If you’re a donor conceived person who is looking for support from a professional therapist or counselor, you may have discovered this is easier said than done. Most professionals in the medical and mental health communities don’t understand the unique and sometimes complicated challenges of being donor conceived, which can make attempts to find help expensive and frustrating. That’s why I was excited to find donorconceivedsupport.com, an initiative launched by Laura McMillian, a member of our community who understands multiple facets of donor conception.
Laura discovered she is donor conceived three years ago, at the age of 34. She is also the biological mother of a child conceived via egg donation and has recently made contact with her biological father. Laura has a Master’s degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy from Pepperdine University and is a credentialed coach with the International Coach Federation. She has a PhD in Organizational Leadership from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
In addition to executive coaching for the business community, Laura offers her coaching and mentoring services to donor conceived individuals, their parents, and donors. “I can help people figure out the relationship side of things, the practical decisions, and how to manage yourself in that process as you’re going through it,” she says.
What is the difference between therapy and coaching?
Coaching is oriented towards achieving goals and taking action; therapy is more about healing past hurt or problems with functioning. There’s a saying that therapy is to bring the dysfunctional to functional and coaching is to bring the functional to exceptional.
How do you think your personal experience helps you in this line of coaching?
Because I’ve experienced multiple sides of donor conception, I can offer ideas and considerations that another coach who didn’t have that experience might not be fully capable of imagining. I’m a donor-conceived person, so I’m also able to empathize with people in that position. I think that specific empathy is very valuable as it’s difficult to find in the general population. I’m also an egg donor and have a biological daughter who lives in Australia with her parents. I insisted on being an open donor because that’s how I wished it had been done for me. I will be available to her for her entire life as much as she wants me to be a part of it.
How do sessions typically work?
I start by finding out my client’s situation and what they want to get out of coaching sessions. If you’re a donor-conceived person who is looking to establish a relationship with your donor/biological parent or a half-sibling, we can try to figure the best way to go about it. I experienced quite a few negative things from certain people in my life in that process, so I know from personal experience what traps to look out for. I’m happy to meet in person in Park City or Salt Lake City, Utah, or I can speak over the phone or Skype. My rates are reasonable, at about half of what a typical therapist would charge.
What kind of support do you offer to donors and parents of donor conceived people?
If you’re a donor, I’d cover issues the clinic won’t address, like what you’d do if your child finds you in the future, and if you’ve considered being an open donor. My perspective is that’s the only acceptable option; nobody should be an anonymous donor. For prospective parents or parents of donor-conceived people, I can help them understand the needs of their children. It’s important for parents to understand their children’s concerns and what’s psychologically healthy for them in terms of their identity and psychological development.
What advice would you give to someone who just discovered they are donor conceived?
There’s no need to rush anything. You have time to figure things out and establish relationships if you want to do that. If you are reaching out to a new family member, take it slow and put the ball in their court. You don’t know how they’re going to react. Some people will be receptive while others will be cautious and defensive. In terms of communicating with the family you’ve known your whole life, I’d suggest using great care because not everyone is going to be receptive to the idea of you seeking out your biological parent. Some people might even want to punish you for that, out of their own insecurities. Of course, every family’s different in terms of capacity for drama. It’s also a good idea to make a list of people who will be your allies and support you no matter what and a list of the other people in your life whom you might need to approach with caution.