Infertility Counseling: What It Is and Why You Need It
Infertility counseling is an important first step to having the family you’ve always dreamed of. Here’s what you should know before starting.
Dealing with the fact that you have infertility struggles can be a difficult thing to do. Fortunately, you don’t have to feel alone while going through this process.
To help hopeful parents like you understand your infertility options and work through your infertility struggles, there is infertility counseling. This is provided by professional counselors who are experienced with people in your situation, know how to address the emotional difficulties you’re going through and can help you understand how to move forward from here. With the help of an infertility therapist, you can become the parents you’ve always wanted to be.
Struggling with infertility is a draining part of the family-building process but, when you work with an infertility counselor, it doesn’t have to be as exhausting as it seems. Because learning to accept your infertility is an important part of moving forward with your parenthood journey, it’s recommended that all intended parents take advantage of the practical and emotional benefits that infertility counseling can offer.
But, what exactly is infertility counseling, and why is it so important?
Infertility Counseling: The Details
While infertility has existed as long as humans have, the idea of addressing it with counseling didn’t really take hold until the 1970s. At that time, medical professionals began to focus on the psychosocial consequences of infertility and promoted counseling for those who were coping with infertility in their daily lives.
Today, infertility counseling involves that same psychological aspect — helping intended parents address their infertility emotions in order to move forward in a more positive way. Many infertility therapists are trained in assisted reproductive technology as well, which is why infertility counseling also involves education of which infertility options are available in a couple’s specific situation. In this way, infertility counselors are much more helpful than any other kind of therapist intended parents may work with, as they can provide psychological and medical advice.
Depending on where you are in your infertility process, you may receive different stages of infertility counseling. Typically, there are three:
- Patient-Centered Care: This counseling focuses on the infertility options available to intended parents. At this point, an infertility therapist will gather information about a couple’s infertility struggles, determine which options are available to them and educate them about those processes. The therapist will also help the couple analyze the pros and cons of each process to determine which is best for them, if they’re ready to move forward.
- Support Counseling: If a couple is not ready to make a decision on an infertility option, they will usually receive support counseling to acknowledge the difficult feelings they are facing. Before they can move forward, a couple must address issues like the potential inability to experience pregnancy and a loss of genetic connection with their future child. Support counseling is also received throughout the family-building process to address any issues that intended parents continue to struggle with.
- Psychotherapy: This is more extreme infertility counseling, usually reserved for people who express major depressive symptoms, severe marital or sexual problems or any other psychological distress that may impact their infertility. This counseling may take longer in order to address more long-term crises and issues.
When you start infertility counseling, your process may be a combination of different stages. Your counseling will be tailored to your own specific situation and needs, whether that’s learning more about the surrogacy process as a family-building option or addressing remaining emotional barriers before moving forward.
Why Every Infertile Couple Needs an Infertility Therapist
No matter where you are in the emotional journey of infertility, it’s highly recommended by family-building professionals that you contact an infertility counselor. Some will even require it before you can start working with them.
You may wonder, though: If I’m ready to start the assisted reproductive technology or adoption process, why do I even need to work with an infertility therapist?
This is where the other important part of infertility counseling comes in: the medical counseling.
When you use infertility treatments to become parents, you’re most likely entering into processes that you have no experience in and that you’re not fully prepared for. Therefore, infertility counseling is necessary to make sure you understand the requirements of each medical process, what you can expect as you move forward and more. That’s not even mentioning the importance of an infertility therapist in helping you determine whether certain medical processes are even possible for your situation.
Let’s take surrogacy as an example. When you’re interested in the surrogacy process, an infertility counselor is necessary to make sure you understand:
- How surrogacy works
- The medical risks and liabilities of the surrogacy process
- The emotional issues involved
- How to handle an intimate relationship with a surrogate
- And more
Infertility counseling is also important to make sure that you and your partner are on the same page in regards to your hopes and goals for your family-building journey. Infertility treatments can be emotionally difficult, and you and your partner will need to support each other along the way. An infertility counselor can help you address any lingering doubts or concerns you or your partner have before embarking on this journey. Leaving them unaddressed can negatively impact your family-building process.
For all these reasons, it’s recommended that you speak to an infertility counselor before pursuing any infertility treatments.
Where You Can Find an Infertility Counselor
So, now that you know the importance of infertility counseling in your family-building journey, how do you find the right infertility counselor for you?
If you’ve already started working with a fertility clinic or another family-building professional, they will likely have a list of trusted infertility counselors that they can refer you to. You will always be able to choose the infertility counselor you’re most comfortable with, but these referrals can be extremely helpful when there are so many infertility counselors available to you.
When you’re choosing an infertility counselor, remember that your comfort is of the utmost importance. After all, this will likely be a professional that you work with throughout your family-building process, and you’ll share some of your most intimate struggles with them. If they are not someone whom you can trust completely, the services they offer you will not be as effective.
Always take the time to interview an infertility counselor before committing to them. Some questions to consider asking include:
- What is your counseling philosophy?
- How long have you been practicing? How many people do you typically work with at one time?
- What does your counseling schedule look like? How available are you when we need you on short notice?
- Do you have experience with other clients who have similar issues as me?
- What are your treatment goals moving forward?
- What is your fee schedule like?
You can start your search by viewing the infertility counseling options provided by Resolve: The National Infertility Association. In addition, you may wish to speak to local general therapists to see which infertility counselors they recommend in your area.
Most important to remember: seeking out infertility counseling is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re strong enough to accept what you’re feeling and move forward to a more positive time in your life. Many others have been exactly where you are and have come out on the other side stronger and having finally made their parenthood dreams come true. To start this process yourself, contact an infertility counselor or another family-building professional today.