Life transitions occur throughout the lifespan. They are essentially major episodes of change in our life. They can be anticipated rites of passage such as completing high school, starting your first full-time job or university course, moving out of the family-of-origin home, getting married, having children, becoming an empty-nester, and downscaling work or retiring. Even when anticipated and socially sanctioned these events can create stress and loss of identity. Individuals can also experience anxiety and depression if such life transitions do not occur as the individual perceives they ‘should’.
Aging in itself is a process of life transition. The aging process requires us to accept changes to body shape and physical health, and in the latter stages of life an increasing reliance on others for support.
These transition points can create challenges for the individual that can highlight gaps in personal, social or life skills. Individuals can also experience grief and loss over such major changes- loss of the familiar, secure context and in its place a scenario that may feel overwhelming. When an individual continues to struggle with such transitions they may develop Adjustment difficulties (please see our section on Trauma and stress related disorders).
Sometimes life transitions are thrust upon us too early and we are forced to adjust before we fully wish to accept such circumstances. Again, anxiety, grief and depression may result.
Counselling can be useful in assisting an individual to adjust to major changes by addressing:
- Coping strategies,
- Confidence and assertion training, and
- Social, relationship, and parenting skill building.
Counselling can also assist with more pronounced responses to major changes by supporting an individual with grief and loss.