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The Role of Therapy in Life Transitions

In the Midst of it All

Wow did it suddenly hit me all at once! I found myself not with one life transition but at least three all clamoring for attention at the same time. In fact, there were times in the last few years when I had to sit down and either laugh or cry because there was a supreme ridiculousness to it all that made it extra challenging. I found myself just hitting my 50th year, finishing up menopause, watching my youngest turn 21, and finally finishing my hours for licensure and studying continuously to pass my Clinical exam for my license.

Who knew I would be studying and getting through this emotional/physical journey of a change of life at the same time? And while my nest is not yet empty, there was this entire process of parenting two adult children that I was trying to figure out. I hope by now my readers are getting that these life transitions can often be core opposites, and somehow we must balance and hold them. I am grateful to my Sonoma County therapist for helping be a witness to my struggles with these challenges and giving me a safe place to come and ask: “Is it really possible this is all going on at the same time?”

I believe in therapy for therapists. In this instance, it proved so helpful. I, like many of us, can get so hard on myself. When I wasn’t doing a great job of handling all of these changes of life, my psychotherapist made the suggestion that perhaps I was expecting too much. Could I soften to these challenges. In one text he wished me a “lighter touch on my shoulder.” While it wasn’t always easy to comprehend how to play fair with me, it did help to be reminded that there was a softer, more self-loving way to walk through these competing life transitions. I could tell you a story about how easy it is now, but the truth is, there remains work to be done. Even when we hit these life transitions, we realize that after we move through them, we still have to deal with the difficulties of life, and it’s often under different terms than before.

I’ll make a case for therapy during these events, though of course, not everyone will buy my argument. It’s just that these times get more intense, and when people don’t use therapy regularly, they may forget that light touch on the shoulder and that softer approach. Then such changes become defined as tremendous ordeals. It is meaningful and can be very helpful to talk to a psychotherapist about coming through these changes without emotional self harm, with a nonjudgmental companion. Someone like myself will remind you that what you are doing is very hard work. In that conversation together; we build a meaningful alliance that helps you not just bear but profit from life’s challenging lessons. After all, we are always becoming and deciding what we get to become and that’s before we hit the skids and deal with something we’ve never dealt with before. Ultimately, we arrive at an ending part of the process where we do decide how this change has changed us, and then the life transition becomes something gorgeously human, the therapy during it, a supportive journey through what was challenging and new.

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