Why Attend a Support Group?

As you are digesting the news that you are going to have to work with a Specialist and enter the journey of Infertility diagnosis and treatment, it will be helpful to know where you can go to get the "right" support. Since this is a personal and private process, most people choose to deal with their feelings on their own. As time progresses, most find that the journey becomes challenging due to the emotional, financial and physical/medical demands. ACRM offers this group free of charge to all patients no matter where you are in your journey. You can come one time, you can come alone or with your husband, partner. Your partner can come alone if you can’t make it. You can bring your mother. The possibilities are open… You do not have to make a reservation, just come! The only requirement is that you are on this journey of treatment and want support!

Let me tell you about the advantages of a support group.

According to Resolve, the National Organization for infertility support, one of the most important benefits of participating in a support group is the “decreased sense of isolation.” This is a true statement and this theme comes up in every support group experience that I have witnessed. Within the context of this safe and confidential environment, individuals and couples are able and willing to share their feelings of anger, depression, guilt and shame, anxiety and fear. These feelings cannot easily be shared in the outside world as many family members and friends do not have any idea of a clue about what this experience feels like. In a support group, participants are free to share what they are feeling with intensity, without being given the feedback and advice that usually falls short of the mark, may feel admonishing and corrective. These well-meaning, but off base remarks can contribute to the experience of the person’s sense of isolation and shame. Also, for those patients that do have supportive family and friends, they worry about “overburdening” their loved ones, especially if their journey is of long duration. The group offers a place to process for as long as is helpful.

In the group, we short circuit the viscous cycle of guilt, shame and blame. In the group, many people are surprised to learn that their resistance to be social, attend baby showers and be happy for friends and family that are announcing pregnancies are Normal. This sense of being understood can help members create a special bond and identity. By sharing feelings, accomplishments, losses, humor known only to those experiencing infertility treatment, members can develop strong emotional ties to one another. It is not uncommon to find individuals and couples exchanging phone numbers after a group session.

In the group we focus on the expression of authentic feelings. This may seem confusing to those outside of the rooms. We examine the stages of grief for the members: shock, disbelief, denial, bargaining, anger/rage, sadness/depression and acceptance. Patients can identify where they are in the process and understand better, why these feelings are happening. We cover the issue of being “triggered” and how this feels and put coping mechanisms in place. This understanding helps the healing process as you don’t get bogged down in shame and regrets if you have acted in an angry or frustrated way. This support and understanding can help the patient contain and not “leak out” at others including family, work colleagues and the staff.

We address the differences about how men and women deal with the feelings involved during this journey and normalize for each person how they are coping or not coping. We allow for these differences and help each person maximize how they are able to be helpful. It is OK not to be able to be supportive at a time your partner is hurting, as you may be overwhelmed yourself. Healthy, open and authentic communication is essential and we cover the best way to approach this. For example, we ask partners to place themselves on “advice-giving” restriction. We know partners want to "fix" the problem and since feelings can’t be “fixed”, partners are offered another way to be supportive. We give them sentences to try and this usually works much better. We normalize that this journey can temporarily create marital or relational problems and assure participants that they can reconnect in an even stronger way as they cope with this process as a strong and informed “team.”

We cover many coping skills that can be used at this time. We focus on soothing the decreased self-esteem and loss of control feelings and experiences and work towards an awareness of how they can be “in charge” during this time. New ideas of coping, assertiveness training skills and communication ideas are shared and improvements are made. Members share what they have tried and how they feel it has worked or not worked. The members also share about other life stresses that they are experiencing during this journey including work stress, financial problems, family of origin worries etc.

The group works whether you come alone, with your spouse/partner or even bring another support person such as a parent or close friend. The atmosphere is open and welcoming to all that are experiencing the stress involved in this journey. Feelings are encouraged and no one is made to feel “wrong”.

Please consider coming. ACRM’s weekly support group for patients meets every Wednesday from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in our Atlanta – Perimeter office. This experience can be helpful whether you attend once or ongoing. If you have questions please feel free to contact us at 678.841.1089.

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