What are Process Groups and how do they help during Infertility?

By Douglas Brown | 4 Minute Read

Experiencing infertility is overwhelming

Infertility at its best is isolating, and at its worst is traumatizing. It brings a range of unfamiliar emotions and experiences - from grief to anxiety to hopelessness, and everything in between.

Many who struggle to conceive hope to get through their season of infertility as quickly as possible, while avoiding lasting emotional harm. But navigating infertility is never a linear experience, and it’s rarely quick. Many couples may struggle to grow their family for years. The average person trying to conceive may be instructed to try for 6 months to a year before ever seeing a doctor [1], which often only begins the long journey of medical interventions and fertility treatments.

It may also be difficult to manage the new emotions that come with the infertility journey, and coping mechanisms may not work like they once did. Some take walks to stay grounded; others find comfort in calling their mom. But after struggling to get pregnant, that walk might not bring the same feeling of “groundedness.” That phone call with Mom might end in pain or annoyance, instead of comfort.

How then, can someone create the lasting mental endurance to make it through the overwhelming and often long-lasting challenges of infertility?

Enter Infertility Process Groups.

What are Infertility Process Groups?

Infertility Process Groups provide a safe and confidential environment for members to share their personal experiences and traumas, validate their emotions, and find deep, emotionally fulfilling connections. They are professionally facilitated toward relationship, community, and resilience. [2] They are a small microcosm of community created to make it through the difficult season of isolation and anxiety.

Think of a process group like an “emotional dojo” - a safe place to work out emotions and build up your mental health and resilience with others.

Importantly, process groups do differ from peer led support groups. A peer led support group can be an emotionally connected group. However, the structure of a support group is usually aimed at encouragement and motivation to “keep going,” whereas a process group aims at uncovering and processing deep feelings and emotions.

The Psychology behind Infertility Process Groups

When people gather together with others who have gone through infertility, there is a shared bond of grief. Each individual’s experience may differ, but they are all unified by the pain they have experienced. Psychologically, this is why process groups work: they create an open environment for connection free from stigma and judgment.

Process groups are a perfect fit for those suffering from infertility. In fact, 4 out of 5 people experiencing infertility report that they are interested in support! [3]

Process Groups help Build Resilience

The research points to the fact that mental health and resilience are deeply rooted in our ability to have healthy connections with people. John Bowlby, the great attachment psychologist, said,

“All of us…are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.” -Bowlby 1988

All throughout life, healthy connections help our emotional needs be met, and allow us an opportunity to be emotionally seen. Relationships are the foundation for resilience. We can keep going despite setbacks and adversity when we are seen and held by people who love us and care for us. Our connections matter!

Process Groups bring Real Change

Heartbreakingly, finding people to connect with during infertility is not easy - and this needs to change. Those struggling need an outlet to process the trauma, pain, and sadness that embody the experience. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of the widely popular book on trauma, The Body Keeps the Score, says,

“In order to overcome trauma people need to feel safe enough to open up their hearts and minds to others and become engaged with new possibilities. This can only be done if trauma survivors, and their communities, are helped to confront and confess the reality of what has happened and are helped to feel safe again.”

This is exactly the benefit of infertility process groups: they bring about real change through emotionally safe and caring community. When people can process what they’ve been through during infertility with people who “get it,” trauma begins to heal and the hope of resilience is found.

How to get involved in a Process Group for infertility

Getting involved with an Infertility Process Group is easy. Uniquely Knitted offers process groups specifically designed for resilience during infertility. Each group includes:

  • 6 weeks of processing feelings with the same group of safe people.
  • Weekly virtual meetings.
  • 4 hours of video content on building resilience during infertility.
  • A dedicated chat community where people discuss infertility and their feelings.

Remember that you’re not alone in your infertility experience, seeking support from others who understand your journey can provide comfort and encouragement during this insanely challenging time. 💙

See the Uniquely Knitted Groups

References:

[1] CDC: Reproductive Health

[2] Bedi, S. C., Ferrell, C., & Harris, J. Y. (2019). Experiences of adults participating in infertility support groups: a qualitative systematic review protocol. JBI database of systematic reviews and implementation reports, 17(8), 1552–1557.

[3] Grunberg, P. H., Dennis, C. L., Da Costa, D., & Zelkowitz, P. (2018). Infertility patients' need and preferences for online peer support. Reproductive biomedicine & society online, 6, 80–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rbms.2018.10.016