We tend to think of things like individual and couple’s counseling as tools to turn to in the midst of personal disaster. Counseling certainly can help during those times, but it can also help even when the world isn’t falling down around you. For example, we recommend counseling as a way of helping get through significant life transitions.
We all go through multiple life transitions as we age. It is part of being human. For some people, life transitions are best handled by giving them the space to work things through for themselves while you provide minimal support in the background. For others though, the best way to make it through is to talk, scheme, and commiserate with others. That is where counseling can be extremely valuable.
Just to demonstrate how counseling can help, here are three life transitions therapists can help clients work their way through:
1. Counseling after Launching Adult Children
One of the most impactful life transitions parents experience is launching their adult children. Imagine a hypothetical couple whose three children do not leave home until sometime in their mid-twenties. That means they will have had the kids around 30+ years. That day when the last one finally flies the proverbial coop is life changing.
We have conducted our fair share of couple’s counseling sessions that focused more on launching adult children than specific relationship struggles between husband and wife. The thing is that sometimes, dealing with the emotional stress of launching is really about just talking things out. It is amazing what a good conversation can accomplish.
2. Counseling for The Death of a Parent
While some parents are launching adult children, others are facing the deaths of their own parents. The loss of death is yet another transition we all experience throughout our lifetimes. When it comes to an aging parent though, we sometimes have the added difficulty of watching mom or dad slowly slip away at the hands of a terminal illness.
Individual counseling can help adult children work through the stress, pain, and confusion. In situations where death is imminent, counseling can help prepare adult children for it. We often find that simply giving clients permission to grieve is the key to helping them get through.
3. Adjusting to Retirement
If you are still many years out from retirement, you might think that adjusting to it is a piece of cake. You might even be dreaming of spending your retirement years doing things you just don’t have time for now. That is all well and good, but actually entering retirement is a lot different than dreaming about it.
As strange as it may sound, many couples struggle with the adjustment. That’s normal. You spend more than forty years of your life doing the 9-to-5 thing. During your working years, your job consumes nearly one-third of your time, if not more. To wake up one morning and suddenly not have to go to work is a substantial change.
Both individual and couple’s counseling can help the newly retired make sense of a life that suddenly has a lot less responsibility. Counseling can reduce anxiety, allay fears, and contribute to developing strategies that will make the transition easier. We have seen it time and again here in our Rye, New York office.
It is true that couple’s counseling often involves serious relationship troubles that could ultimately end in an irreparably damaged marriage. It is also true that individual counseling often deals with very traumatic issues. But counseling is also a useful tool for getting through common life transitions. It can help make those transitions easier and less stressful for everyone involved.