OBJECTIVE: The internet has created many opportunities for emotional support for women undergoing fertility treatment. Since the rise in popularity of the internet for home use, fertility counselors have reported a diminished interest in professionally-led support groups. We have noticed this as well and we also offer a lay-led support group. This group is an internet-based, lay-led support group with associated in-person group meetings. The in-person group has been well attended since its inception and has continued to receive positive feedback from patients. We set out to better understand the popularity of the in-person group.
DESIGN: Retrospective analysis
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Since 2008, our lay-led group has been run by two women who are fertility clinic employees. They are not trained as mental health professionals. Both women engage with patients in group meetings three times monthly in the evenings and on the associated Facebook page.Current and former members were asked to complete an on-line anonymous survey. Of the 85 women who responded, 3 did not complete the survey. Between 6-14 people attend each in-person group.The survey included questions about participant demographics and different aspects of the in-person group meetings. The later used 4-point rating scales.
RESULTS: 82% of respondents said they are more comfortable attending the lay-led group than a traditional support group. 74% said they like having a place to go in the evenings and 82% said they like the free dinners provided at the group meetings. Although 44% of respondents said they believe, "there is a stigma associated with psychotherapy", 42% disclosed they are currently engaging in psychotherapy and 68% of respondents have engaged in psychotherapy in the past.The free, professionally-led support groups at the center typically have 0-2 participants. It is noteworthy that 64% of patients who participate in the Facebook page have also attended the in-person group. It is also interesting that 28% of respondents stated that the lay-led group is one of the reasons they chose our center over other clinics and 96% of patients surveyed said they would recommend the clinic to their friends.
CONCLUSIONS: The benefits of group support have been widely accepted within the field of reproductive medicine. However, most reproductive counselors have difficulty recruiting participants. Our lay-led group has been consistently attended for ten years and is valued by the members. We hypothesize that the more casual aspects of the lay-led group, with the absence of a mental health professional and free dinner may be more appealing to patients. Accessing support in their fertility journey may improve patient retention and reduce feelings of isolation as they move through fertility therapy. Moreover, some attendees stated that our lay-led group is one of the reasons they chose our program. Additional studies are needed to better understand the popularity of this lay-led support group.