Counseling for Life Transitions

at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

Counseling for Life Transitions
In Grand Rapids, MI and West Michigan At Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids, MI

Life changes, big or small, expected or unexpected, can be tough. Some people find it challenging to deal with the emotions that accompany transitioning into a new chapter of their lives. As a result, they experience stress and anxiety, and sometimes even develop an adjustment disorder — a struggle to cope with new life realities.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a positive change, such as getting married, having a child, or graduating, or something negative, such as going through a divorce or losing a loved one, if you find these changes overwhelming, you’re not alone.

At Health for Life Counseling, we offer specialized therapy to help you adjust to life transitions. Adjustment disorder counseling in Grand Rapids aims to help you manage stress and regain control, so you can move forward with confidence.

What is Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment disorder is a condition characterized by maladaptive responses to stressful changes. It’s emotional or behavioral distress as a result of significant life changes that disrupt an individual’s ability to use adaptive coping mechanisms. This usually leads to overwhelming sadness, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, disturbances in sleep, and withdrawal from social activities.

According to DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), these symptoms appear within 3 months after a significant change in life and can interfere with daily functioning in various settings, such as work, school, or relationships.

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

Usually, life transitions and their accompanying stress affect each person differently based on the circumstances in their lives. However, there are specific symptoms that often arise as reactions to these major life changes. Considering that these symptoms impact your feelings and lead to particular types of behavior, we’ll divide them into behavioral and psycho-social symptoms:

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep (sometimes individuals even sleep more than usual).
  • Altered eating habits, like a significant increase or decrease in appetite.
  • Neglecting personal, professional, financial, or educational responsibilities.
  • Using alcohol, drugs, or medications to cope with distress.
  • Poor performance at work/school.

Psycho-Social Symptoms

  • Persistent and excessive worry, either about the future or past events.
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or a loss of interest in activities an individual enjoyed before.
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawal from social situations, such as avoiding contact with loved ones.
  • Irritability and mood swings

Types of Challenging Life Transitions

Transitions are an integral part of anyone’s life. They can be expected and positive, such as graduating college or welcoming a new member to the family, or unexpected and distressing, such as the loss of a loved one or facing a serious illness.

Regardless of their nature, most big life transitions bring their own set of stressors that can affect our mental health and psychological well-being. Here are some of the most common types of life transitions:

  • Career changes – Starting a new job, losing a job, retiring, or choosing a new profession are significant life changes that can lead to uncertainty and stress.
  • Relocation – Moving to a new home, city, or country directly means that you will face physical adjustments, as you’re leaving your home, as well as emotional ones, like leaving friends and relatives.
  • Changes in relationships – Whether you’re getting married, going through a divorce, or experiencing a breakup, all these changes demand you to reevaluate your life and your future.
  • Health-related issues – When people experience a sudden physical trauma, it can be tough to adjust to a new reality after an accident. The same applies to being diagnosed with a serious illness. This challenges how you see yourself and your future.
  • Bereavement – The loss of a loved one is one of the three biggest changes in life, along with retirement and relocation (Vrklijan et al., 2018). Loss often leads to grief, which complicates adjustment to life without that person.
  • Becoming a parent – It doesn’t matter whether you’re the one who has a child or someone in your family is expecting the arrival of a child, it’s a significant change that brings changes to usual routines. Therefore, other than joy and happiness, it can also cause stress.

How Can Counseling Help with Life Transitions?

Since DSM-5 and ICD-11 recognize adjustment disorder as a stress-related disorder (Bachem & Casey, 2018), which is characterized by symptoms of depression and anxiety, counseling for life transitions is usually focused on reducing the intensity of these symptoms and helping clients develop healthy ways to cope with changes. In particular, therapists often use psychodynamic and behavioral approaches, as well as relaxation techniques (O’Donnell et al., 2018). 

According to a 2019 study published in Psychological Reports, one of the most effective therapeutic methods for life transitions is helping individuals accept their new roles. For example, accepting a new role as a mother might be effective in managing postpartum depression symptoms. Similarly, therapists can help clients develop new roles (e.g., start volunteering), after major life transitions, like children leaving family homes or facing retirement (Moustafa et al., 2019).

Interestingly, one of the most effective types of therapy for an adjustment disorder is EMDR — Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. It’s particularly effective because it helps individuals process and integrate traumatic or stressful memories and emotions associated with life changes. Using guided eye movements, EMDR therapists help clients reduce not only past traumatic events, but the emotional distress related to new life transitions as well. For example, a 2021 case study found that the integration of  EMDR therapy and CBT in treating adolescents with depression resulted in long-term positive benefits (Bucan-Varatanovic & Sabanovic, 2021).

What You Should Expect During Life Transition Counseling

Counseling for life transitions usually involves structured sessions where you and your therapist explore the emotional and practical impacts of the transition. Initially, your therapist will conduct a thorough assessment to understand your personal history, the nature of the transition, and the specific symptoms you are experiencing.

The aim of the therapy is to help you develop coping strategies to manage anxiety, stress, and any mood changes and other symptoms related to changes in your life. As a result, you’ll be able to improve your resilience and adaptability.

