Transitions Therapy – Dealing with Stages of Change and Unexpected Events

Transitions such as moving, getting a divorce, having a baby, getting married or starting a new job, even winning the lottery or receiving a windfall, shocks such as finding your partner is involved in something unacceptable, all can be stressful. Often you need a professional you can talk to for support and the privacy that friends and family may not be counted on to provide. Therapy can be very helpful during such unsettling transitions and it is expected not to be long term.

Every person and every family goes through unavoidable transitions many times throughout our lives.

Some transitions are very pleasant, such as finally leaving home for college; some are not, such as your only child and close companion leaves home for college. Then there is becoming an adult without being able to find and maintain a relationship, separation, divorce, illness, death, unexpected moves, loss of job or income or even child custody and visitation problems.

There are transitions we must manage to negotiate successfully from birth to death. When a particular stage or change is not negotiated well, that issue is likely to continue on throughout life and even affecting close relationships. In fact, relationship issues often arise in my practice as a symptom of one or more partners having had issues negotiating a Stage of Change without adequate support. Not only can this lead to problems with attachment and maintaining satisfying relationships, but it also is often present when I am treating anxiety, depression and other troubling issues.

Individual, couples and family therapy can be tremendously helpful and support you towards really enjoying the life you deserve and you can create for yourself.

Below are Erick Erickson’s Stages of Change, the Gold Standard that psychotherapists are taught and reliably use:

Stage   Basic Conflict   Important Events   Outcome
  Infancy (birth to 18 months) Trust vs. Mistrust Feeding Children develop trust when caregivers provide reliability, care, and affection. A lack of this will lead to mistrust.
  Early Childhood (2 to 3 years) Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt Toilet Training Children develop personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence. Success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure results in feelings of shame and doubt.
  Preschool (3 to 5 years) Initiative vs. Guilt Exploration Children need to begin asserting control and power over their environment. Children who exert too much power experience disapproval, resulting in a sense of guilt.
  School Age (6 to 11 years) Industry vs. Inferiority School Children cope with new social and academic demands. Success leads to feeling competent.
  Adolescence (12 to 18 years) Identity vs. Role Confusion Social Relationships Teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity. Failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self.
  Young Adulthood (19 to 40 years) Intimacy vs. Isolation Relationships Time to form intimate, loving relationships with other people. Success leads to strong relationships, while failure results in loneliness and isolation.
  Middle Adulthood (40 to 65 years) Generativity vs. Stagnation Work and Parenthood Time to create or nurture things that will outlast them, by having children or creating a positive change that benefits others for feelings of accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world.
  Maturity(65 to death) Ego Integrity vs. Despair Reflection on Life Older adults look back on life, wanting a sense of fulfillment. Success leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair.

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