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Navigating the Changes after Therapy

Here’s a thought – what happens when a person has therapy and makes the changes they want to make, to overcome the difficulties they’ve endured for months or even years? 


What happens when years of stress and anxiety, or trauma, or even patterns of burnout are processed and desensitised, to the extent they no longer cause distress and disturbance to that person? 


Is that person still the same person? Absolutely – but perhaps with some safer boundaries in place, a greater knowledge of living autonomously, self-belief, ability to self-care and improved resilience.


Are the people around them impacted by the changes?  Highly likely – change is a natural part of any relationship, whether familial, intimate, social, or work-related, and as it evolves, so do the dynamics of that relationship.


Towards the end of the therapy journey, when the person is adjusting to their own changes, it’s important to spend time exploring the impact on those around them. This ensures the person can recognise and manage any necessary or difficult shifts in their relationships.  After all, they’ve worked so hard to process their problems and undergone often substantial changes to their behaviours, both internal and external, to improve their life.  This will have helped them to find the joy and happiness in life once again and deal with any future challenges in a more positive, helpful, and healthier way.


But what about their work colleagues, or their partners?  What if someone has burnt out at work and after therapy, they return to that work environment which remains unsafe?  Will they simply return to the chaos and relapse into patterns of old?


What if their partner has provided emotional support during their mental illness and struggles to accept the changes following recovery?  Will this jeopardise the relationship?


Therapy encourages people to look at their emotional state, including their thoughts, behaviours and even their beliefs.  As new understanding and lots of light bulb moments pop off in the persons head, change is inevitable.  This can mean new ways of being and creating more positive circumstances.  Success is when lessons learned are used to avoid future relapse, e.g. burnout, by changing emotional responses and introducing more helpful and healthier coping strategies and decision-making.  This is when it’s important to consider that they and those around them will need time to adapt.  It can be challenging adjusting to change and new behaviours/dynamics.

As people learn these new healthier ways to engage with their own emotions, thoughts, and feelings during therapy, this can also be applied in their interactions with those around them.  There is normally a positive impact on others when talking to someone who is well-balanced, i.e. emotionally stable, level-headed, happy, confident, and calm.  It’s a bit like the ripple effect of someone smiling at you – it’s infectious and it feels good; it feels safe.  When that someone is also clear with boundaries, e.g., the ability to say no, then again this can empower others, or at least help them to understand that person’s limitations.  It encourages others to take responsibility for their actions, which in effect is empowering.  This can lead to greater communication, understanding and the foundations of dealing with any conflict situation safely and amicably.


An insight to the changes occurring during the therapy journey can be shared (without sharing the personal elements) by the person with those around them to adopt a better understanding and compassion.  This can encourage curiosity which is pivotal to improving communications and collaboration and prevents assumptions being made. 


Ultimately, as the transition has and continues to take place and starts to embed into relationships, it will be important for patience and compassion to play its part, including self-compassion.


“The first goal of trauma recovery should and must be to improve your quality of life on a daily basis.”  [Rothschild, 2010].

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