Group Therapy as a Social Response to Infertility: Participant Perspectives (A Case Study)
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Given the prevalence of depressive symptoms in women who experience infertility, and the high numbers of Canadian couples likely to be diagnosed with infertility, this case study seeks to elucidate participant perspectives of couples who attended group therapy with regards to whether participation reduced suffering, especially what may have been termed “depression” or “depressive symptoms.” An adaptation of a Response-based Contextual Analysis research framework was used to explore one couple’s experience of infertility: the couple’s context, their experience of the infertility, the social responses the couple received (including that of group therapy), and their agentive responses to each of these. The couple perceived the following as beneficial factors present in counsellor-led group therapy: the normalizing and contextualizing of the experience of infertility, observing resilience in others, the opportunity to engage in perspective-taking, and the instituting of boundaries and safety measures. In addition to the above, the following were seen as beneficial factors present in the peer-led support group: the convenience of determining meeting times/places, the intimacy afforded by a smaller group, the immediacy of being able to contact group members between meetings, and advantages of peer leadership. Attending counsellor-led group therapy helped “to some degree” with the “challenge” and “depression” associated with the infertility but overall the couple preferred the convenience, intimacy, and immediacy factors offered by the peer-led support group. From a counselling perspective, remaining aware of factors cited as important by participants will assist therapists in providing meaningful support that is responsive to the needs of couples, and effective in terms of reducing distress associated with infertility. Group therapy offers an opportunity for counsellors to facilitate positive social responses reducing feelings of social isolation, marginalization, and exclusion, thereby mitigating the often-negative social responses many couples receive.