As I sent my happily pregnant patient out the door, off to her OB for the remainder of her pregnancy, I asked her if there was any feedback that she could give me about particularly challenging or helpful things during her IVF cycle. She stated that it was much harder emotionally than she thought (she already had a child from IVF and this was IVF #2). “Keeping it all together” was her challenge. But she stated that the surprise was that when she expressed this to me and her nurse, we immediately put her in touch with a counselor, who gave her one on one support and even offered group counseling. This made all the difference. She said if there was one thing she wished I would tell others patients is to have a counselor help you thorough this process.
Amoreena Berg,, MFT Professional Resolve Group Leader has been counseling infertility patients and running a support group out of our Orinda office. I asked her what other advice she could offer to patients and this is what she said…
Frequently I get phone calls about whether a group or individual counseling would be appropriate for infertility issues. And when is it time to get the support for infertility issues?
The sooner the better…as soon as you realize infertility might be an issue get some support. Infertility can be extremely emotional and isolating for couples and individuals. What I typically see is the couple or individual who come to me after months and even years of battling infertility by themselves and barely hanging on emotionally. Most of my clients wished they had gotten support sooner and feel not alone once they do get the support.
Benefits of Joining a Support Group
Decreased Sense of Isolation
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of participating in a support group is a decreased sense of the isolation so many people feel when they are experiencing infertility. In a support group environment, feelings of anger, depression, guilt and anxiety can be expressed, validated by others and accepted as a normal response to the infertility crisis.
Support group members often realize how their experiences in the group have created a special bond and identity between group members. By sharing feelings, accomplishments, losses, and humor known only to those who experience infertility, members can develop strong emotional ties to one another.
Freedom to Express Negative Feelings
The freedom to express negative feelings and to identify with one another helps participants realize that they are not alone in their struggle with infertility. They can experience a sense of emotional relief from the support of others. Members who may already have a highly supportive network of family and friends can find that a group provides a place to continue to share feelings without overburdening loved ones.
By offering a safe place to express and explore the feelings generated by the infertility experience, support groups help participants move toward a positive resolution of this difficult life crisis.
Learning to Develop Effective Coping Skills
Support group participants learn to regain previous levels of coping or to develop more effective coping skills. Members find assistance in coming to terms with difficult emotions and stresses inherent in the infertility experience, such as the effects on one’s personal relationships, self-image, and sexuality. By sharing information and resources, learning how others’ have coped with similar problems, and witnessing the coping styles of others, members can improve their own problem-solving abilities.
Couples who are having difficulty communicating with each other about their infertility can gain a better understanding of their partners’ reactions to infertility and learn how to support each other during times of stress.
Group members benefit from enhanced self-esteem when they improve their coping abilities. A sense of emotional strength can return by one gains a sense of perspective and control during a difficult crisis such as the infertility experience. Emotional energy can be made available to address other life issues and challenges that may have been put on hold.
Group or individual? I think this depends on the individual or couple. Some people are uncomfortable in a group setting and need time to warm up to the idea of just sharing their story with a stranger. Or maybe they just have experienced a traumatic miscarriage and need individual time to process those feelings before entering a group setting. Those people should start with a therapist first. The group experience is very powerful and healing. It offers something individual work cannot. Most groups are only a 4-6 session commitment and individual work is done on a per session basis. Whatever you do definitely get support because infertility can be a lonely journey and it doesn’t have to be.
Please join us at our Orinda office Monday evening’s from 6:30PM-8:00PM. Please call Amoreena Berg @ 650-224-1796 to schedule your individual or group counseling services.