Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Counseling to help our patients navigate loss

Often counseling involves helping folks navigate through a “loss of something”. 

A loss of a love or relationship 

A loss of security and certainty

A loss of job, business or finance

A loss of a friend or connection 

A loss of freedom and autonomy 

A loss of meaning and purpose 

A loss of reputation

A loss of hope 

A loss of a family 

A loss of good health to name a few

When faced with a loss, we all go through various identifiable stages of loss. It may not be completely linear, but can fluctuate from one stage to another. 

1 Stage 1:  A sense of disbelief 

2 Stage 2:  The truth sets in, and we experience stress with fight, flight, or both. 

3 Stage 3:  We find “emotional acceptance” (not just “intellectual acceptance”).  This is “holding space, creating space, or making room for our losses.  It will help us pivot to stage 4.  Without this, we will be stuck in stage 2. 

4 Stage 4:  We adapt and grow from the experience. We have now create a new more helpful narrative to move forward.  It’s a new story of growth rather than a story of loss.  A story of post traumatic growth rather than a story of post traumatic distress.

From experience, people often get stuck in stage 2, or fluctuate between stage 2 and 3. Being chronically stuck in fight/flight/freeze mode will cause a lot of psychosocial problems in people’s lives. I am sure we all see those in our practice. 

Counseling is to assist folks to move from stage 1 and 2 to stage 3 and 4, with emotional acceptance often being the rate limiting step. 

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