7 questions to ask your new therapist about working with infertility
Helping you get the mental health support you need
Infertility can have a huge impact on our lives, including and especially on our mental health. With all the challenges, stressors, grief and decisions that come with infertility, having mental health support is crucial for your well-being.
When it comes to mental health professionals, it’s not one-size-fits-all. Not only are there lots of different approaches to working with you that therapists can use, but there’s also the question of who you feel safe and comfortable with.
It can take some time to find the right therapist for you. Many therapists offer a free phone consultation when you can ask them questions. Others will have you do a trial session to see if it’s a good fit.
These questions can help you figure out what is most important to you when looking for a therapist to help with infertility, and which therapist is the right fit for you.
7 questions to ask a mental health professional
- What training and licenses do you have?
There are all kinds of mental health professionals out there, and the professional associations and licenses can vary state to state, and country to country. Ideally, a therapist will have a background in psychology, and will be licensed in a way that enforces a code of ethics they have to abide by.
There are people who offer mental health support specifically for infertility that don’t have this formal training - it’s up to you if you’re comfortable working with someone who might understand exactly what you’re going through, even if they’re not trained or licensed. Regardless, getting to know their background can help you get a feel for how they work.
- Do you have experience working with people going through infertility?
This might not be a requirement for you, but it can help to know if they have at least a baseline understanding of what people experiencing infertility go through. You probably already have to explain the ins and outs of treatment and your experience to the people in your life; it’d be nice to not have to cover the basics before you can dive into your emotional experience when talking with a therapist.
Infertility can already be an incredibly isolating experience, and feeling as though someone really understands what you’re going through can be a much-needed relief. You might want to find a therapist who you know will be able to meet you where you are when it comes to infertility.
- How would you approach working with my struggles with infertility?
Some mental health professionals take an action-oriented or goal-oriented approach. This is especially true for coaches, who tend to focus on the future and how you can meet your goals. Cognitive-behavioral therapists tend to work on treating challenges that you’re experiencing day-to-day, with activities and systems to support your work. Therapists who have a psychodynamic or relational approach are more likely to work with you on deeper emotional experiences, with a less structured approach, allowing for a more fluid process.
For many people, infertility is a traumatic experience. It can be considered complex trauma, as the crisis extends over a long period of time and can have many impacts. So, working with a trauma therapist can be especially helpful for people with infertility.
- How do you typically work with disenfranchised grief?
Going through infertility can involve feeling a lot of grief. There are so many losses you might experience, including pregnancy loss, the loss of a dream, the loss of the life you thought you’d live, and the loss of the person you once were. The grief surrounding these kinds of losses are sometimes called “disenfranchised grief,” referring to the fact that they’re often not considered losses in the traditional sense. People with infertility tend to have their grief invalidated and misunderstood by those around them.
It can be helpful to have support processing your grief with someone who can recognize these things as losses in need of grieving. Some mental health professionals might have techniques or ideas for working with grief that you really connect with, so it might be helpful to understand how they approach the subject.
- Do you collaborate with other therapists?
You might already have a therapist you’ve been working with, and are looking for an additional professional to help you with infertility. In that case, it could be helpful if the two therapists communicated about your case so they could better support you. This would be done with a consent form that you sign, giving permission for the two therapists to discuss your case with one another.
You also might want to work with a couples therapist, if you don’t already. That’s another case where your different therapists sharing notes and insights with each other could benefit you. This of course isn’t a requirement, but can be helpful to think about.
- Would you be able to follow certain steps with my clinic?
Some clinics require that you see a mental health professional before moving forward with a specific treatment, like using donated eggs, sperm or embryos. In that case, at some point you might need your therapist to sign a form, or follow a set of questions about your mental health, to meet your clinic’s requirements. It could be a good idea to ask your clinic what would be required so you can be more specific when you ask the therapist if they’re able to do what’s needed.
- Do you follow a certain format or timeline?
Some mental health professionals might have specific timelines or techniques that they work with. If they work with health insurance providers, they will usually need to file reports to the insurance company and follow certain protocols. For example, they might have to follow a 10-session plan, or the insurance company might require the therapist to diagnose you with a mental illness (like depression, anxiety or PTSD) in order for the therapist to work with you.
Even without insurance companies, some therapists prefer to follow a plan that might have limited sessions, or work with a goal-based system in which your time together concludes when you reach those goals. Since infertility can be a long journey with many ups and downs, you might want to understand what limitations there would be when working with a certain therapist.
Maya Maria Brown, M.A., is an infertility mental health expert. She has a master’s in Counseling Psychology, and has worked with individuals and couples on infertility and relationships. She also has personal experience with infertility and is currently in treatment.
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