Psychotherapy of a Relationship Break-Up in the Context of Assisted Reproductive Technologies



The paper is focused on ethical issues of making decisions about cryopreserved embryos in the context of relationship break-up in the framework of the embryo’s legal status and the church’s stand on the matter. All these issues can be viewed as part of a broader problem of intuitive and rational foundations for decision-making when facing difficult situations in life. On the one hand, the stressful context of the situation implies intuitive-driven decision-making; on the other hand, assisted reproductive technologies are largely counter-intuitive. We describe the peculiarities of family psychotherapy with mixed-agenda couples going through a divorce who have joint cryopreserved embryos but disagree on what to do with them. We introduce a protocol for psychotherapeutic work in the situation when one partner wishes to continue with the fertility treatment and have a child while the other partner is determined to utilize joint embryos as unwanted biological material. In addition, we discuss emotional and social complications that may arise (guilt, unfaithfulness of one of the partners, other losses, and grieving).

General Information

Keywords: bioethics, moral dilemma, decision making, stress, unfaithfulness, divorce psychotherapy, partner relationships, assisted reproductive technologies, cryopreserved embryos.

Journal rubric: Workshop and Methods


Funding. This work was supported by Russian Foundation for Basic Research (project № 18-00-00245).

Acknowledgements. The authors are grateful to professor Yu.I. Alexandrov and family counsellor V. Naumova.

For citation: Znamenskaya I.I., Travkova M.R., Arutyunova K.R. Psychotherapy of a Relationship Break-Up in the Context of Assisted Reproductive Technologies. Konsul'tativnaya psikhologiya i psikhoterapiya = Counseling Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2021. Vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 132–148. DOI: 10.17759/cpp.2021290108. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Irina I. Znamenskaya, Associate Researcher at The V. B. Shvyrkov Laboratory of Psychophysiology, Institute of Psychology RAS, Psychologist, Charity Foundation “Light in Hands”, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Marina R. Travkova, Postgraduate Student, Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Karina R. Arutyunova, PhD in Psychology, Associate Researcher, V.B. Shvyrkov Laboratory of Neural Bases of Mind, Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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