According to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, “an inventory of common stressors,” developed in 1967 by Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, any type of change, whether positive or negative, can induce stress. Holmes and Rahe assigned different scores to varying life events, depending on how much stress they tended to cause in individuals. At the top of the scale is the “death of a spouse,” measuring 100 life-change units, and at the bottom lies “changes in eating habits,” for 15 units. (Is it just us, or does changing eating habits deserve more units?? Have you tried a Whole 30??) In-between we find events like “marriage,” “being fired,” and “pregnancy.” For those using the scale, the idea is to add up all of the events that have happened to them in the past year, to assess their general level of stress.
But, as psychologists, we see another use for this tool. We believe that if any of the things on the list, including: “change in residence,” change in schools,” “trouble with in-laws,” (and so many more!) have happened to you, then it’s a good time to seek therapy.
Therapy is extremely helpful in times of transition because talking with a therapist: 1) helps you identify how you truly feel about the situation, 2) assists you in learning new ways to cope with change, and 3) encourages you to think and act in ways that are in line with your best self.
Let’s look at a case example to see how this works.
Carl*, age 27, and his live-in girlfriend Thelma*, age 24, came to therapy because they just learned that Thelma is pregnant. Carl and Thelma are excited about the baby, but nervous about what this will mean for their lives, both individually, and as a couple. Carl and Thelma were not planning to get married prior to this news, but are now considering whether this is the right choice for them. Through therapy, Carl and Thelma learn that adjusting to new changes in life takes a lot of work, and that they might want to consider waiting on the marriage decision until after the baby is born. In addition, Carl and Thelma talk about their different views on parenting, so they can decide what kind of parents they want to be. Their therapist also encourages Carl and Thelma to research pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of a child’s life so that they will be more prepared. Finally, the therapist assisted Carl and Thelma in telling one another what they need to feel supported throughout this life-changing process.
Once the baby is born, Carl and Thelma realize that they do want to solidify their union through marriage. Now, they are able to do so with a beautiful, tiny, flower-girl!
Coming to therapy helped Carl and Thelma successfully navigate through two major life-transitions, that otherwise may have been overly stressful. If you would like to learn more about how therapy can help you through a transitional period, or any period, contact us. We are here to help!
*all names have been changed to protect privacy*