Here are some things you can expect from adjustment disorder counseling:

  • Identifying stressors – Therapists will help you understand which stressors are related to transition and how they impact your psychological well-being.
  • Building emotional resilience – Regardless of the counseling technique you and your therapist decide to use, your counselor will help you strengthen emotional resilience with methods, such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises, or cognitive reframing.
  • Developing effective coping skills – You will learn practical, adaptive coping strategies for managing stress.
  • Improving social support – Support from your loved ones is crucial during life transitions. Therefore, therapy often focuses on strengthening social networks to provide emotional support during challenging times.

Adjustment Disorder Counseling in Grand Rapids, MI

No matter what type of life transition you are facing right now if you notice that it’s getting overwhelming and affecting your daily functioning, you should know that help is here.

At Health for Life Counseling, we offer counseling for life transitions that aims to help you develop effective coping mechanisms and strengthen your resilience during times of change. Our licensed therapists are here to provide a supportive environment, whether you prefer talking to them online or meeting them in person at our offices in Grand Rapids, MI, or Ada, MI.

Keep in mind that our counseling center accepts plenty of health insurance options, including Meritain Health, Cofinity, Optum, Golden Rule, and more. Check out a complete list of available insurance options on this page.

Therapists For Counseling for Life Transitions

Natalie Julien

Integrative, Intuitive, Mindfulness-Based,Trauma-Informed Therapy for Women, Parents, & Young Adults

Brendan Cole

EMDR for Performance & Trauma Recovery, Couples Therapy, Premarital Counseling

Katy Sandison

Supportive Therapy for Anxiety, Deconstruction Issues, Life Transitions and More

Billie Walters

Intuitive Counseling, EMDR Therapy, and Reiki

Nicole Cass

Sex therapist using creative Solutions and Trauma-Informed Counseling for Couples, Adults, and Teens

K’Quiana Griffin-Knowling

EMDR, Empowerment, and Healing for all

Melissa Wade

Strengths-Based, Solution Focused, and Resilience Therapies for Families, Children, Teens, and Individuals

James Love

Specializing in Adults, Men’s Issues, & Therapy with Children from a grounded, authentic, and non-judgemental perspective

Stephen Lovell, Counseling Intern

Person-Centered Counseling for Children, Teens, and Adults

Taylor Mize

Empowering Survivors to Heal and Use Their Voice

Lindsey Beaver

Trauma Informed Counseling & EMDR for Teens, Young Adults and Adults

Lucas Perkins, Counseling Intern

Culturally Sensitive & Holistic Counseling for Adults and Older Teens

Shanna Beebe

A non-judgemental space for deep healing from trauma, abuse, and relationship wounds.

Josh Zheng

Holistic psychotherapy utilizing an integrated approach of somatic, emotion- focused and cognitive-behavioral traditions.

Caley Weisgerber

Compassionate and Empowering Therapy for Deep Healing

Elif Piromari

Strengths-Based and Trauma-Informed Therapy for Young Adults and More

Lauren Huisman-Woy

Serving Children, Teens, Families, and Adults with Compassionate Counseling including EMDR and TF-CBT

Katy Jaramillo

Counseling and Art Therapy for Adults and Teens: Empowerment and Healing from Medical and Neurological Trauma + Existential Concerns

Paul Krauss – Clinical Director

Counseling, EMDR Therapy, & Solutions

Nick Kondyles

Person-Centered, Integrative Counseling for Children, Adolescents and Adults

Sarah Denick

Counseling & EMDR Therapy for Women

Jennifer McKinstry

Counseling and EMDR Therapy for Trauma, Depression, Anxiety, and Spiritual Issues

Dana Kennedy

Relational, trauma-informed, strengths-based therapy with a foundation of authenticity and hospitality to heal and grow

Margie Muñoz

Trauma Informed Counseling, Mindfulness-Based, and EMDR Therapy for Teens, and Adults

Ashley Dykstra

CBT & EMDR Therapy for Children, Teens, Adults, and Families

Kay Foster

Emotion-focused, Inclusive Counseling and EMDR Therapy

Brittani Decess

Counseling through a trauma-informed, inclusive, and equitable lens for individuals, relationships, and families.

Kori Crask

Trauma-Informed Counseling and EMDR Therapy for long-term healing

Taylor Freund

Trauma Informed and Internal Family Systems informed Counseling for Adults

Anna Utter

EMDR, DBT Skills, and Trauma-Informed Therapy for Adults and Teens

Gabby Cook

Compassionate, Trauma-Informed Therapist for Adults on their Path of Self-Discovery and Growth

Kelly Benzin

Therapy from an Intersectional Systems and Holistic Lens

Thomcy Thomas

Multicultural, Client-Centered Therapy with a Mindfulness Approach - Fostering Self-Awareness and Empowerment in Adults

Kathryn Barcelona

Therapy for adults struggling with depression, anxiety, issues, substance use recovery, etc.

Jonathan Swiftney

Culturally Sensitive & Holistic Counseling for Adults and Adolescents

Michael Egan

Counseling that Empowers and Strengthens You

Caitlin Quantock

Mindfulness-based Strategies and EMDR to Promote Healing and Growth

Alexa Bates

Serving Children, Families, Couples and Adults who are struggling to find a way through difficulties

Ben Zimmerman

Non-judgmental Therapy Space Focused on Personal Development and Empowerment

Katerina Guerrero

Empowering Your Journey: Culturally Inclusive, Integrative Therapy for Healing and Growth

Megan Drizin

Telehealth Counseling for Women, Moms, and Couples

Amanda Miller

Guiding Teens and Adults to Recognize their Strengths; EMDR, DBT, and More

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