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Addressing Infertility Through Family Therapy: An Emotionally-Focused Family Therapy Approach


Infertility remains one of the most salient forms of reproductive trauma that individuals experience. Indeed, infertility engenders feelings of shame and social isolation. However, infertility sufferers do not experience infertility as a one-time traumatic event; rather, implications exist for family members of those who are directly experiencing infertility, especially parents of adult children. Thus, infertility affects family social support for this critical population through disenfranchised grief. Clinically, we have found that family therapy remains a powerful experience for both individuals who are experiencing infertility, as well as their family circles. Indeed, infertility engenders egregious stress on families, not just individuals and couples. To our knowledge, no family therapy interventions have addressed this area of family stress within the academic literature. We propose that Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) is an excellent theoretical fit for treating families experiencing infertility. Within this article, we will outline a review of how infertility not only impacts individuals and couples, but also families, and how family therapy provides a salient form of healing for all involved. We will also address how specific EFFT interventions may be applied to treating families navigating infertility through our three-stage family therapy process. For families who may be reluctant to attend multiple sessions, we also propose a brief EFFT psychoeducational coaching model which still addresses concerns specifically experienced by families navigating infertility. Proposed EFFT interventions will be applied to our case example, along with clinical implications. Directions for future research are addressed.

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We did not analyze or generate any datasets, because our work proceeds within a theoretical and clinical approach.


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Correspondence to Clayton A. Brigance.

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We have no competing or financial interests to disclose for this article. No funds, grants or other support was received, We have no known conflict of interest to disclose.

Research Involving Human or Animals Participants

This research is theoretical in nature and did not involve human participants and/or animals. This research did not require IRB approval due to the nature of the article.

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Since no formal data were collected for this article, no IRB informed consent was collected. However, the family within the case scenario gave consent for their case to be used for this article. Their names, age, and background were altered to protect their identity and maintain confidentiality.

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Brigance, C.A., Cottone, R.R. Addressing Infertility Through Family Therapy: An Emotionally-Focused Family Therapy Approach. Contemp Fam Ther (2022).

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  • Infertility
  • Disenfranchised Grief
  • Family Therapy
  • Emotion-Focused Family Therapy