Role Transition is chosen as the IPT focus area when psychological distress is associated with difficulty coping with changes in your current life circumstances. Role transitions may occur in many domains including employment, relationship status, physical health, living conditions, socioeconomic status, etc. Sometimes even positive changes in one’s life (marriage, parenthood, moving, job change) can be associated with negative feelings. The therapist will help you to better adjust to these changes and gain mastery in your new role
The main therapeutic goals when dealing with a transition are to help you better adjust and accept the new role in your life. Restoring your self-esteem is important and can be done by helping you to develop a sense of mastery regarding the demands of new roles. The IPT therapist will also help you instil a sense of hope, as well as develop better ways to cope with whatever life brings. Often time we cannot change the circumstances of our lives, but what we do control is how we respond to what is happening in our lives.
Here are some important considerations when adjusting to a new role in your life.
The first few sessions in IPT are used to review your mood, examine the important relationships in your life using an Interpersonal Inventory, and set the treatment goals. Once the focus of therapy has been determined to be a transition, then the middle sessions can begin. The middle sessions (usually 4-12) focus on helping you adjust to the new transition. As therapy progresses, you will have a better understanding of the connection between the role transition you are experiencing and why it is affecting your mood. Soon you will start to understand more clearly what you are doing that is keeping you ‘stuck’ in the transition and be able to recognize pitfalls more easily in the future. The ways in which people generally cope with things in their life (e.g., avoidance, withdrawal, determination, focus) often become magnified when dealing with problems. It is important to examine both positive and negative ways of coping, in order to eliminate or reduce negative coping strategies and optimize positive coping strategies.
It is important to review both negative and positive aspects of both the old role and the new role, as people often focus on the positive aspects of the old role and the negative aspects of the new role. Once you fully explore both positive and negative aspects of both roles, you can more realistically evaluate the situation you are in. You have the power and the choice to react to the life event in a positive way. This realization will empower you and will increase their sense of self-mastery and efficacy.
Accepting a transition, does not mean that you are not allowed to feel sad about a role that was lost. It is important to help you explore and mourn the loss of the old role. Allowing room for negative emotion and fostering a sense of awareness and acceptance, will help you better adjust to the new role.
Often time people have a hard time adjust to change itself. Being inflexible about change does not allow growth and development to happen. It is important to recognize that learning and growth can only take place with change.
Often with change come new opportunities. When someone is ‘stuck’ in a transition, they view of the situation becomes very narrow such that they are unable to see new opportunities. It is important to help you broaden their view within the problem state in order to explore new opportunities that you might not be able to recognize.
Encouragement of the use of a social support network is always a priority in IPT. ‘Who’ questions are important – for example, ‘who can you ask for help’, ‘who can you spend time with’, ‘who can offer you support’. When a person is in a new role (example after a divorce) it may be necessary to either develop a new social support network, or call on additional help from the current social network. New skills might also be needed to be developed. Therapy can help you define and practice these new skills.