Stage of Life Transitions


Many people struggle with adjustment to expected chronological or developmental transitions, such as:


Entering high school or college

Graduation from high school or college

Marital Engagement or relationship commitment

Moving away from home for the first time

Moving in with a significant other


Balancing career with parenting

Illness or death of an aging parent

Many life transitions may occur unexpectedly. Either they are things we were not expecting or not prepared for such as:


Dropping out of college

Returning to college as an adult learning

Changing majors in college

Moving home after a time away

Fertility problems or miscarriage

Relationship break-up or civorce

Death of a family member

Caring for an ill family member

Traumatic experiences


MW Website 25 Double Exposure Portrait

Erik Erikson taught us that each chronological stage in our life is paired with a developmental task or "psychological crisis." Erikson posed that as we grow older, we are faced with the opportunity to accomplish certain fundamental tasks in our life. It is thought that disruption to a task at one stage of life may cause difficulty in meeting the next task as we age. And vice versa, success at each task only provides a stronger foundation from which to grow as we are faced with the next developmental task. For example, a newborn baby is faced with the psychological crisis of Trust versus Mistrust. If the infant's basic needs are met on a regular basis and his home environment is soothing with responsive adults around when he needs them, then he will likely develop trust that the world is organized in a way that makes sense. He can trust that his needs will be met. Should there have been abuse, trauma or neglect happening to or around the infant on a consistent basis, he may go into his toddler years with a basic sense of mistrust of people, events, and objects in his world. As a toddler, he will still be faced with the challenge of developing autonomy versus shame which he will go into even as he struggles to trust the world around him.

When expected things happen as we age, we are given the opportunity to learn and grow. Sometimes there are barriers to our success or our sense of wellness as we work through. Other times, something traumatic or unexpected comes up that presents the challenge. Either way, therapy is a useful tool in addressing life changes. Therapy can be thought of literally as a "How to get to point A to Point B without too much pain and suffering" kind of tool. Research has shown that even positive life events can be stressful. How many of us have gone through several life changes at once, like maybe marriage, having a baby and buying a new home? It is exciting, even exhilarating AND it can be extremely stressful. If a person lacks built in protective factors to help them deal with stress such as a solid support system, a spiritual or religious foundation, healthy nutrition, daily exercise and plenty of good sleep, then that makes change all that more challenging. These are the times to seek help from a therapist who can work to identify the sources of stress, normalize your reaction, and help you develop tools for coping.