Transitions Counseling: Meaning, Examples and More
Change is the only constant in life. And it’s unavoidable. We all experience major changes in life. Some can be positive (like getting a new job) and others can be negative (like losing your loved one). While some of us may have no difficulty transitioning, others aren’t as lucky. For them, the world has turned upside down. They experience a range of emotions that make them feel depressed, anxious and overwhelmed. This is where transitions counseling comes in.
Understanding Transitions Counseling
Transitions counseling or life transitions counseling helps you transition through life.
In simple words, our lives constantly change and usually, we adapt to these changes well. However, in the case of bigger, harder changes such as the death of a pet, break up, divorce, etc. can cause a significant amount of stress.
If you’re experiencing difficulty in coping with such life transitions, speaking to a therapist will help you take control of your life by adjusting to these changes.
What are Major Life Transitions or Changes?
Transition = Change
As pointed out earlier, transitions can either be positive or negative. A few examples of positive life transitions are:
- Birth of a child
- Getting a new job
A few examples of negative life transitions are:
- Political/social changes
- Health problems
- Retirement/entering the empty nest
Transitions can also be predictable and unpredictable. A few examples of predictable life transitions are:
- Children leaving the house after getting married
- Children going away for college
- Getting a promotion
A few examples of unpredictable life transitions are:
- The sudden death of a pet/loved one
- Traumatic accident
Every transition has a certain intensity or degree and it forces us to take action.
With change comes resistance. We resist big changes in life because they make us feel uncertain.
We have our doubts and fears regarding these changes because they leave us at a point where everything is new and we’ve never faced such a situation before.
A major change literally means closing an important chapter in our lives and starting a new one that puts us in a new and different direction and place that we’ve never walked on before.
When Life Changes
Such life changes usually mark an ending that’s followed by our time of self-reflection.
This hopefully leads to a changed perspective on life.
Each life transition demands that we let go of the past and start afresh.
Doing so gives us the opportunity to replace the old with the new.
However, this period of transition tends to make us uncomfortable and disconnected with ourselves and our environment.
This is natural but if you get stuck in this phase, these feelings will continue to overwhelm you.
Life isn’t fair and in my experience, the best of life only comes to you after you hit rock bottom.
Whatever your transition may be, transitions counseling will help you get through with it and embrace these changes.
Difficulties in Transitioning
As pointed out earlier, transitioning becomes difficult because we consciously or unconsciously resist changes.
As human beings, we’re programmed to resisting every change that’s unknown or new to us. It’s almost like we’re designed to protect ourselves from everything that’s ‘unfamiliar’.
Sometimes, positive changes can also cause a lot of stress and make us feel uneasy. For instance, winning a lottery or retiring.
Retiring is something we look forward to all our lives. It’s that phase in our life when we can finally relax and enjoy life. However, most Americans feel retirement anxiety. This is perfectly normal. I mean, your life is thrown off balance. Suddenly you have more time than ever and very little to do. Not having to leave for office and adapting to a new routine can make you feel lost. For years, you worked hard to build an identity that revolved around your work and that’s gone now. This can also lead to identity and self-esteem issues. Over time, these feelings will lead to physical illness or depression.
We can also take another example here. Think about parents who’ve just conceived.
Even though its a positive change and both of them are jubilant, there’s also a lot of anxiety. They’ve moved from being a couple to a family. It affects each and every life decision — big and small. This can easily send one or both the parents into an emotional discord as they work out the new parameters of their marriage and parenthood. If they’re successful in combatting it, parenthood will become one of the most significant changes in your life. If not, their marriage is going to fail miserably.
Changes Can Be Beneficial
Life transitions such as starting your dream job or starting a family can be exciting.
All of us look forward to something in our lives ranging from pursuing a degree to having a home.
Difficult changes influence our personal growth. But dealing with them makes us stronger, more confident and prepared for what’s coming next.
In simpler words, even unpredictable changes eventually produce beneficial outcomes.
Change can also encourage the development of knowledge or skills and might bring more awareness.
It also enables us to clearly see what’s important in life and allows for greater self-awareness and discovery.
For instance, parents of a gay child might be interested in knowing more about the LGBTQIA community and their rights. Or a family of an individual diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder will become aware of the severe mental health condition and its effects.
A Need For Help
Life is going to happen whether we like it or not.
But this doesn’t mean every transition is going to be easy. In fact, they can be the most difficult experiences of our lives.
