Supporting Your Clients When Valentine’s Day is TriggeringFeb 09, 2023
Whether your clients are going through a separation or divorce, or they’re still struggling after the breakdown of a past relationship, they may find Valentine’s Day particularly triggering.
It can be really difficult to see cards in every shop, and adverts on every channel, when you’re feeling hurt and alone – even if you never really celebrated Valentine's Day as a couple. The fact that the days surrounding February 14th are so focused on love can bring a lot of memories – and a lot of challenges – to the surface.
So how do you support your clients through this difficult time?
Addressing Attachment, Grief and Trauma
Following the breakdown of a relationship, your client may be feeling abandoned, afraid, angry, confused, anxious, depressed, ashamed, bitter, guilty, helpless, hostile, sad, incomplete, lonely, lost, inadequate, overwhelmed, shocked, empty, and even violated. Every one of these emotions is valid, and completely normal – but that doesn’t mean they can’t be helped to move past these feelings.
If your client is having a hard time as Valentine’s Day looms, they may need to address their relationship trauma during their therapy sessions. Here’s how you can help.
One of the most important ways that you can help your client to process the end of a relationship is by bringing their attention to their own attachment style. Whether your client has an anxious, avoidant or secure attachment style will determine how they behave in relationships, and how they relate to others. Helping them to understand this can raise their awareness of their own thoughts and feelings – allowing them to make deeper sense of their experiences and emotions.
It can also help your client to understand how other people’s attachment styles may have impacted on them. Identifying these styles explains why some people in relationships are more needy, while some are avoidant. Reassure your client that none of these attachment styles are ‘bad’ or ‘good’, but that understanding the different styles can help them to realise what they need in a relationship.
If your client is going through separation or divorce, they’re likely to be experiencing a form of grief. It’s your job to help them recognise and understand this.
There are five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance – and moving through these five stages can help to heal the hurt. If your client doesn’t understand the grief process, it could hold them back in future relationships – or prevent them from moving on altogether.
While having an understanding of loss and grief doesn’t make it go away, it can give your client valuable insight into why they’re experiencing certain emotions at any one time. After all, one of your main jobs as a therapist is to equip your clients with the tools to help them become more informed, educated, and in control of their happiness.
It’s important to recognise that going through a relationship breakdown for many people is in itself a traumatic event. When we experience trauma, cortisol (the stress hormone) is secreted by the brain: the same thing happens when we experience a separation. As a therapist then, it’s crucial that you have a good knowledge of trauma responses, and that you help your client to understand how these could potentially play out in a relationship.
As therapists, we have a job to educate our clients around how these feelings may be impacting on them and their relationships, and how they may be influencing the negative self-talk they encounter on what could be a daily basis. We can then help them to realise the importance of building a support network – overcoming past hurts by rebuilding trust in new and healthier relationships.
This is particularly important if your client is struggling around Valentine’s Day. People experiencing trauma or grief following the breakdown of a relationship will need more support than usual at this time of year – in addition to therapy sessions. Working with your client to identify the sort of support they need, and how much, can help them to take some really positive steps into the
How My Little Therapy Box Can Help
If you want to be sure that your skills and techniques are up-to-date for the clients who need you, My Little Therapy Box has an online course that provides therapists with a reliable framework for supporting people through separation and divorce.
‘Working with Separation and Divorce’ helps you to support your clients through the trauma and challenges of a break-up. You’ll learn practical exercises to use with your clients in a therapy setting, and the hours will count towards your CPD!
Find out more about my online course.
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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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