Below are common life transitions that commonly lead people to seek therapy:
Covid! The pandemic has really wreaked havoc on the lives of literally everyone I know, erasing the ideas of “normal” that had been taken for granted. Social interactions were minimized and strained as family and friend visits went from a casual, available source of support to one that needed careful consideration and planning. Workplaces were abandoned, causing additional social isolation as well as disruption of routines. Without job schedules and offices, regular schedules, including their basic components like sleeping, eating, exercise and hygiene became erratic, eroding a sense of time and physical boundaries as people began working from home. Previously available hobbies and forms of entertainment and gathering, such as concerts, live performances, dancing, dining, bars, and parties were suddenly all but gone. Dating posed new challenges.
My work with patients during the pandemic often includes ensuring that healthy, supportive routines are maintained as well as possible, and that social opportunities are safely maximized and work/life balances are respected. Further, I help patients identify how the pandemic has given them space to reflect on their lives, using this as a once-in-a-lifetime (we hope) opportunity to recalibrate their priorities and re-enter the world with intention.
Break Ups. Under normal circumstances, break ups are one of the most commons reasons people seek therapy. Although break ups are almost always painful – even the ending of a toxic relationship is experienced as a loss – some break ups are especially difficult. Relationships generally represent something bigger than simply the relationship. They may represent fantasies about the future. Maybe the former significant other was a stand in for some other absent, even more significant figure. Perhaps the former relationship is the latest in a series of similarly patterned failed relationships, which has finally become visible and inescapable. Break ups are often a very productive jumping off point in therapy, as they often reveal life-long relationship patterns that are not in the best service of the patient.
Relationship Changes (including friendships!). Relationships change over time, and these changes can be difficult to navigate. Relationships can change when life circumstances change (such as graduation, birth of a child, relocation, career changes, illness), or when one or more people in the relationship naturally develop and evolve, and their needs and availabilities shift. Understanding the new landscape of the relationship - as well as your own needs for connection and boundaries - are essential to your happiness within the relationship. Therapy can help you explore this.
Conflict (and avoidance of conflict). This is often a byproduct of life transitions – even positive ones are difficult and stressful!
Graduation. It’s exciting to finish university successfully and move on with your life! You’ve worked hard and now new exciting beginnings await. But it’s also scary – you’ve probably spent your whole life as a student, and you became very GOOD at being a student. You understood what your goals were, and how to successfully attain them. On the whole, student life is a structured environment with specific concrete goals, which are attained via individual contributions. Now, you’re out in the world. Being successful in most work environments is based on teamwork and successful communication, as well as relationships and social skills. Many work environments are not inherently fair or results-focused, and favoritism, politics, and discrimination often play a role in who gets ahead, and who gets left behind. Coming to terms with this jarring reality is not always easy.
Further, in college, you and your classmates generally had the same prescribed goals. Now, the goals and the outcomes vary tremendously, and the vast array of life choices to be made may leave you having little in common with close friends and romantic partners. Graduation sometimes leads to relationship changes as you and your fellow students settle into different versions of adult life.
Workplace Difficulties. Even people who have been in the workforce for a while sometimes find themselves overwhelmed in the workplace when there is a major change such as a new position, a new boss, a culture change, or a reorg. These types of changes generally require adaptation and some time to adjust.