Medical family therapy and infertility: Referral practices of infertility physicians and their views on the biopsychosocial impact of infertility
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This study explored the referral practices of infertility physicians to mental health professionals, in general, and to medical family therapists, in particular, and their views on the advantages and disadvantages of working closely with a medical family therapist for themselves as physicians and for their patients. This study also explored the views of infertility physicians on the non-medical issues that their patients experience while receiving infertility treatment, including emotional, relationship, ethical/religious, and cultural issues, as well as gender differences in the way patients cope with these problems. The goal of this study was to help medical family therapists establish closer referral relationships with infertility physicians and better serve clients who are experiencing infertility. A link to the online instrument which was used to gather information for this study was e-mailed to infertility physicians in the State of Texas. Also, a letter containing information about the study, participation criteria, potential risks, and the link to the online survey was sent to infertility physicians across the United States. Responses to closed ended questions were used to calculate descriptive information about the participants’ referral patterns to mental health providers and their familiarity with the field of medical family therapy. Open-ended questions were used to explore the physicians’ views on the advantages and disadvantages of working with medical family therapists as well as their perspective on the emotional, psychological, relational, ethical, and cultural problems that their patients experience as the result of receiving infertility treatment, as well as gender differences. Participants’ responses to the open-ended questions were used to identify clusters of meanings (themes). Three main themes were identified: Referral to MedFTs, Non-Medical Issues, and Physicians’ Unfamiliarity with MedFT. The results of this study were used to develop recommendations for future research and implications for mental health professionals, including medical family therapists, who wish to collaborate with infertility physicians.