Change: Surviving or Thriving?
Change. There is so much in the word, and many of us have varied and complicated relationships with the notion of change in our lives. Some of us like change, some of us loath it. Some of us think we like change, and then when we are faced with it find we respond other than what we hoped. It seems, however, that in life and living, the oft-quoted cliché rings true: change is the only constant. When we think about a little bit more deeply, it seems that change is not only at the heart of surviving, but also of thriving. Let’s think about it for a moment: had our ancestors many millennia ago not changed their response to their environment, they would not have survived. Had humans not changed in response to the trials that this harsh world can dole out, we would not have thrived as a species.
So, if from this perspective, change is such an elemental experience of the human condition, and essential for surviving and thriving, then it begs the question: why is change often so difficult for us to experience in our own lives? It highlights quite the paradox in that while change produces growth and thriving in our lives, we are simultaneously often inclined to lean away from that discomfort with a preference for increasing stability, safety, and security in our lives. And this is what makes change so hard, if not downright scary.
Yet, we still find ourselves confronted by the inevitability of change throughout the course of our lives. We cannot escape it. Change comes in many forms. Our bodies change as we grow into adulthood and begin the process of aging. Our family units and relationship systems change: parenting, romantic relationships, extended family relations, losing loved ones. Our careers and jobs change in response to the ebbs and flows of broader societal forces. And as we have all most recently experienced, our world changes at the whim of powers out of our control such as pandemics and sociopolitical and cultural forces. Change is all around us whether we like it or not.
So, what do we do about it?
Well, lets start by first exploring the nature of change. Change researchers Prochaska and Diclemente (1983) explain the concept of change in this model:
This model of change can be applied to a variety of contexts and experiences such as depression, anxiety, addiction, grief, relationships, and more. Before change happens, every person starts at the pre-contemplation stage. Maybe our lives are not going the way we want them to but we do not want to upset the status quo. The contemplation stage of change finds us beginning to consider that we might need to adjust something in our life if things are going to get better. Maybe we start reading some books or talking to friends about the possibility of doing something different. The determination stage is making plans and preparations. The action stage involves actually implementing change. This might be taking the suggestions or advice of others, or putting into practice new ideas that we read. The maintenance stage involves keeping up with the new behaviours until they become our new norm. For some individuals, a “relapse” happens in which old behaviours re-emerge and the cycle begins again. For others, the change maintains.
So, what does this have to do with counselling? It might be assumed that a person has to be at the contemplation or determination stage in order to engage with counselling or to receive the benefits of counselling. However, counselling can be of vital importance in any stage, even the pre-contemplation stage. In fact, the whole purpose of therapy is to provide a safe non-judgmental space for people to explore their own journey of change, wherever they may be starting.
At The Therapy Place, our professionally trained clinical counsellors provide such a space for you to explore whatever kinds of change you feel you need to make in your life. If you are dealing with anxiety or depression and want to get unstuck but don’t know how, there is space for you here. If you suffer from the effects of traumatic experiences in your life and want to regain control of your life again, there is space for you here. If you are in a marriage or relationship that is not meeting your needs, there is space for you. The help you will receive at The Therapy Place is tailor made for your needs, no matter which stage of readiness you are in.