Anne* is a 44-year-old woman, who lives with her two children and is developing an online health and wellness business.
After 10 years of marriage, when her children were 5 and 8, Anne’s husband left her for another woman with whom, it later became clear, he had been having an affair for at least a year. His departure was a huge shock to Anne, who had been unaware of anything amiss in their marriage which could not be seen as the normal ups and downs of any relationship.
After her husband left, Anne experienced depression and debilitating anxiety for the first time in her life. She was also experiencing grief for the loss of what “could have been” – a happy, stable family life for her family. Her husband was showing little commitment to their children, and made little attempt to spend time with them, all of which compounded her distress.
Anne described herself as feeling ‘alone’, ‘shocked’, ‘sad’, ‘angry’, ‘scared’, ‘confused’, ‘worthless’ and ‘not coping’. She felt ‘unworthy’ of love and respect’, and that everything was her fault.
Anne experienced serious illness very early in her life, spending the first 6 months of her life in hospital with life-threatening pneumonia. Although now a fit and sporty woman, her life had been affected by several health issues, varying in seriousness. Her life was characterized by bullying during her childhood and adulthood, and some instability.
Between the time her husband left her (three weeks before we worked together), and our sessions, Anne had regularly visited a psychologist. She had found these appointments helpful, as they gave her a chance to freely talk about her feelings and what she was going through. However, they didn’t improve her anxiety levels, or her depression.
Anne wanted to feel strong and confident, calm, resilient, and in control. She wanted to lower her anxiety levels and increase her energy levels, and feel like she was a rock for her children. She wanted to feel like the future would be ‘ok’, confident that she would cope as a single mother. Anne also wanted to increase her self-worth, and to feel worthy of good treatment from others.
Anne completed the homework exercise, listing the most distressing events in her life, and a list of desired outcomes from our work together. She then went on to undertake 3 sessions of TRTP. The sessions were each a week apart.
Anne described her first session as “life-changing”. She felt calmer, stronger, more confident, and worthy of respectful treatment from others. She felt like her resilience was “back”.
After Session 2 Anne felt an increased sense of empowerment towards her current situation, and towards events of the past which had been distressing when she completed the homework exercise, and which now felt like “nothing”.
Anne reported that she was feeling much more in control, that the ongoing unacceptable behaviour of her husband was affecting her less. She had set more boundaries in terms of her husband’s family, with whom she was in communication, in order to protect herself and her calmer state. She felt more rested, able to sleep through the night for the first time since the separation. She also felt relief from the sense of guilt and inadequacy she had been carrying regarding her parenting, due to both the marriage failure and other events.
Pre-TRTP: DASS 21 Results* (taken at the beginning of Session 1)
Post-TRTP: DASS 21 Results (taken at the beginning of Session 3)
Anne followed up 1.5 months after our last session. Understandably, she was still finding the behaviour of her husband challenging, as they began to negotiate the details of their separation and preparation for divorce. We did a little more work around state regulation and calm assertiveness, and she was given a short recording recorded specifically for her to use daily, to support her through this difficult time. She later reported that this gave her the ability to “be in the place” she wanted to be for the day ahead.
*The DASS is a self-report scale designed to measure the negative emotional states of depression, anxiety and stress. It has been shown to be a valid and reliable measure of these psychological states as well as tapping into a more general dimension of psychological distress. Please note, DASS scores are often doubled for a clinical assessment. Here I leave them not doubled.