What is psychoeducational counseling, and is it required?

June 29, 2023

Embryo donation or receipt is a complex decision that involves emotional, psychological, and ethical considerations for everyone involved. Embryo donation psychoeducation with a trained third-party reproductive mental health provider aims to address these various aspects and provide information, guidance, emotional support and resources to help individuals or couples navigate the unique challenges associated with embryo donation.

Specific topics covered in the session may vary depending on the provider and the individual circumstances of the participants. In all cases, the goal is to provide comprehensive support, education, and guidance throughout the embryo donation journey to support the well-being and emotional health of all parties involved.

Topics often covered in embryo donation psychoeducation:

  1. Psychological, social, and familial implications: You’ll explore the potential impact of embryo donation on you, as well as relationships with your family, friends, and society.
  2. Grief and loss discussion: Embryo donation involves the loss of a genetic connection between the intended parents and the child, and the loss of parental connection for the donors. You’ll explore potential feelings of grief and loss, and strategies for coping and finding emotional resolution.
  3. Psychological impacts of a recipient’s treatment success or failure: You’ll discuss managing expectations, handling the emotional rollercoaster of the process, and dealing with potential disappointments.
  4. Considerations in choosing the embryo donor/recipient: You’ll discuss considerations around compatibility, interaction, and potential challenges in determining the right match between the donors and recipients.
  5. Disclosure to offspring of the embryo donation and the existence of genetically linked others: You’ll discuss the if/how/when of disclosing the child’s origin story to the child, along with the potential implications and strategies for managing these discussions. You’ll also discuss genetically linked siblings or half-siblings, and thoughts/plans about facilitating an introduction.
  6. Disclosure to extended family of the embryo donation: You’ll explore the considerations in disclosing embryo donation to extended family members, including fears, managing reactions, and navigating any potential conflicts or concerns.
  7. Relationship expectations among all parties: You’ll think through establishing realistic expectations and boundaries among the intended parent, future offspring, embryo donor, donor’s offspring (if any), and potentially other recipients or donors involved in the process. You’ll covers communication strategies, potential challenges, and maintaining healthy relationships.
  8. Disposition of remaining embryos when the recipient’s family building is complete: What happens to remaining embryos after the recipient’s family building goals have been achieved? You’ll explore options such as donor redonation, recipient redonation, donation for research, or other choices.

Is this Psychoeducation or Screening?

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) guidance suggests that psychological assessment instruments, such as the Psychological Assessment Inventory (PAI) and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), are not recommended for use in the context of embryo donation. Instead, mental health providers may employ individualized counseling approaches to explore and address specific needs and relevant topics for the individuals or couples involved in the process.