Objective: To assess the efficacy of brief couples support groups offered concurrently with in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.
Patients and methods: Couples in IVF treatment were given the option of participating in a biweekly support group at the IVF clinic at Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, Tex. At least 1 member of 26 couples participated in the brief couples support groups, and at least 1 member of 19 other couples completed the questionnaires but did not attend the support group sessions and so comprised the control group. Facilitators used cognitive behavioral techniques to help participants process their feelings and cognitions about their infertility. Emotional and cognitive factors were assessed both before and after group attendance by using the Beck Depression Inventory; the Beck Anxiety Inventory; the Life Orientation Test, which assesses optimism and pessimism; the Survey of Personal Views, which measures irrational beliefs; and the Social Provisions Scale, which measures social support.
Results: Women who attended group sessions were significantly less anxious after the IVF treatment than they were before the cycle (P < .001). Men who attended the group sessions were more optimistic than nongroup men or the women at the completion of the IVF cycle (P < .001) but endorsed greater numbers of irrational beliefs (P < .001).
Conclusions: Despite the fact that the service was relatively inexpensive compared with IVF in the civilian community, the complexity of IVF treatment and the logistic and psychological stress experienced by couples made it hard to form and maintain such groups. Nevertheless, both men and women derived psychological benefit from the group: women reported less anxiety and men greater optimism on completion of the group sessions.