Starting the first full-time job as a therapist–lessons for the young adult?
In my therapy work with young adults, a big focus is the transition from student into full-time employee and essentially from adolescence to full-fledged adulthood. The transition can be a bit of a shock to the system as adulthood is a marathon, not a sprint. Cramming and pulling all-nighters are no longer options in the working world. There are no four-week holiday vacations and adult “lunch breaks” often don’t feel like breaks. As with every transition, there is something to be gained and something to let go of; in this case young adults have to let go of the safety and structure of school but gain autonomy and a stable income.
Discovering the tools needed to be a great adult
This change brings to the surface ways in which the young adult might be underdeveloped and show a need for growth in some areas including relational skills, motivation, and organization. Therapy and finding tools that encourage development in this transitional stage is a must for the young adult to transition into the working world successfully. These tools can include skills needed for being successful in the work environment and also an ability to balance work and social life and ensuring the young adult has good self care and healthy relationships. During this time there is often a spike in anxiety in reaction to this new role and increased responsibility. I found that when I had to take the leap from therapy student to full-time therapist that little routines and rituals really helped me to contain my anxieties and make it through the day.
Ritual as a tool for anxiety and understanding
Years later, now that I have been a full-time art therapist for some time and am satisfied in my NYC therapy practice, many of these rituals have fallen away. I don’t feel like I need them anymore. But some remain. When I first get to work, I have a hot cup of coffee or tea. It helps me to ease into my day with something warm and comforting. When I first get home, I change out of my work clothes immediately, even if I am going to go out again. It makes me feel refreshed and rejuvenated and ready for what’s next, whether it’s a night on the town or a night on the couch.
In addition to rituals being a helpful way to manage day to day life, they of course also can help us cope and understand deeper more complicated parts of the human experiences. Rituals have deep roots in religion, spirituality, and different cultures around the globe. They can be a way to acknowledge and manage complicated and profound situations like birth and death. Or sometimes rituals can appear in the form of superstitions with sports players who are hoping to have everything work in their favor for the big game.
In therapy, a lot of ritual is unspoken–how we greet each other, how we say goodbye, we develop little routines as our relationship grows. And there is plenty of room for more conscious, thoughtful rituals to acknowledge milestones like growth or loss. Together we can work towards you goals while processing and dealing with your transition into adulthood. And along the way we might come up with a ritual to help boost confidence before a big date or a big job interview. Rituals can be a way to take me and our work with you and be a helpful container for anxiety and negative thinking.