Secular resources are necessary
At Secular Pro-Life, we’re repeatedly asked about resources for secular people who experience emotional and mental health issues after abortion. Pro-life programs such as Rachel’s Vineyard and Silent No More are devoted to helping people heal, but these programs are overtly faith-based and may not be a good fit for atheists, agnostics, and non-religious people. In the United States, 29% of people are non-religious (Pew Research) but 38% of women getting abortions have no religious affiliation (Guttmacher). This means secular women disproportionately experience abortion. Meanwhile, secular people are also significantly more likely to be pro-choice compared to religious people. And while I couldn’t find any specific polling on this, anecdotally it appears pro-choice people are less likely to recognize abortion trauma as authentic or significant.
In other words, secular women are more likely than religious counterparts to get abortions, and, should they find themselves struggling, they are more likely to operate day-to-day in social circles that don’t understand or sympathize with their issues. There’s a significant need for mental health resources. We’ve previously published a few support options. In today’s post, we more specifically discuss how to find mental health counselors who may be able to help.
Mental health counselors can specialize in reproductive issues
Before drafting this post, I spoke with Robin Atkins, a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) specializing in reproductive mental health issues (learn more about her work here). Robin explained that reproductive health counselors specialize in issues such as infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, birth trauma, perinatal loss, postpartum depression, and abortion.
Search and screen for the right mental health counselor
Robin suggested using phrases such as “perinatal therapy,” “postnatal therapy,” “maternal mental health,” or “reproductive therapy” when searching for counselors in you area.
You can also search for counselors at PsychologyToday.com. Enter your zip code, click the icon of a magnifying glass to search, open the dropdown menu “Issues,” click “Show more issues,” and choose “Pregnancy, Prenatal, Postpartum.”
If you live in an area with fewer therapists to choose from, consider looking for someone who treats trauma or depression generally. Such therapists may have significant experience helping clients with specific types of trauma without necessarily listing perinatal therapy (or similar) as a formal subspecialty.
Once you find a counselor you think may be a good fit, Robin recommends you screen them with questions like the following:
- “Are you trained in perinatal loss?” Get more details about their training and experience specific to reproductive issues.
- “Do you treat patients with post-abortion trauma?” You’re looking for a counselor who says “Yes, I do.” There are some counselors who don’t agree post-abortion trauma exists. There are some who haven’t heard of it and will be confused by the suggestion. You’re looking for a counselor who is familiar with the idea of post-abortion trauma and recognizes it as a legitimate struggle for some people.
- “Are you comfortable with conversations about my abortion trauma without politics?” Professional counselors should be able to leave their personal political views aside to treat patients who may be coming from a different place. Again, you are looking for a counselor who readily answers “Yes” to this question.
- “If I talk with you about abortion trauma, are you going to bring religion into it?” Similar to question 3, professional counselors should be able to leave their personal religious views aside as well. Religion should come up only to the extent that the patient wants to discuss religion and leads that conversation. You are looking for someone who says “No” to this question.
- “What are you personal views on abortion?” This is a bit of a trick question because, similar to questions 3 and 4, you’re looking for an indication that the counselor will leave his or her personal views at the door. The counselor should refrain from giving an opinion on this, especially during a screening call prior to ever having a session with the patient. You’re looking for someone who answers something like “My personal views are not pertinent to your therapy.”
We hope this information is a useful starting point. If anyone with formal education and experience in mental health counseling has suggestions or clarifications to add, please contact us and let us know.