Photo of Rena Menke, Ph.D.

Rena Menke, Ph.D., is a maternal and infant psychologist and the Lead Perinatal Behavioral Health Consultant for MC3’s Perinatal Patient Care service. She was profiled in the Michigan Medicine Headlines as part of its “Day in the Life” series.

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up? Most people deviate from their goals, but a rare few end up living out their dreams.

Rena Menke, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, is such a person. She knew starting in 7th grade after taking a psychology class that pursuing psychology was the right path for her.

“I loved thinking about what other people are thinking and feeling,” Menke said. “It made me so curious and wondering about people and developmental stages… wanting to understand people’s motivations, what they’re doing, and where they’re going.”

All of Menke’s work is centered around supporting women and children during the perinatal period, especially patients who present with a history of trauma.

As a clinical psychologist, she wears many hats, including serving as an infant mental health mentor, lead behavioral health consultant with MC3(link is external), and a therapist within the Department of Psychiatry’s Zero to Thrive program.

All that work makes for a busy schedule! Here’s a closer look at one of Menke’s recent days.

8:30 a.m.: Menke arrives at the Rachel Upjohn Building on the east medical campus. After settling in on the second floor, she connects with colleagues via reflective supervision. Reflective supervision provides the time and space to consider thoughts, feelings and experiences that occur within service work. Not only can this practice help reduce bias, but it also allows clinicians an opportunity to be human and attend to reactions in a safe environment.

10 a.m.: As the lead perinatal behavioral health consultant for MC3’s Perinatal Patient Care (PPC) service, Menke attends a meeting with colleagues to discuss administrative tasks supporting the various marketing, outreach and administrative projects they’re working on. The service provides free mental health care to pregnant and postpartum moms in select counties.

11 a.m.: Menke heads to another meeting. During this time she and her colleagues focus on the research and evaluation components of MC3 PPC. They take a deep dive into what and how they’re measuring the impact their treatment is having on patients. Lately, they’ve been discussing how best to assess and track the factors related to social determinants of health. Later in their meeting, they discuss the research publications they’re working on and upcoming conferences where they will present their findings.

Noon: Menke eats her lunch and watches a recent grand rounds recording.

1 p.m.: She meets with another perinatal behavioral health consultant (BHC). Menke meets with each of her fellow BHCs at least once a month. They spend one-on-one meetings discussing barriers, successes and needs within their work.

2 p.m.: Menke prepares for a one-hour virtual presentation she is giving the next day to primary care providers on identifying and supporting families that may be experiencing postpartum depression in pediatric settings. She is excited about helping the attendees to become better equipped to support parents who are struggling.

3 p.m.: It’s time for a virtual therapy session with a pregnant patient who is experiencing anxiety and difficulties paying attention. Menke coaches her on some evidence-based coping techniques including mindfulness to support being in the moment, and cognitive behavioral therapy to identify evidence for and against the anxious thoughts.

4 p.m.: Menke heads to a multidisciplinary team meeting with the Perinatal and Reproductive Psychiatry clinic. The team includes social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. The focus of the meeting is to think together about supporting patients who are entering care in the Perinatal and Reproductive Psychiatry Clinic. Care may include referring people to individual or group therapy, medication follow-ups, or connecting to resources within the community. The multidisciplinary nature of the team allows a wide view of strategies to support individuals using patient-centered and evidence-based methods.

5 p.m.: Menke heads down to the first floor of the Rachel Upjohn Building for an appointment with a postpartum mother. Postpartum is an especially vulnerable time for women with a history of depression. Historically, women are underscreened, underdiagnosed and undertreated for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can affect women and their families socially, developmentally and economically; yet there are very effective treatments for it.

6 p.m.: Menke returns to her office on the second floor. She writes up notes from the two therapy sessions she had that day.

6:30 p.m.: It’s time to make the one-hour commute back to her home. Luckily, it gives her time to listen to one of her favorite podcasts, RadioLab.

At the end of the day, Menke is deeply satisfied and energized by her work:

“I love working with moms and babies! One of my favorite things is to see anxious parents interacting with their babies and doing well, even if they don’t realize they are.”