What to Expect from a Psychological Evaluation:
You may be asked to meet with a psychologist for a “psychological evaluation”. A psychologist is different from a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist has a medical degree (M.D.), and they primarily prescribe medication, although some also conduct psychotherapy. A psychologist has a doctorate in psychology (a Ph.D. or Psy.D.), and they provide evaluations and conduct psychotherapy.
If you are interested in serving as an egg donor or traditional surrogate, the aim of the psychologist is twofold. The psychologist would like to gather as much information as possible so the recipient couple is prepared. For example, should there be a family history for learning disabilities, the recipient couple can learn about possible warning signs. Consequently, should their child develop academic difficulties, the recipient couple could then proceed with appropriate treatment. It is important to remember that psychologists know there is no perfect person and that it is extremely rare for a person to have a family history devoid of any psychological problems. The psychologist is trained to remain neutral, and is interested in providing acceptance and support. A well-seasoned psychologist knows it is more credible if a person has had a bump or two along the road and/or if a donor/surrogate speaks of at least one relative who has experienced some sort of psychological problem. It is best to be honest. It is far better to honestly portray yourself and your family than to cover up what you fear could disqualify you. It is likely you will be disqualified if you are inconsistent in your responses. The psychologist is also interested in determining your stability. Couples who seek out an egg donor or surrogate are very serious about wanting a successful outcome. Some couples have tried to have children for five or even ten years, by the time they reach this step. It is imperative you are certain you can and want to take this journey to completion. The psychologist will try to determine whether or not you will follow through by not only asking you about your feelings about serving as an egg donor/surrogate, but also by looking for patterns of stability in your past. The psychologist will also spend time discussing with you the psychological ramifications of serving as an egg donor/surrogate. This portion of the interview is for your benefit. Regardless as to your motivation, helping a couple have children is a wonderful gift. Your desire to be a part of the miracle of life puts you in a very special, cherished category. You deserve to understand how this experience might affect you. It is also important you learn enough about this process in order to make the right decision for you. Should you have any questions, please ask them. Serving as an egg donor/surrogate is a decision that will affect you for the entirety of your life. It will most likely be comforting for you to receive answers to any questions you might have.
If you are interested in serving as a gestational surrogate, it is likely you will be asked to meet with a psychologist. Many of the same questions will be asked. Although your genetic history will not come into play, the psychologist will want to get to know you, so s/he can describe you to the intended parents. Additionally, the psychologist will be interested in determining if you will be able to provide a safe environment, both physically and environmentally, while you carry a couple’s baby. The psychologist will also want to prepare you in many different ways. Not only are there many issues to consider during your pregnancy, but it is of utmost importance to prepare you for what you might feel when you release a child to the intended parents. This is one of the most selfless and beautiful gifts you can give to others. At the same time, it can leave a tremendous void. The psychologist will want to prepare you and your partner to make sure that as you think through your decision, you can determine what is best for you.
You may be asked to take a personality test. Most often, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, 2nd Edition (MMPI-2) is administered. This is a long inventory that consists of approximately 500 true-false questions. The test is sensitive to test-taking style. Oftentimes, potential donors/surrogates feel nervous and at some level, feel they must be close to perfect. It is not true that you have to be nearly perfect to be chosen. Nevertheless, this mindset sometimes leads people to “fake good”, or present themselves in an overly favorable light. “Validity scales” will reveal this test-taking style, and you could invalidate your results. This could disqualify you. It is good to know that the inventory allows for “normal” stress, occasional sadness and anxiety, and for human frailties. Besides the “validity scales”, the inventory also yields “clinical scales”, which group together to form a “profile”. The profile describes your characteristic ways of interacting with the world. If you respond in a manner that is open and honest, it is likely your profile will yield interesting information for you. Many psychologists are willing to discuss your results with you, should you ask.
Recipient couples, also known as intended parents, are sometimes asked to attend an interview with a psychologist. They are sometimes asked to take an MMPI-2. For those of you who are considering using an egg donor, the interview with a psychologist is to make sure you have considered what it might feel like in the future, to have a child who is not fully genetically related to you. Additionally, the psychologist may ask questions to determine your financial and emotional stability. This is not done in a judgmental or critical manner. Rather, this would be to help you plan well for yourselves, especially if you have never had children.
If you are considering using a surrogate, the clinical interview for the intended parents is designed to prepare you for the emotional and financial issues that may come up. There are many things to consider when using a surrogate, such as whether or not you will provide health insurance, life insurance, or home support in case your surrogate becomes bedridden with a pregnancy. Additionally, it is wise to think ahead with regards to how you might handle a poorly formed fetus, or multiples that jeopardize the life of the mother and/or the babies. Lastly, it is a good idea to discuss what expectations you have with regards to a relationship with the surrogate both during and after a pregnancy. A trained psychologist can guide you through this dialogue, and inform you so you can make the best decisions for this very important and life-altering event.
Dr. Barbara Feinberg is a licensed psychologist. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Florida Institute of Technology in 1985. Dr. Feinberg has been practicing psychology in Tampa, Florida for over twenty-two years. Dr. Feinberg works with adults and children. Areas of treatment include infertility support, as well as coping with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, marital concerns, divorce and behavioral problems. Dr. Feinberg also provides gifted and learning disabilities evaluations. Additionally, she has specialized in reproductive issues for over ten years. She has spoken around the state of Florida on psychological and emotional issues that pertain to infertility. Dr. Feinberg provides psychological evaluations for egg donors, traditional and gestational surrogates, and intended parents. She works in conjunction with several egg donor agencies, surrogacy agencies and attorneys around the United States. You may contact Dr. Feinberg at 14502 N. DALE MABRY HWY., #200 TAMPA, FL 33618 or DrBarb222@aol.com.