Infertility is a painful experience for couples that are trying to fall pregnant and is often not freely spoken about due to the shame that people feel.
Beverley is passionate about helping couples who are experiencing some sort of infertility. She helps couples build resilience and start to feel hope for their future.
Here’s what she had to say to us recently about her work in this area.
Tell us about your practice – where it is, who you work with and the services you offer
My practice is in an office building in Bondi Junction with a view of the harbour bridge and opera house. It is a suite of rooms with one other practitioner.
How did you become interested in working with couples experiencing infertility issues?
I am trained and experienced as a couples counsellor and spent a few years working at Relationships Australia. I then got offered a job at a fertility clinic. I started seeing couples who were experiencing difficulties with communication and sexual issues as a result of trauma of being diagnosed with infertility.
What are the main psychological issues that contribute to infertility?
Most patients being diagnosed with infertility might experience periods of feeling down or worried. Infertility is a crisis and classified as akin to divorce as one of life’s major stressors. Females tend to worry that there is something wrong with their body. There is often guilt that they did something to cause the infertility.
For men it is a more silent experience of shame and anger. Couples sometimes will isolate themselves socially from family and friends because it is embarrassing and painful for them to see and hear that others tend to fall pregnant at will.
What do you believe is the connection between infertility issues and mental health?
Infertility is a very painful experience for individuals and couples and sometimes might trigger or exacerbate an underlying mental health issue. Men and women might show symptoms of depression and become anxious. Patients can feel like their brain is in a fog and they cannot concentrate. They might find it difficult to find pleasure in activities they used to find enjoyable.
Fertility treatment inhibits their social activities, they cannot drink alcohol or coffee. Excessive exercise is not allowed. They might be told to only have sex at a certain time.
Infertility is connected to mental health in terms of resilience. Some patients naturally revert to feelings of despair and catastrophic thoughts and feelings of despair which can cause sleeplessness and exhaustion
Tell us about your approach and why you believe the way you work is effective in helping women and couples overcome infertility issues
My approach is to give patients hope and give them emotional resilience. I encourage them to hang in and to treat this experience as a journey with curves, potholes, and bumps and crossroads with decisions to be made. We discuss how they might increase their self care and what they can do to feel better and to carry on with life during treatment.
I encourage finding one person in family or friends that they might be able to confide in and have as a support person. I use an empathetic approach. People will discuss the fact that they feel like they should be coping better so we normalise this but validate the experience for them.
Tell us what a client can expect to experience in an initial counselling session with you
In the first session I will take a history of their family circumstances and who they have in terms of support. I am particularly interested in how they have coped with adverse situations in the past. I assess what their objectives are in coming to counselling.
We set goals of what they might achieve and take away with them. I usually give them coping strategies that are focused on the here and now in terms of their situation.
On a personal note, tell us something that you’re passionate about or love to do in your spare time
In my spare time I am passionate about spending time with my family and friends. I particularly like to exercise in nature. I love travelling, movies and reading.
If you are struggling with infertility issues and would like to contact Beverley or make an appointment, please visit her Australia Counselling profile.