Starting a new relationship after separation: how to support your clientsFeb 22, 2023
When a romantic relationship comes to an end, it can leave people with a great many worries, doubts, and insecurities – even if they were the ones bringing the relationship to a close. Lives are often entangled, and unravelling these ties can take time and effort. So what happens when someone faces the prospect of starting a brand new relationship, when the trauma of the past is still present?
If your client has been through a divorce, separation, or relationship breakdown, they might be extremely anxious at the thought of starting a new relationship. As their therapist, your job is to help them to explore these anxious thoughts, so they can move forward in their lives.
How to help your clients work through relationship trauma
Every relationship is unique, and every relationship trauma is equally individual. Your client may have experienced bullying, coercive control or physical abuse; they may have been betrayed by their spouse or partner; they may have even ended the relationship amicably, but are now struggling to trust in a new connection. All trauma, and all anxiety, is valid and legitimate.
So how can you help your client to work through these challenges?
Understand their situation
If there are children involved, your client won’t be able to sever all ties with their ex, which can make things more complicated – especially when it comes to starting a new relationship. They may be worried about how their ex will react, or what their children will think of the new partner. It’s essential that you understand their situation in full, so that youcan support them through the unique challenges they may be facing.
One of the biggest barriers to being able to move on after a relationship breakdown is being able to accept that things are, in fact, really over. Talk to your client about the possibility that the old relationship could be rekindled: how likely is that to happen? Is that what they want? Is it what their ex wants? If there’s no chance of a reconciliation, or if your partner is certain they don’t want to rekindle their old romance, encouraging acceptance can bring a real sense of relief.
Facilitate a positive mindset
It can be very difficult for people to see the ‘bright side’ of their situation when they’re hurting, but the end of a relationship can signal a new beginning, full of exciting possibilities. Help your client to create a more positive mindset by encouraging them to look at things in a different way. It can be a slow process, and it rarely happens overnight, but this can really help your client to move forward with hope and even excitement for the future.
Help them to rediscover themselves
When someone goes through a divorce or separation, it can feel like a death – not only of the hopes, dreams and plans they once had, but of their role as a spouse or partner, too. One essential step in helping your client to move on then is encouraging them to get to know themselves again. Who are they? What do they want? What’s important to them now? What do they not want from a relationship? It’s important they get to know themselves again before embarking on something new.
Introduce calming techniques
A relationship trauma can leave us in fight or flight mode – flooding our bodies with adrenaline and cortisol, and making it difficult to think straight or remain calm. If your client wants to move past a relationship breakdown ready to start anew, it’s important they learn how to rest and relax. You can take them through deep-breathing exercises, introduce meditation, or explain the value of making time for simple acts of self-care.
How My Little Therapy Box can help
As a mental health professional, you want to be at the top of your game, so that your clients get the very best help and support. That’s why CPD is so important (and so essential in our role as therapists).
My ‘Working with Separation and Divorce’ online course is designed to provide you with a reliable and actionable framework for supporting your clients through the challenges of separation and divorce. You’ll pick up practical exercises to use in therapy, and the hours will count towards your CPD!
Access your FREE 'Creative Therapy Training'
My Little Therapy box all started with my passion for helping clients in therapy who struggle to open up and articulate their feelings into words.
In this 30-minute training session, I share the barriers some clients face in therapy and how we as therapists can help them overcome this by using creative ways to help them engage and get the most out of the therapeutic relationship.
This is the same presentation I was invited to deliver at this year’s BACP Annual Online conference.
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