If you’re looking for a counselor to help you cope with infertility, or your doctor requires it before certain treatments, you may be wondering how to find someone who will be right for the job. There are a number of reasons for seeking out a therapist, and some more than others require a counselor with specific expertise in infertility.
Here are some tips to help you find a counselor that is right for you.
Make Sure He or She Is LicensedThis may seem obvious, but there is a difference between a trained therapist and what’s known as an “infertility coach” or “infertility consultant.” If you’re coping with depression and anxiety, or your doctor requires that you see a therapist, you need someone who is a licensed mental health professional -- not an infertility coach or consultant.
You should look for someone with a graduate degree in an area of mental health, such as psychology or social work, and check that he or she is licensed to work in your state.
Check the ASRM DatabaseOne great place to find a therapist who is trained to work with infertility patients is the American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s Mental Health Professionals database. You can search by your city, state or the name of a therapist, if you know who you are looking for.
“These clinicians are involved with reproductive medicine and many attend continuing education offered by ASRM to stay current with the psychological and medical aspects of reproductive medicine,” says Penny Joss Fletcher, a mental health counselor who specializes in infertility and adoption issues.
Ask Your Doctor for RecommendationsEven if your doctor isn’t the one who asked you to see a counselor, your physician is still a good source for finding a local counselor who is familiar with infertility.
Make Sure the Counselor Is Educated in Infertility IssuesIf you’re seeing a counselor to help deal with the emotional aspects only, you may or may not need someone with special training in infertility counseling, though it can be helpful. However, if you need to see a counselor to help you navigate through your options, or your doctor requires you to see someone before a particular treatment, then you need someone with special training.
“If you are seeking assistance in knowing what your options are, you will want a therapist who can explain those options, but in a non-biased way. This is why finding a therapist who is knowledgeable about reproductive medicine can be so important,” explains Fletcher. “In these instances, the therapist may share more information in almost an educational manner. But then she or he will come back to helping you process the information provided so that you can make a decision as which treatment option feels right for you.”
Interview and Ask QuestionsBefore you hire a counselor, you should feel free to ask as many questions as you like about his or her services and experience. Most counselors offer a free first session just for this purpose. It’s important that the person you see is someone you feel comfortable with.
Questions you might considering asking include:
- What experience do you have with infertility, either personal or professional?
- Have you attended any special training for infertility? Are you familiar with the medical side of infertility?
- Do you have any clients who are dealing with infertility?
- Are you willing to write a report for my fertility doctor? (if applicable)
- How much do you charge? Do you accept my insurance plan?
- What is your availability?
- Do you think you can help me?
To learn more about interviewing a potential counselor, see this article from the About.com Guide to Depression:
If It’s Not Working, Find Someone Else
It’s also important to know that if the relationship with your chosen therapist isn’t working, you can call it quits and find someone new. You should talk to him or her about it first, if possible. But know that sometimes, it doesn’t work out.
I fired my first therapist when she made a comment about my miscarriages that I was uncomfortable with. My second therapist, though, has been of immense help, and I’m glad I made the switch.
Some final thoughts from Fletcher:
"The therapist should provide a safe environment for you to share your thoughts and feelings about your infertility journey so that you can understand why you feel that way, and how you want to move forward. A therapist is not going to make your decisions for you -- whether you should or shouldn't do IVF or use donor eggs or move on to adoption. The therapist's job is to help you clarify and express your needs, emotions and goals. You will want a therapist who you feel is not judging your decision but just helping you to make one."
More on infertility counseling: