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37 West 17th Street, Suite 300
New York, NY 10011
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Support Matters: A Q&A with group leader Nell Shanahan LCSW

Here at the Yinova Center, one of our most valued adjunctive services for fertility patients is our long-running fertility support group, led by facilitator Nell Shanahan, LCSW. Before joining Nell’s group, some future participants have questions on what the group means and how it is structured. With another group starting in September, we decided to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the Monday support group here at the Yinova Center. 

The group has been ongoing for several cycles now, can you tell us how is the group structured?

The group meets every Monday evening from 6:30-8PM for a six-week cycle. It is designed as a closed group which means that once the cycle starts, we wait until the end of the six weeks before opening the group to new members. This is important because it maximizes group cohesion and trust among members. 
What exactly do you talk about each week? 
Members talk about everything. Loss is a major topic, specifically, loss of the expectation of how life would look right now and how becoming a parent would play out. Usually, when people imagine being parents, they don’t imagine struggling to become pregnant. It is often very unexpected. We talk about this, along with coping mechanisms for how to move past those feelings of loss. Members try to find ways that help them grieve and move forward. Beyond that, relationships with spouses, partners, family members, friends, etc. are discussed and the impact this struggle has had on those relationships. Group themes range from talking about work to miscarriage and more. Discussions have also at times focused on alternative means of becoming a parent (surrogacy, adoption, egg donor, etc.). Many members often share resources around this subject as well.  
Is the group solely focused on infertility? If I am struggling with miscarriage, would this group be right for me?
Yes, absolutely. Miscarriage is a topic that comes up frequently, depending on the people in the group. Eventually, we’d like to launch a group focused on pregnancy loss and coping with the grief related to that loss. But again, it is a topic that comes up often in this group. The group is generally referred to as a women’s group more than an infertility group. I do this because it is important for all of the women to feel as though they can bring anything into the room because the longing to be a parent is something that affects all areas of life, and all of those areas are open for discussion.  
I’m already regularly seeing a therapist. In what ways is a support group setting different? 
Individual therapy is very important, but a support group is very different. In a support group model, you are talking to other women experiencing very similar feelings of longing to be a parent and facing an impasse to becoming one. It is the group from which the members receive support. Not the clinician. I facilitate the group members’ discussion, but I do not lead it nor do I carry out group therapy. 
I’m a fairly private person. Do I have to share, or can I just listen?
Yes. It is important that group members are willing to respond and support each other, but that does not mean that every group member has to disclose or talk about themselves each week. Often times, members need some weeks to just listen rather than reveal, and that is absolutely ok. 
What is the cost and how do I sign up?
The fee for the group is $180 for the full six weeks. You can sign up by emailing the front desk: appointments@yinovacenter.com or me directly: nshanahan@yinovacenter.com. 
Can I come for a session to try it out first?
Yes. We always want people to feel as though they can come to the first group before committing to the whole six weeks. This way you have an opportunity to get a sense of the group dynamics, what we discuss, and how it is structured. Generally speaking, I also like to touch base with all new members over the phone before the first session to get a better sense of where you are and if I feel the group will be helpful. 

The next installment of the support group will meet beginning Monday September 9 at the Yinova Center in downtown Manhattan at 6:30 PM. For more information, call us at 212-533-2255 or e-mail appointments@yinovacenter.com.

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