Life Transitions

Transitions Counselling

Transitions counselling is a specialty at Phoenix Rises and an area where we feel we can truly help people enhance their quality of life. We often hear that there are two things for certain in life: death and taxes. There is however a third certainty, change. With change comes the experience of transition – that space between letting go of the known before reaching the safety of the unknown new life.

Think of a trapeze artist who must let go of the safety of one rung, flying through the air before grabbing onto the safety of the other rung. It is that moment of being without either rung, that causes the viewer to gasp in amazement. Will he make it? It is these moments of ‘in between’, that bring up the emotional upheaval involved in transition:  anger, sadness, despair, grief, confusion, uncertainty, loss of identity, loss of purpose, lack of confidence etc. The life experiences that bring up the realities of transition vary from the normal developmental changes, such as, from adolescence to adulthood; from single hood to marriage, from school to work, from work to retirement, to the unexpected life events, for example, separation and divorce, sudden loss of a job or ones wealth; a health crisis or accident, or the sudden unexpected death of a child, partner, parent or friend.

Even in normal transitions individuals can have difficulty with the resultant stressors and adjustments required of them, whether physical, emotional or financial in nature. This sometimes leads to an intense emotional upheaval of loss and grief, together with uncertainty about letting go of the comfort of the known and resistance to taking responsibility for the new phase in life, and the unknown.  How well individuals and families adjust to the normal and unexpected life-changing events is dependent upon their coping skills gleaned from handling other adjustments; their family and community support network; and their financial resources to cope with the unexpected expenses that often accompany change.

People may not think to turn to a psychotherapist or trained counsellor, but the therapists at Phoenix Rises we have the skills and the learning from past clients to help you manage your transition and realize that as one door closes, another opens.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one, which has been opened for us.”

– Helen Keller

We Have Experience in a Whole Range of Life Transition Events

We have selected a few examples below to indicate some of the more common scenarios where people can benefit for counselling to open a new door. Whether it is a change in financial circumstances, change brought about by divorce, separation, ill-health or even a mid-life crisis, we are here to help.

Here is a Selection of Our Transitions Services . . .


woman-828886_1920The change in one’s financial circumstances due to job loss or crash in the investment market is marked by change which usually has a cascading effect. Often, in the case of loss of job or wealth, it means the loss of the family home, and relocation to a lesser value affordable housing. With this change comes the necessity to say goodbye to familiar routines, to friends, colleagues, schools, community activities, to social status and  perhaps the sale of valued possessions. Regardless of the social circumstances to which you have become accustomed, the move to often a lesser situation is a humbling experience wrought with strong emotions of grief, loss, depression, despair, confusion, uncertainly, with change in identity and status.

  • How can we help?

The task of building new relationships, community, friends, school, smaller home, and adjusting to a new financial reality is a monumental task which often requires help from a professional therapist. The therapists at Phoenix Rises have the empathy and training to assist with the experience that such circumstance can bring upon the individual and family.  In addition to the emotional awareness of transitions, Diane Monteith has the financial literacy training to guide the financially unaware person in their efforts to find stability.

Suicide rates sky rocket in times of economic reversal because the change is perceived as too great to make.  Alberta’s economic recession due to the drop in oil prices is a case in point.  It is reported that there has been a 30% increase in suicides during the first six months of 2015 mainly due to the emotional impact of the massive layoff in the oil patch.  There is an alternative to suicide and that is to seek help from a health care professional which can assist in coming to gripes with the physical and emotional adjustments.


Whether separation and divorce is thrust upon one partner unexpectedly, or by choice or mutual agreement, it is a phase often fraught with deep emotions of grief and loss. There is the loss of the dream of a loving relationship and building a family and home together. The depth of the  grief experience is dependent upon whether the decision was mutual, or sudden and unexpected, as well as how many other changes accompany the decision – as the stress of physical changes such as moving home and the financial strain all add to the experience of grief and loss. When children are involved, the goal for parents should be to decrease the stress for children by minimizing the number of actual physical changes. So to stay in the same house, community, school and maintaining the same friends and social connections is helpful. But often it is not possible resulting in massive stress, insecurity, grief and loss for them. To create a second home with the other parent and establish a joint custody arrangement where the children have access to both parents is crucial to their adjustment. Even then most children do not want their parents to separate, unless, they have been witness to abuse of one partner by another, in which case they are often secretly glad that the abused parent has chosen to leave.

  • What do we do?

All the therapists at Phoenix Rises have experience with teens and adults in dealing with the stress and emotional upheaval of grief and loss that accompanies separation and divorce. In addition, Sandra Forsyth also has specific training and experience in assisting young children and their families through the difficult and challenging experience of separation and divorce.


coffeeAn unexpected turn of events such as a life threatening diagnosis, or a sudden accident that results in a physical inability to carry on regular activities has the power to create a sudden cascade of changes. Such changes as being unable to work and placed on disability with limited income, or outright job loss and the resultant financial hardship. This can lead to a family member having to step in and go back to work if the ill person is the bread-winner. If the medical condition is a chronic progressive illness, such as later-stage multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, long term complications of lupus, dementia or Alzheimer’s, etc., the individual is likely to need help with the emotional adjustment to loss of their job, identity, purpose, independence, social mobility and the new reality of more dependent living.

  • How can we help?

We assist with learning new coping strategies, developing a new network of support and finding new purpose and meaning. To experience the stages of grief is not uncommon:  denial, anger, despair, bargaining and finally acceptance. The individual can move back and forth in these and more emotions as they endeavour to come to grips with this unchanging reality. Both the individual and family often have major adjustment issues that require the assistance of a professional therapist.


The term midlife crises is more a term used  in popular culture rather then founded in research.  Nevertheless, it is considered a time of reflection and re-evaluation of one’s goals in light of the growing awareness of one’s mortality.   As the life expectancy has become longer, so the period considered characteristic of when midlife is likely to happen, has shifted from mid 30’s and is more likely to occur in the 50’s with today’s baby boomers. For men it can last from 3 – 10 years and for women, 2 – 5 years. The life evaluation of goals, relationships, purpose and identity, remorse and regrets can be triggered by life events such as the death of a partner or parent, a job loss, a dislike of one’s present career and a desire to change careers or an unfulfilling or unhappy marriage. Men and women vary in their response to mid-life. For women, it can be triggered by her changing roles as the last child leaves home, leaving the mother without the role of caretaker to a child. For a man,  the mid-life crises is more likely to be triggered by a work related crises. For a man he can have a desire to be youthful and so seeks out a younger woman to add to his sense of virility. They can feel a deep sense of remorse over not having achieved their goals and dreams; a fear of humiliation as they compare themselves to their colleagues; a deep longing for their lost youthfulness and a heightened sense of their sexuality. They may seek satisfaction in expensive toys such as luxury cars, motor bikes, younger women or men as the case may be. Those who maintain good physical health, eat properly and find meaningful activities and work also are less likely to have a crises.

  • What do we do?

The therapists at Phoenix Rises understand the dynamics of mid-life crises and are aware of the disruptions that can occur in life and relationships during such a period of evaluation.  We can assist the individual with this process of evaluation and coming to grips with the areas of dissatisfaction and reconciliation with one’s mistakes, so as to come to peace with themselves and their life.