But they’re experiences and we have to get through them.
Resisting these changes doesn’t mean we won’t have to face them. On the contrary, it only means we’re prolonging them, making them harder to endure.
Its time to consider transitions counseling when these transitions start affecting your daily life, your work and your relationships or affect you mentally or physically.
We’ll never be able to stop these transitions from happening to us.
But, what we will learn is how to stop resisting them. A counselor will teach you how to accept such changes and move on.
Sometimes, all we need is a little push and an ear to mourn our loss and grief to guide us through this transitional period.
Whether its a positive change or a negative change, the process remains the same. We need to learn to let go of what was and adapt to what is or what can be.
Transitions counseling helps us do the same in a supportive and safe environment.
The Need for Transitions Counseling
Value-based or Transitional counseling can help you determine how the life you are leading will adapt to the given foundational shift.
It’s normal to have questions regarding your life and how to identify yourself. For instance, when your children move out of your family home, your immediate circle of influence is significantly affected. You no longer have to think about their meals and their studies causing a lot of idle time to kill. The voids they leave behind can cause a lot of anxiety and stress.
Your counselor will help you identify these issues, understand them and guide you to adapt to them. In all, your counselor will help you give a new meaning to your life.
If you need a therapist, you can either consult one at their physical clinic or schedule an appointment with an online therapist.
Make sure that your therapist is licensed and professional who’s expertise lies in your areas of issues.
Transitioning Smoothly with Transitions Counseling
As you might have understood by now, life transition counseling helps you see through the emotionally taxing life changes with the help of healthy coping mechanisms.
Here are a few goals and tactics used by therapists to help you feel prepared for the upcoming transitions in your lives. These strategies help you feel prepared reducing the initial shock of change while giving you hope for the future.
- Identify and appreciate the advantages of change
- Build healthy support groups
- Maintain a healthy, productive routine
- Set realistic goals and expectations
- Stress management
- Reframe thoughts
- Learn to identify and express emotions and feelings
- Remain positive
- Accept change as a part of life
Coping With Change
If you’re going through major transitions, it’s possible that you’re experiencing fatigue, anxiety or depression. You might even have constant headaches, struggle to sleep or eat and may depend on alcohol and drugs.
You can improve your life by transitions counseling. However, if you feel like that’s not for you, you can also try the following:
In case of predictable changes, you can always research and prepare yourself. Your stress levels will go down if you’re aware of what’s coming next and how you can deal with it.
Take care of your mental and physical health
You’ll cope better with life changes if you’re mentally and physically fit. Eating healthy foods, sleeping well and exercising is crucial.
You tend to make better decisions when you’re relaxed and calm.
You can somewhat control the degree of change to an extent. You don’t necessarily have to make large changes right after another. Adjust to one change at a time to avoid stress.
Build a support system
Your friends and family can help you adjust to change by providing their support.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is transition counseling?
Transitions counseling helps you get through emotionally taxing life changes using healthy coping mechnaisms. Please go through our article for more details on the same.
Is it OK to switch therapists?
Yes, it is. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” time to change therapists. You can do it when you begin to feel like you’re not going anywhere with your current therapist or you’re not making the kind of progress you wanted to make.
What are the different types of therapy in counseling?
Approaches to Psychotherapy can be divided into five broad categories:
- Holistic or Integrative therapy
- Humanistic therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Behaviour therapy
- Psychodynamic or Psychoanalysis therapy
What should I say in my first counseling session?
Your therapist will ask you questions about your background and history. You can start your first session by telling a little about yourself, your relationships, goals, strengths, weaknesses and interests before moving on to your problems or struggles.
What are life transitions?
Life transitions, as pointed out earlier are periods in your life that involve drastic changes. While some people might have no difficulty adjusting to these life changes, some people feel stuck, scared and lonely.
A life transition can often mean starting from scratch.
Resigning from a job, moving to another city and getting out of a long term relationship are just a few examples of starting afresh. The pressure to make new friends and fit in might be daunting.
When such changes prove difficult, therapy can help us overcome depression, anxiety or stress. Your therapist will help you reconnect with your inner selves and explore how to proceed further.
Transitions counseling will help you get to know yourself, prepare yourself for such changes and look at life from a new perspective.
Shristi is an avid reader, recipe developer and wellness enthusiast. She’s probably making a mess in her kitchen right now.