baby with a Birth Defect. Pennsylvania Association for Infant Mental Health, Sixth Annual Conference to be held in Harrisburg, PA.

Chadwick, S., Kasperski, S., Cole, J., Shaughnessy, E., & Munson, D. (2014, September). Perinatal Palliative Care and Bereavement: Establishing a Compassionate, Multidisciplinary Program for Families Facing a Life-Limiting Prenatal Diagnosis. National Society of Genetic Counselors Annual Education Conference, New Orleans, LA.

Cole, J. (2014, September). Screening for Antepartum Depressive Risk among Expectant Parents with a Confirmed Fetal Abnormality. International Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society, Chatham, MA.

Cole, J. & Shaughnessy, E. (2014, September). Fetal Surgery and Bed Rest: A Collaborative Post-Operative Approach for Providing Therapeutic Support to Mothers and their Families. International Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society, Chatham, MA.

Cole, J. (2014, August). Psychological Screening among Expectant Parents Carrying Babies with Confirmed Fetal Anomalies. American Psychological Association Annual Convention, Washington DC.

Smith, H., Martino, V., & Cole, J. (2014, August) Screening for Depression and PTSD Risk in Fathers Expecting a Baby with a Confirmed Fetal Anomaly. Poster presented at American Psychological Association Annual 2014 Convention, Washington DC.

Cole, J., Hertzog, J., Martino, V., Shaughnessy, E., & Palmer, L. (2014, June). Caring for the Fetus and the Family: Psychosocial Support for Families Carrying Babies with a Birth Defect. Poster presented at Postpartum Support International 2014 Conference, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC.

Smith, H., Martino, V., & Cole, J. (2014, June). Screening for Depression in Expectant Parents with a Confirmed Fetal Abnormality. Poster presented at Postpartum Support International 2014 Conference, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC.

Cole, J. (2014, March). Termination, Inutero Demise, Palliative Care, and Bereavement: Ways   to Support Families. Maternity Care Coalition, Philadelphia, PA

Cole, J. (2014, March). Perinatal PTSD and the NICU Course: Strategies for Support. Neonatal Nursing Conference, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PA.

Cole, J. (2014, March). Nursing and Mental Health Collaboration: Caring for Pregnant Women Struggling with Addiction. University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing, Philadelphia, PA.

Martino, V., Smith, H., & Cole, J. (2014, March). Identifying Psychological Risk among Expectant Adolescent and Young Adult Women Carrying Babies with a Birth Defect. Poster presented at Society of Pediatric Psychology Annual Conference, Philadelphia, PA.

Cole, J. (2014, February). Understanding the Spectrum of Perinatal and Postpartum Mood Disorders. Neonatal Nursing and Obstetrical Grand Rounds, Chester County Hospital, PA.

Awards and Honors

2022, Psychology Internship Training Program Teaching Award

2010, American Psychological Foundation Weiss Visionary Funds Grant Program

2009, Boston University School of Medicine Alpert Grant from the Department of Pediatrics

2008, Jane Addams Fund Departmental Award, Boston Children's Hospital

2008, 2006, National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism Travel Award

2007, Jane Addams Fund Departmental Award, Boston Children's Hospital

2006, 2005, Curry School of Education Clinical and School Psychology Travel Awards

2005, Doctoral Research Award in Education Science, University of Virginia

2005, College on Problems of Drug Dependence: Primm-Singleton Minority Award

2005, Nathan E. Johnson Memorial Scholarship

Leadership and Memberships

Memberships in Professional Organizations

American Psychological Association

Doulas of North America (DONA) International

International Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health

National Perinatal Association

Postpartum Support International

Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine

American Assocation of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists