Understanding the Psychological Evaluation: What to Anticipate in the Initial Stages of Your Surrogacy Journey
The decision to become a Surrogate requires a crucial step that is often shrouded in mystery and anxiety: the psychological evaluation.
Even though the term may evoke feelings of trepidation, the psychological evaluation is an indispensable part of the surrogacy process. The assessment, typically lasting about two hours, involves a personalized questionnaire administered and assessed by a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) experienced in surrogacy dynamics.
It is vital for those who have chosen the path of becoming a Surrogate to understand what to expect from this mental assessment. Beyond mere scrutiny, the psychological evaluation serves as a means to ensure the well-being and suitability of the Surrogate candidate.
In this article, we will unravel the layers of the psychological evaluation, shedding light on its purpose, process, and outcomes. Our team at NewGen Families hopes to show you why the psychological evaluation need not be scary; rather, it is an empowering first step in your journey to become a Surrogate.
Why do you need a psychological evaluation to become a Surrogate?
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clark S. Marshall, has created a profound impact on the surrogacy industry today. Due to his sincere and empathetic discernment, he has found success working with women who want to become Surrogates and/ or want to be Egg Donors.
“I really enjoy the work. I feel that my job is to help these women, or these intended parents, be well-prepared and well-informed about what they are about to do. Surrogacy is not always lovely, easy, beautiful, and seamless. There can be a lot of complications, medically, emotionally, logistically and legally. I need to make sure that these women are well prepared for that, but I feel that I can do it in a way that they can feel safe and not overwhelmed and they can take on these challenges.”
Clark discovered a niche in his chosen area of psychology whereby he could help dispel the fear that Surrogates typically face in a psychological evaluation:
“When I first started considering doing this for work, I was reading these blogs, Facebook, and social media posts. I was reading about how the Surrogates were so damaged and traumatized by their psychological evaluation. It just broke my heart because I thought who on earth is out there scaring these women as a mental health approach to an assessment?”
“The primary objective of all therapists everywhere is to Do No Harm. That is the number one Standard of Care for all therapists and to hear that Surrogate candidates have left these assessments in tears, feeling judged or criticized. That’s really what motivated me. I thought I could do this work differently and I feel like it’s working.”
What to expect from your LMFT during the mental assessment?
As evidenced when Surrogates provide feedback upon completion of their psychological evaluation, it is abundantly clear that his method does indeed work. Clark is able to immediately dispel any fear resulting in Surrogates, as they discover that their preconceived apprehension was unfounded. Instead, Surrogate candidates encounter an LMFT who ensures them that they are truly supported:
“What to expect in the psychological evaluation is to know that we are curious about them. We are not being judgmental; we are coming from an empathetic or concerned space. Will you be well supported throughout the surrogacy process by friends and family? Are you going to be able to emotionally survive a miscarriage at 21 weeks? What’s that going to be like for you? What’s it going to be like once you start showing yet you know that the baby is not viable and your appointment for the DNC is not until next Thursday?”
“So, there is a series of topics that are very important for us to talk about, and I feel it’s important for Surrogates to know that I am on their side. I am not actively looking for things to disqualify them from becoming a Surrogate. I feel like the better I get to know them, the better I can support them. I approach it as if they are good to go unless they prove to me that they are not.”
“Perhaps, they’re in between houses, in the middle of a divorce, they struggle to keep a job, they’re miles and miles away from their closest friend or family member. These are all the types of issues that may come up and may lead to the decision that a Surrogate candidate may need to wait a year or two before becoming a Surrogate.”
Once this session is completed, the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist makes a recommendation to the agency about whether the Surrogate is a good candidate, whether she should wait a year or two, or whether she is not a good candidate for surrogacy based on some concerns that may arise in the interview.
Qualities of a strong candidate for Surrogacy
Fostering candid and sincere connections with agencies is crucial for the LFMT to establish an authentic rapport with Surrogate candidates. Taking this into consideration, Clark prefers the agencies that are “deeply involved in the Surrogate’s wellbeing”, appreciating the agencies that value their Surrogate’s mental health:
“I feel that I perform one very specific and very important piece of this enormous puzzle. I can tell when a Surrogate is well supported by their agency because they are not nervous when they come to me.”
“When an agency just plucks a Surrogate candidate off the internet and sends them directly to me, their questions are very different. I’m expected to answer all the logistics, such as ‘when do I have to take injections?’ and ‘when do I get my first paycheck?’ Those are not questions for a therapist. These questions tell me that this agency has not well supported this woman. This agency has not prepped their Surrogates for what to expect.”
It is extremely important that the agency prepares Surrogates, making sure they know what to expect from the psychological evaluation. Clark is not shy to convey to agencies that a psychological evaluation is very much like a job interview:
“You need to show up on time, you need to confirm your appointment, you need to read all the instructions that are sent to you. Again, I used to do these in person but now everything is online, so I send Surrogates information in advance. How to log in to the video portal? How to confirm your appointment? How to sign all the electronic consent forms? My evaluation starts from the minute I call or text these potential Surrogates.”
How quickly do they respond? Do they need to change their appointments at the last minute? How complex are their lives? How readily available do they show up to an assessment? Many times, they need their partners to be available. Their partners need to sit there with them and answer questions be engaged and be supportive. It’s also challenging for some women who have young children. Who is going to watch the children while they are having this interview? How supportive is their family when they are doing this? Did grandma agree to watch their kids so they could do this interview? Did a neighbor agree to help? How do they follow the instructions? Did their sister agree to help?”
Clark points out that while none of that makes a Surrogate ineligible, whether they have childcare available or not, it’s the way in which they deal with our appointment. If scheduling an appointment is difficult, then how are you going to fly across the country for four days for transfer? What will happen if you are going to have to be on bed rest? Before their mental assessment, Clark already had a pretty good idea of their support system.”
Agency support throughout the surrogacy process
Research demonstrates the significant influence stress can have on a woman’s reproductive journey, affecting both conception and the stability of pregnancy (Obstet Med, 2013).
Consequently, agencies should emphasize the mental well-being of Surrogates from the outset, starting with the psychological evaluation, and extending it throughout the entire pregnancy.
At NewGen Families, we take pride in our innovative approach to support. Surrogates are invited to become part of our Virtual Community, providing them with the opportunity to connect with fellow Surrogates and receive ongoing support from our dedicated team.
- Empathy Over Intimidation: Clark S. Marshall, our dedicated Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, places a premium on understanding and bolstering Surrogates rather than instilling fear during the psychological evaluation.
- Curiosity and Empathy: The psychological evaluation focuses on curiosity and empathy. Rather than ‘disqualifying’ Surrogates, our team prioritizes supporting Surrogates throughout the surrogacy process.
- Agency Support: Agencies play a crucial role in supporting Surrogates. Accordingly, their assistance should go beyond logistics to encompass emotional well-being. Our agency’s innovative Virtual Community fosters connections among Surrogates, providing continuous support throughout the entire surrogacy journey.
- Mental Well-being Matters: Recognizing the impact of stress on Surrogates, the best agencies stress the importance of prioritizing mental well-being from the very beginning.
As we have demonstrated above, the psychological evaluation should not be seen as a source of fear for Surrogate candidates. Instead, it is a pivotal first step toward becoming a Surrogate and marks an exciting entry to a new journey. At NewGen Families, surrogacy journeys are guided by empowerment and our team is here to make sure it is as positive as possible.
If you are interested in becoming a Surrogate, take our quick quiz to see if you pre-qualify!