Psychological Surrogacy Evaluations During Covid-19
Joey Guzman-Kuffel, Founder of Counseling with Joey, can be considered a "unicorn."
He is not only an experienced Marriage & Family Therapist--he is also an experienced same sex Intended Parent. Joey has combined these two unique experiences to help assist others in their own journeys to start a family.
His commitment to his clients has led to forming great relationships with surrogates that allows him to intimately understand the inner workings of surrogacy. When you engage with Joey, he is not only your mental health advisor, he also takes the extra effort to provide helpful resources to guide you.
Joey was kind enough to spend time with SurrogateFirst in sharing the key factors to understanding psychological surrogacy evaluations for third party reproductive care, and how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted his interview process. We found his answers extremely insightful and encourage you to contact Joey directly to learn more.
Q: Has coronavirus impacted how you conduct psych evaluations for potential surrogates?
Yes, considering the broad impact the coronavirus has had on our nation and globally I have added a series of questions during the interview that cover Covid-19. My objective is to find out what patients know about the pandemic and how it impacts their lives directly and indirectly. I help them to navigate potential scenarios and weigh the risks coronavirus may have on their journey.
Surrogacy is a long journey already and with coronavirus it adds another layer of consideration that surrogates will need to adhere to such as doing their part to keep safe social distancing, taking additional precautions to be safe for the duration of the entire process starting from the day of the match. The goal is to discover if coronavirus will impact the surrogate’s ability to be good a candidate and to help them understand the risks involved.
Q: Any trends that you see during the past 3 months since "shelter in place" has been implemented?
Overall, we see fewer matches between surrogates and intended parents, however, we also see applications to our partner agencies have increased, possibly due to the increased free time many people are experiencing. It seems that with the current environment people have more time to consider their futures, what opportunities they have and the ability to do more research. Even in these uncertain times I think people's base motivation and interests in pursuing or being a surrogate have not changed and it's just matter of time before we see an increase in successful matches.
Q: What key factors do you evaluate to determine who is a "qualified" candidate for surrogacy?
- In any important life event having emotional-stability and support in one's immediate family system is key. It is crucial that the individuals in your family system are part of the decision-making process and that they have the ability to express their thoughts and concerns as they, too, will be going on the journey with you. Beyond this immediate circle it is also important to have a broader support system that includes your agency, doctors, friends, relatives, colleagues, and employers because you will need them along the way.
Here is one resource, xyandme.com XY and Me, that helps parents engage with their children regarding a future surrogacy journey. Transparency is very important and I suggest to include them in the process of making your decision, as they will be impacted. This resource is great since it helps explain IVF and the surrogacy process in an age appropriate manner.
- Self-Care is something that is often overlooked since surrogates are usually altruistic in nature and used to thinking of others first. However, it is vital to know how and when to self-care. Key questions to consider are: How do you handle stress? What are your coping skills and how do you manage them effectively? Having h2 communication skills and experience interacting with people intimately is equally important because in a sense the surrogate will be merging with another family (intended parent family) and that can have an impact on the surrogate and her family too.
Each individual needs a way of providing self-care, so I recommend surrogates join well established social media support groups to connect with other surrogates. Surrogacy is a unique experience and surrogates may feel alone in their journey if they don't know anyone in a similar situation to speak to for advice or just to share. In these support groups surrogates quickly realize many people are in the same situation as them and it allows them the opportunity to build community, connect, and get useful knowledge. Many surrogates have come back to me sharing that these support groups have been very helpful.
Q: What are common areas of concern during psychological evaluation for surrogates?
To qualify as a surrogate they must have previously given birth, so they are familiar with the pregnancy process, being pregnant and ultimately experiencing the joy of bringing a baby home. Therefore, confirming someone's emotional stability going into the surrogacy journey knowing in the end they're not coming home with a baby is of utmost importance. Understanding emotionally that a surrogate can foresee letting go without attachment to the child is important for everyone involved especially for the surrogate. It is natural to feel nostalgia or even sadness, but if greater than just that it is important to speak with a counselor to understand more about those emotions.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, stability in community is key and being comfortable with your role as a surrogate is part of that stability. What surrogates chose to do is their personal choice and deserves privacy, therefore it is important to set some boundaries around with whom the surrogate will share the details of her journey. Often, I see surrogates become a champion of surrogacy by educating others resulting in great conversations that normalize the topic and extinguish stereotypes. If your support network is not so supportive and you feel any pressure to hide or diminish your role as a surrogate it would be important to address this potential issue.
Q: What's your "Why?"
As an Intended Father myself, going through a psych evaluation a couple of years ago, I found the process to be clinical. The process lacked the necessary elements to build awareness and didn't address specific concerns that same sex couples may face and need to consider. As a mental health professional, myself, I became highly motivated to provide a better experience to all parties involved - egg donors, potential surrogates and Intended Parents alike - with increased awareness for a better healthier journey. My genuine empathy and understanding of the journey allow others to be vulnerable and more open, which ultimately provides authentic responses to see if surrogacy is right for my clients. I love to learn, so I always seek feedback to continuously improve my interview process.
Thank you, Joey, for taking the time to share your knowledge and insights during this time of great change and many unknowns. Your sharing has provided a better understanding how surrogacy is managing and addressing the changes that coronavirus has brought to evaluating surrogates to ensure the best journey and outcomes for all involved.
Joey Guzman-Kuffel, M.A., LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist LIC. #LMFT116756
Counseling with Joey
4565 Ruffner Street, Ste. 110
San Diego, CA 92111