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Talking with an Infertility Counselor
a blog by Ellen Glazer, September 2, 2010
“I’ve never been in therapy before — I don’t know what to expect.“
I hear this fairly often from people who come to me for the first time, and my response is usually the same. Although there are some people who have complex and longstanding problems that extend far beyond their infertility, most of the people I see for infertility counseling are not looking for a therapist. What they want — I think — is someone who can help them feel less isolated, more “in control” and who can assist them in coping with challenges ranging from a younger sister’s pregnancy to how to deal with intrusive questions. I see myself more as a counselor/consultant/coach than a “therapist.”
What Can You Expect?
On the first day of social work school, now nearly four decades ago, the professors told us: “Start where the client is — this is what every social worker needs to know.”
I think that this advice is especially appropriate with people going through infertility. Some come to my office with a particular dilemma — “all my friends are pregnant” or “my husband doesn’t want me to tell anyone what we are going through.” When this happens, that is where we begin. We explore the problem at hand and try to arrive at a “solution.”
More often than not, however, there is not one “problem;” instead there are the bigger, broader challenges of going through infertility. With these clients, I see myself as their traveling companion, someone who can help them navigate the unfamiliar and often bewildering landscape of infertility.
How Often Do You Meet?
Just as I don’t see myself as a “therapist,” I don’t anticipate that most of my clients will be coming in weekly or even every second week.
“Starting where they are,” we determine together what would be helpful. Usually this is something that we figure out as we go along. In the beginning it is often nice to meet a few times, to get to know each other, to establish a relationship and some continuity. After that, it can be on an “as needed basis.” “As needed” with infertility can turn into every three to five weeks over several months — or longer. And there are people that come only once or twice and seem to get what they need.
Can My Husband Come Sometimes?”
Yes! With infertility, I don’t draw a line between “individual” and “couple’s” meetings. Unless the couple is experiencing significant conflict between them and would truly benefit from couples’ therapy, we can “mix and match.” My experience has been that women usually have more they feel they want and need to talk about during infertility, but they want very much for their husbands to be interested, up-to-date on what is happening and involved.
I think that anyone going through infertility needs to identify the people who are best suited to assist them in their journey. An infertility counselor can be one of those people. Not the only one, but often a helpful companion.