Written by Katherine Nicholls
Katherine Nicholls
Counselling Directory Content Team

Last updated 13th February 2024 | Next update due 12th February 2027

The dictionary defines redundancy as the state of being no longer needed or useful, and whether that description applies to machinery or humans - the implications can be gloomy. Looking at this definition and its negative connotations, it's easy to understand why it can have such devastating effects for some.

Here we explore how redundancy can affect us emotionally, and how redundancy counselling can help.

What is redundancy?

In today’s roller-coaster economy, redundancy is increasingly common. Being made redundant at work means your position is no longer required by the company that employs you. The reasons for being made redundant vary but may include:

  • a lack of funds to support your position
  • new management structure
  • staffing restructure
  • business going into administration 

This phenomenon of modern life is considered by some to be a “psychological crisis” for those caught up in the process. This is mainly because redundancy can bring a sudden sense of loss in two areas; the practical loss of income and the psychological impact of loss of status, companionship and mental well-being associated with being employed. It can also undermine our sense of self-esteem and bring about a fear of what’s to come in the future.

Therapists who can help with redundancy

The effects of redundancy

Being made redundant is often a life-changing experience. You face having to reorganise your life and may encounter immediate problems. How will you pay your bills? What chance is there of finding another job? Often a person’s employment defines them and their sense of purpose, so the shock of its loss and resulting powerlessness can be devastating.

For those who feel trapped in an unfulfilling job (and are lucky enough to have financial security), having a sudden release can offer a new lease of life. For the majority, however, it can be a daunting and demoralising journey. Feelings of loss can promote a crash of confidence and in certain cases may lead to the development of depressive symptoms. The sudden disruption of a daily routine can also feel disorientating, resulting in a sense of isolation. 

Richard Lucas, a psychologist at Michigan State University analysed data from two large studies that looked into mankind’s ability to adapt emotionally. It was found that on average, humans adapt best to marriage and death, with well-being levels returning back to normal after a certain amount of time.

When it came to adapting to things such as serious illness and the loss of a job, however, it was discovered that well-being levels did not return to the level they experienced previously. Some schools of thought say money (or the lack thereof) is the main reason behind this, while others argue that the loss of status and sense of self were more integral.

The changing face of redundancy

Age, sex, peer group, financial position and even work skills all make the impact of redundancy different for everyone. The face of redundancy has changed in the last 40 years when industries like manufacturing and coal mining simply disappeared. Back then, redundancy meant it was unlikely any other employment would come along and skills would be lost forever. Large groups were often made redundant together, so the feeling of isolation might have been lessened - but there was perhaps more despair and anger.

These days, modern skills such as computing and electronics are more portable and therefore adaptable to other industries and workplaces. There is also more acceptance of the peaks and troughs of the economy, so we can hold out hope that employment will return in the medium term. Maintaining focus and self-belief is crucial to allow those made redundant to return to the job market. Retraining, managing finances and keeping morale are a priority. People who have suffered a crash of confidence may find getting support through counselling or coaching helpful.

How do I cope with redundancy emotionally?

Studies show a great amount of variation in the way individuals adapt to what life throws at them. Generally, people who have been able to face up to adversity feel they have changed, grown, or even benefitted as a result of their experience.

If you have been made redundant, don't keep your thoughts to yourself; seek out friends and family you can trust, keep in contact with others in a similar situation and talk about your anxieties. It is important to begin to think about a more positive future and plan what you should do next with your life. The following tips are a great starting point:

1. Reframe your position

Move from "I was made redundant", to "My position was made redundant". It is an important step away from the victim position and closer towards a survivor standpoint. You can view your situation as the result of a business decision rather than a criticism of you or your skills.

2. Talk openly to trusted people

Your family and friends are likely to be affected by your redundancy and may be able to help. If you were made redundant as part of a group, it might help to contact your ex-colleagues for moral support and to discuss your back-to-work strategy.

3. Maintain structure in your day

Stick to a timetable or schedule that resembles work and get out of the house. Keep a balance in your life. Maintain normality and allow yourself to think about the future. Keep a sense of purpose to stay positive.

4. Start thinking about the future

Even if it is just a weekend away or a trip to see a friend, making plans can help you get a new perspective. Beware of extended travel or holidays which may deplete funds and not allow you to move forward. Think about using stepping stones towards a path for the future, whether that might involve moving, doing voluntary work or retraining. Keep your options open and try to be realistic.

5. Learn something new

Whether it involves retraining, having contact with other people or just keeping your mind active and focused - it is important to be open to learning.

6. Improve your CV through voluntary work

Getting involved with a project you are passionate about can help you build up the necessary skills for re-entering the job market and show potential employers that you are resilient and resourceful. Many charities have become more professional and are in a position to recruit staff as they grow and develop.

What is redundancy counselling?

There are essentially two types of redundancy counselling or advice; the practical type which offers support and signposts a route back to employment, and the traditional type of confidential counselling which can help address any problems which might stand in the way of you getting onto the path.

The latter can help with low self-esteem, depression, sudden loss or anxiety. This can be useful to help increase your understanding of the situation and allow a way forward.

What can you expect from redundancy counselling?

Styles of counselling will differ according to your needs and whether you are ready to embark on a plan to find new employment, or are facing a setback which stops you. Good employers often make the practical type of redundancy counselling services available to their outgoing staff, or you can contact one privately.

For the most part, a redundancy counsellor/advisor will offer very practical job-hunting advice, for example putting together a CV, preparing for interviews and networking tips. The information should be up-to-date and geared to the current requirements of the industry. Redundancy support services can also prepare specific programmes for those who face more challenging redundancy situations. For example, if an entire sector of the economy, such as finance, is contracting. For those affected, moving into new roles may become essential.

Similar challenges may be faced by those who have spent their careers working in the public sector. Redundancy may push them to compete in the private sector, where the tempo of work and the pressure of expectations can be different from what they are used to. Experienced advisors can help ease the burden.

You can also expect redundancy advisors to go over the psychological aspects of redundancy. Advice on remaining positive during your job search, maintaining your sense of self-esteem and discussing some of the psychological effects of redundancy should all form part of this. It should be noted that most redundancy advisors will not be general counsellors, so if you’re experiencing any concerning symptoms such as depression, they should be able to refer you to a specialist.

Therapy specifically for redundancy is often based on the bereavement model devised in 1969 by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss doctor. Her five stages of emotional response to loss – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – are still commonly used to help people cope with redundancy. Many counsellors are trained to work with loss and some specialise in work-related stress such as redundancy.

The toughest thing for some people is feeling as if they have no purpose, and staying positive within a routine. Set yourself tasks for the day and keep in contact with friends and ex-colleagues, it is important to keep a balance.

Finally, while you are out of work it is important to remain in touch with the sector you want to work in. Keep up via relevant trade publications and network when you can.

What is redundancy coaching?

If you're keen to explore your career options following redundancy, a coach can help. By identifying transferable skills, exploring your core values and rebuilding your confidence, redundancy coaching can help you find the next step on your path. Learn more about how redundancy coaching could help.

What should I be looking for in a counsellor or psychotherapist?

Currently, there are no official rules or regulations stipulating what level of training a counsellor dealing with redundancy needs. There are however several accredited courses, qualifications and workshops available to counsellors to improve their knowledge of a particular area, so for peace of mind, you may wish to check to see if they have had further training in issues regarding work and redundancy.

Further help

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