Evolution of psychology and counseling in infertility

Key paradigm shifts in the evolution of psychology and counseling are discussed.

Jacky Boivin, Ph.D., Sofia Gameiro, Ph.D.

Volume 104, Issue 2, Pages 251-259


Five key paradigm shifts are described to illustrate the evolution of psychology and counseling in infertility. The first paradigm shift was in the 1930s when psychosomatic concepts were introduced in obstetrics and gynecology as causal factors to explain why some couples could not conceive despite the absence of organic pathology. In the second shift, the nurse advocacy movement of the 1970s stimulated the investigation of the psychosocial consequences of infertility and promoted counseling to help couples grieve childlessness when medical treatments often could not help them conceive. The third shift occurred with the advent of IVF, which created a demand for mental health professionals in fertility clinics. Mental health professionals assessed the ability of couples to withstand the demands of this new high technology treatment as well as their suitability as potential parents. The fourth shift, in the 1990s, saw reproductive medicine embrace the principles of evidence-based medicine, which introduced a much more rigorous approach to medical practice (effectiveness and safety) that extended to psychosocial interventions. The most recent paradigm shift, in the new millennium, occurred with the realization that compliance with protracted fertility treatment depended on the adoption of an integrated approach to fertility care. An integrated approach could reduce treatment burden arising from multiple sources (i.e., patient, clinic, and treatment). This review describes these paradigm shifts and reflects on future clinical and research directions for mental health professionals.

Translate »