Counselling psychology of infertility
The central theme of this thesis is infertility. It links different areas of my work as a chartered counselling psychologist working with clients experiencing difficulties conceiving. I currently work in private practice specialising in this area. Previously I worked as an NF counsellor at the Assisted Conception Unit of the Lister Hospital in London. Although the term `infertility' is commonly used, being `infertile' means a total absence of reproductive function and this condition is rare (HFEA, 1999). The majority of people presenting with difficulties in conceiving actually have `sub-fertility', where one or more parts of the reproductive system are impaired. Throughout this thesis the term `infertility' is used to refer to both infertility and sub-fertility. I initially became interested in the psychological impact of infertility when a number of close friends started having difficulties conceiving. I observed that whilst there was a wealth of medical support available, psychological and emotional support was somewhat lacking. This led me to reflect on the counselling psychology of infertility. After conducting a review of the infertility literature it became apparent that research contributions from counselling psychologists were somewhat scant. The main body of literature is comprised of contributions from nurses, medical practitioners, clinical psychologists and counsellors working in the field. Part of my motivation in undertaking this degree was to establish the role that counselling psychology can play in the field of infertility. Linked to this, was the motivation to make a difference and raise the profile of infertility within the field of counselling psychology. The thesis focuses on three different areas of infertility that are all linked to the practice of counselling psychology with this client group. Firstly there is an exploratory piece of research. It focuses on the psychological and emotional impact of the infertility experience and the role of counselling. Secondly there is a case study. This is reflexive exploration which focuses on some of the challenging issues that I encountered in my clinical work with an infertile female client. Finally there is critical review of the literature that explores infertility and counselling from a historical perspective. The review places infertility in a historical context so that the complex psychological aspects of the infertility experience today can be more fully understood and appreciated. An overview of each section is now provided.