When you first discover that you are struggling through infertility in your journey to have a child, it can be an emotionally overwhelming point in your life. You’re dealing with so many different emotions of grief, anger, confusion and uncertainty, and it can be incredibly difficult to decide what to do next.
This is where infertility counseling comes in. Many family-building professionals encourage people dealing with infertility to approach an infertility counselor to not only learn how to cope with their complicated emotions but also to know exactly what options are available to them. Infertility can be a scary, lonely and complicated period in your life, but know that infertility therapists are there to help you move forward to a more positive future.
Before you begin exploring your infertility options, we highly recommend that you work with an infertility counselor. Only when you can approach your infertility with acknowledgement and acceptance can you move forward with a positive family-building experience, no matter what choice you make.
What is Infertility Counseling?
While counseling for infertility does touch on the emotional issues you might expect a trained counselor to address, the process is actually much more. Infertility counseling plays a key role in helping hopeful parents not only accept their situation but also understanding how to move forward in a healthy way.
Infertility counseling is usually completed by a trained assisted reproductive technology (ART) professional, one who’s familiar with the emotions intended parents experience and the different options available to them. In this way, an infertility therapist is much more helpful than any other therapist, as they specialize in the intricacies of the infertility process from beginning to end.
We encourage all hopeful parents, whether they’re just acknowledging their infertility struggles or ready to start a family-building process, to work with an infertility counselor before moving along too far in the process. Your emotional state in your infertility journey will determine which type of infertility counseling is best for you, and a counselor will help point you toward the correct program.
There are several different stages of infertility counseling:
Patient-centered care: This is usually the stage where intended parents learn about the infertility options available to them based on their individual circumstances. An infertility therapist will help them collect the information they need to know about each process, analyze the pros and cons of each and help them make the decision that’s best for them (whether that’s to move forward or spend more time considering their options and addressing their emotional barriers).
Support counseling: This is usually the stage where intended parents are still struggling with the emotional repercussions of their infertility complications. A therapist will help them address these issues (like the inability to experience pregnancy, a loss of genetic connection to their child, etc.) before they are able to move forward with their parenthood journey. This type of counseling can also refer to the emotional support intended parents receive through the family-building process they choose.
Psychotherapy: Therapeutic counseling like this is usually reserved for patients who experience major depressive symptoms, severe martial or sexual problems, or any other type of psychological distress that may directly impact infertility. This counseling usually addresses more long-term crises and issues.
Of course, like with all counseling processes, infertility counseling will be tailored to each person’s individual needs. For example, if you want to start the surrogacy process, your infertility counseling will focus on the practical information you need to know and the preparation you need to take for upcoming emotional issues. Other people who aren’t ready to start a family-building process will instead focus on their own emotional barriers that are preventing them from moving forward.
Why Do I Need Infertility Counseling?
While it’s obvious that those struggling with their infertility should use counseling to address those emotional issues, why do people who are ready to start the surrogacy, adoption or third-party reproduction process need to undergo this counseling as well?
That’s because infertility counseling is not just about emotions — it’s also about informing each party involved of the risks and information they need to be fully prepared for the journey ahead of them. Many fertility clinics and family-building professionals actually require hopeful parents to undergo this counseling to make sure they’re truly ready for their chosen process. Intended parents that choose to pursue infertility treatments are pursuing a completely different way of becoming parents, one they usually are not familiar with and prepared for. Therefore, counseling makes sure they understand the differences involved in these processes and how it will affect their family-building process in a way that natural conception does not.
For example, when it comes to intended parents considering the surrogacy process, they must undergo counseling to address:
The emotional issues involved with surrogacy (like loss of the pregnancy experience)
The loss of control in having a surrogate carry their baby for them
Handling an intimate relationship with the surrogate
Typically, anyone completing any kind of third-party reproductive process (like egg or sperm donation) will need to undergo this counseling before their fertility clinic allows them to move forward.
Even if you think you’re ready to start your family-building process, infertility counseling will make sure that you and your partner (if applicable) are on the same page about your goals and expectations. Your infertility therapist will also help address any remaining feelings of grief and loss you may have and help you understand the intricate process you’re becoming involved in. Many professionals use this counseling to make sure intended parents are in a stable enough mental state before beginning, as many infertility treatments can cause unexpected additional stresses that can greatly impact hopeful parents’ relationships and lives.
For all involved, infertility counseling is a key step toward preparing for the upcoming challenges of building your family. Curious whether you’re ready for infertility counseling? You can read a list of more reasons to consider infertility counseling here, or call our surrogacy specialists any time at 1-800-875-2229(BABY) for infertility counselor referrals.
Where Can I Find an Infertility Counselor?
Once you decide that you want to see an infertility therapist, you may wonder where you can find one that’s right for you. Fortunately, there are many professional infertility counselors available throughout the United States.
If you are already working with a fertility clinic or other infertility professional, it’s likely that they will either have professional therapists who work in-house or will refer you to trusted therapists that they’ve worked with for a while. Which infertility therapist you work with will always depend on your individual situation and relationship with your infertility professional, but you will always be able to choose a professional that you’re comfortable with.
While you’re considering infertility counseling, here are some things to ask potential therapists:
What is your counseling philosophy?
How long have you been practicing, and how many people do you typically work with?
Do you have experience with other clients who have similar issues as me?
What are your treatment goals for me moving forward?
Selecting an infertility therapist is understandably an important decision to make. You want to work with someone who you’re comfortable with, as you will need to reveal intimate emotions in order to work through them and accept your infertility struggles. Always take the time you need to find the infertility counselor who’s perfect for you.
At American Surrogacy, we’ve worked with several infertility counselors that we trust to refer to those in need of support and counseling. When you contact us, we’re happy to provide the names and contact information of who we think might work best for your situation. Here are a few infertility counselors to consider:
Kris Probasco (Kansas City)
Dr. Kimberly Vandegeest-Wallace (The University of Kansas)
Dr. Judy Washington (Summit, New Jersey)
Dr. Patricia McBride-Houtz (Dallas, Texas)
Dr. Stacey Scheckner (Tampa, Florida)
Dr. Mary Riddle (State College, Pennsylvania)
In addition, you can also research other local infertility counseling possibilities here. American Surrogacy is always adding to our personal network of trusted counselors, so make sure to check with us or your fertility clinic for updated resource lists of experienced counselors.
Remember: Choosing infertility counseling is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you’re ready to move forward from your infertility journey into a more positive future. Many other hopeful parents have been in your situation and come through the other side not only stronger but successfully with a baby to call their own. You can, too.
To learn more about your surrogacy options with American Surrogacy or to receive referrals for local infertility counselors to work with, please contact our surrogacy specialists today.