Transitioning out of one’s faith can be simultaneously relieving and nerve wracking. While on one hand a person may feel liberated to leave behind a belief system which they have outgrown, that same person will likely feel some anxiety while they discover new ways at looking at the world. One’s faith typically provides a lot of comforts and a lot of answers. Within most faiths, a person is given an outline for how to be a good person, what purpose humanity and individuals serve, what happens to people after death, where our existence came from, and how to behave in regard to sex and other personal aspects of life. In leaving a faith behind, people often are faced with navigating all of these questions and typically do not have a source from which to obtain clear answers. Anxiety and even incapacitating dread are the result of taking on this new task. While a therapist cannot provide the answers to the larger-than-life questions, they can help someone sort out their own conclusions and reduce some of the anxiety that accompanies them.
Faith transitions also are likely to include discord with family when one’s family members remain in the faith. Reactions tends to vary widely. It may range from the person leaving being secretive about no longer identifying with a faith to a person explicitly letting their family know they no longer ascribe to the faith. One the receiving end, some families are welcoming and accepting of these transitions, whereas others react harshly. Commonly, families follow through a transition from disbelief and conflict to eventually defining new ways of maintaining close family ties. Given the unpredictability of family and friend’s reactions, especially when one’s social circle largely includes those of the faith, it can be immensely helpful to confide in a therapist whom one can count on not to leave or judge because of someone’s developing personal beliefs.