As the HMRC report almost a quarter of the UK workforce has been furloughed due to Covid-19 lockdown measures, a huge swathe of the population has been forced to adapt to new ways of life and to find meaning in uncertainty.

In social and mainstream media there have been a deluge of stories detailing how people have been using their time for a range of activities like teaching children, exercising, learning new skills and finding innovative ways of using technology to keep in touch with friends and family.

For many others, loss of income, uncertainty of the future and the removal of the routine and the structure brought by working life has brought confusion, fear and depression and most concerningly, calls to the domestic abuse helpline Refuge are reported to have increased by 50% in the first three weeks of the lockdown.

As well as the financial stability provided by employment, work contributes greatly to our sense of who we are and our purpose in life; and for some, vital time away from pressured and volatile home circumstances.

New normal

The “new normal” is generating circumstances and situations that we have little or no previous experience of understanding or managing.

For our member Sue Sutcliffe, the challenges being faced by many furloughed workers who are adapting to their new normal has resonated with her coaching work with older couples whose relationships have imploded as a result of retirement.

"When one partner has been at home, managing the daily running of a household and living the work-week largely on their own terms, the full-time presence of the other can be unsettling and even intrusive,” says Sue. “And for the person who has finished their professional working life, there can be feelings of great uncertainty and a loss of identity.”

Sue, who is a senior accredited BACP member specialising in integrative therapy and coaching, finds that the latter can work well in helping these couples to make sense of their new circumstances and adapt to a new configuration for their relationship which can positively redefine the years ahead.

But sometimes, even getting to the start of the coaching sessions can be tricky.


Sue says: "Often it’s one member of the couple that will have initiated the therapy and the other will openly state that they’re only there to please him/her.

“But once we’ve moved past that initial resistance, there’s great value in focusing on how the retirement has impacted on each member of the couple and exploring how they can move forward in a way that meets their both their own individual needs and the goals they share together."

People of statutory retirement age are less likely to access talking therapies than younger counterparts, with the language of mental health, and reticence about discussing feelings often cited as barriers keeping older people out of the therapy room.

For Sue, the goal-focussed approach offered by coaching has proved more appealing to many older couples.

“At time of great upheaval, people will come to re-evaluate what they want and need from life and although this requires some exploration and openness of feelings, it also critically involves negotiation and development of new techniques and skill-sets.”

Even when retirement from work is anticipated and planned, there are difficulties resulting from a mismatch between expectations and new realities.

As we continue to adapt to life during and beyond the Covid-19 crisis, choice and access to a wide range of psychological approaches and techniques is required to help us map our way to positive and productive new versions of ourselves.

Find out more about our campaign to maximise the role counselling and psychotherapy play in supporting people during the coronavirus crisis and rebuilding the nation afterwards.

In support of the campaign, Carolyn Mumby, our Coaching Division Chair, has blogged about the role of coaching for organisations adapting to change and new ways of working.

Find out more about our Coaching Division.