Fertility is a delicate issue for many couples. The struggle doesn’t end in the doctors office and can affect your relationships with your partner, family members, co-workers and friends. It’s often a long and difficult process but you don’t have to go at it alone. In this article, we will discuss what you can expect from fertility counseling, as well as how it could benefit your life.
What happens in therapy sessions for people struggling with fertility?
Therapy is a really good way to work through anxiety during the fertility treatment. In these sessions, you will often talk about what is on your mind. It will be a place where it’s safe to discuss the challenges with fertility and other thoughts that come up during this process.
Most of the research shows that those patients that include some form of counseling with a fertility informed counselor end up having better outcomes when it comes to IVF procedures. This is because you are able to learn coping tools and ways to re-frame or accept the circumstances you are facing.
A short look at different types of therapy — cognitive behavioral therapy & attachment based, emotionally focused therapy.
CBT is one of the most widely researched forms of counseling. All of us have automatic negative thought patterns. Our brain has an emotional software that can essentially be re-programmed over time. The idea is to challenge these automatic patterns and re-program them with a more positive one. It takes practice but for those going to infertility treatment need this kind of support.
Some common negative thought patterns for those going through fertility struggles fall into a few different buckets. Our counselors in Tampa, FL often hear a these 3 common themes:
- I’ll never be happy if I don’t have a baby.
- I’m being punished.
- My partner is going to leave me for a fertile partner
The idea is to challenge these thought patterns and re-frame and replace them with a more positive one. When you work with a mental health profession who is informed in fertility they will help you navigate and develop the tools and provide resources so this process becomes automatic.
So for example:
Negative thought pattern: I’m never going to have a baby Replace it with: I’m doing everything in my power on my fertility journey to have a baby.
Another approach the research (and our counselors in Tampa) find incredibly helpful during infertility counseling for those struggling with infertility is called Emotionally Focused Therapy.
The idea is that we help to strengthen the relationship and help the couple to develop a secure relationship with one another. The goal is to provide a space where you can speak freely and find more connection and understanding with what your partner is experiencing. The thing about infertility is that it really affects men and women differently but both partners are have emotions and struggling thought out the journey.
Once you feel safe and secure, Your fertility counselor will help to get to the vulnerable hard stuff. Then you can move onto problem solving.
When to seek help?
Most people going through reproductive struggles will benefit from going to talk to a therapist or counselor. Like anything in life, the sooner you get help the sooner you feel better. It’s easier to start the process with the right tools then to fight your way out of a hole later in the process.
If you find yourself feeling isolated, refusing visitors, crying all of the time, feel like you’re always grieving, and if you’re struggling to find happiness or joy with things that previously gave you happy feelings then it’s time to get some help.
Your mental health isn’t something that will often be brought up when you meet with a reproductive medicine doctor but it’s an essential part of the process. Going to so many doctors visits can feel really clinical and can really exacerbate an already stressful situation.
It’s also difficult when your friends and family might not understand the struggle you are going through. You can’t expect them to be able to provide the support you need.
Finding a mental health professional who is infertility informed is essential to learning skills, tools and strategies to help you have the most successful path towards parenthood.
How much therapy is needed to make a difference?
Going to a therapist once a week is a good starting point. But that alone is not enough. The other 6 days of week are opportunities to practice and work on the tools, skills, frameworks and processes you learned and spoke about during your weekly session. Having a team is essential but doing the work is also important to making real lasting change.
The research shows that an average of 10 sessions has been shown to reduce stress and improve outcomes when it comes to IVF procedures.
The process of picking a therapist.
Picking a a therapist who focuses on fertility counseling can be tough. So many therapists focus on different things and it’s hard to know where you should go.
You want to find someone who understand the infertility process enough to be mindful of the potential struggles you and your family are undergoing.
In the end, the research shows that the therapeutic relationship is more important than the specific skills of the counselor. That means you need to feel comfortable, heard and understood by the mental health professional you are working with.
The good news is that in if you’re looking for fertility counseling in Tampa, FL, Hanson Complete Wellness has a team of infertility informed counselors. Hanson Complete Wellness’s fertility counselors are sensitive about the emotional journey that comes with trying to conceive.
Should I go on my own or with a partner.
You can do therapy by yourself or with your partner. When you’re going through one of the hardest moments in your life it can help to have a little additional support with you. All couples have different struggles and are in different emotional places when it comes to fertility – so you have to meet your partner where they are at.
There’s always going to be struggles during the process including disagreements like going home for the holidays, going to triggering social events, spouses avoiding each other, resentment, grief, sadness, male factor infertility, differences in how much members of a couple want to discuss fertility, and more.
Just remember that you are handling things the right way for you and your partner is handling things the right way for them.
They might not be comfortable with going to therapy, while you are. Your example and the successes you have might inspire them to come along at a later time.
There’s no right or wrong here but most couples would benefit from coming to fertility counseling together.
The Next Step
This article has covered the many ways fertility counseling can help a couple through their struggles. The benefits of therapy for couples struggling with infertility are wide-ranging and varied, from improving communication skills to better understanding what each person needs in order to heal individually or as a couple. Therapy is not always easy but like most things, making a change takes work.
The next step is for you and your partner to make an appointment with one of our counselors. Call us at 813-534-0311 or click the button below and we’ll reach out toy you.