Empathic Psychotherapy for Pregnancy Termination for Fetal Anomaly

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Abstract

Pregnancy termination for fetal anomaly is a unique reproductive loss with many issues distinct from spontaneous pregnancy loss, as typically addressed in the current literature. After providing a brief overview of this loss and the impact of stigma, some of the therapeutic tasks particular to this loss will be identified, including absorbing the impact of learning about the anomaly, defining what or who has been lost, deciding whether to continue or terminate the pregnancy, and deciding who to tell what. These therapeutic tasks are discussed using the available research literature, but primarily illustrated through clinical vignettes and therapist–client dialogue. Therapeutic empathy will be demonstrated as both an instrument of healing in itself, as well as a means of realizing other therapeutic goals and interventions such as empowerment, normalization, validation and processing grief and trauma, all crucial elements of doing therapy with this population. Contrasting perspectives of this loss in therapy and the role of the therapist are discussed.

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