I’m in the midst of my own vacation and am grateful to you readers for writing the blog this week! The following are responses from readers of this blog to a survey sent out over the past two weeks.
If you are also on vacation I hope these words are encouraging – you’re not alone – therapy breaks can be difficult! A full 50% of clients who responded to the survey cancelled a session in the four weeks heading into their therapist’s vacation!
How do you feel when you know your therapist is about to go on vacation?
I feel anxious and get frustrated by it.
Initially, I felt a bit abandoned – “How dare they have a life outside the therapy room”. After sharing this thought with them and exploring what it meant for me I don’t have such a strong reaction. Sometimes I’m even glad of the break.
OK. We speak about the holiday a number of weeks beforehand.
Even though I understand intellectually that she’ll come back, she normally goes overseas for her breaks, so I feel worried that she won’t return.
I understand the need for my therapist to recharge and come back more rested I wish our country would let everyone off for at least 3 weeks paid like in Europe. It’s also a good time for the client to write or do some centered work for themselves. I used to have abandonment issues and fear of losing my therapist at the start of therapy but that has diminished with time.
Nervous, scared, angry, abandoned.
Ok. I understand they need self-care in order to care for others.
I feel very worried and rejected/abandoned.
I feel a little abandoned. We also use text therapy in conjunction with sessions. I feel like I don’t want to burden him even though it is completely okay to write.
Sometimes upset if it’s particularly hard time for me. Otherwise glad she’s taking a vacation for herself.
I will miss my weekly sessions but use it as a ” no option” way of practicing what termination might feel like. It also forces me to practice what I have learned and know I will be ok.
When my therapist goes on vacation I miss her a lot. As a matter of fact, I miss her during the week. She and I read a book called the little prince. I recommend it to everyone. It is a children’s book but with so many adult themes. What keeps me grounded when I don’t get to see her is the part of the book that says that we are all connected by the stars all we have to do is look up at the sky. She is so encouraging to me. And I appreciate her so much. But it is the trust and vulnerability that makes me miss her more…but it does build the rapport and I think it allows us both to grow in so many ways.
I feel sad. I feel unimportant. I feel forgotten. I feel a loss. I also feel some anger at the fact that it is so easy for the therapist to leave but that it is so difficult for me as a client.
Initially, I love the idea of a reprieve. I’m off the hook! No incoming calls? Yes. Escaping a difficult situation? Of course. And also like a fish off the hook, I am free to go in any direction.
For therapists: What is challenging for you about going on vacation?
Thinking I should not take a break because they need me…feeling like it will be a setback in our work together and cause some transference reactions for them when I return–canceling, tardiness, no showing, because they may feel like I abandoned them.
I work for a charity and see clients on a short-term basis (10 sessions only) so the timing of breaks is the biggest challenge i.e. I wouldn’t start seeing clients if I was going to be away in the next two weeks. This often means I end up having a break of a month rather than 2 weeks as planned. I haven’t yet had to tell a client I will be on holiday but I imagine this may feel challenging depending on the client I am working with.
Patients that have high needs, assuring they are cared for during that time, knowing they will be in much worse shape upon return.
I go on holiday every 6 weeks for either part of or a whole week. I tell potential clients about this before I start work. Once I am working with a client I give reminders at the end of each session, a countdown if you like so they feel prepared and can talk about how they feel. Depending on the client’s attachment style some get quite unsettled coming up to my holidays. One, in particular, I do tell them I will keep them in mind while I am away, and do this, I don’t contact them though. This seems to be enough for the client.
In the sessions beforehand, witnessing unspoken behaviours, that are natural, and addressing them. And the thought of “am I doing harm?”. It also depends on the client.
Usually, I’m fine. We are a large facility and my patients can get help just by calling. I sometimes think about my patients on vacation, especially the high-risk ones, but the thoughts are fleeting. After 25 years as a therapist, I have to have time to myself. Every year I take a long weekend trip by myself, in the woods, on hidden lakes, in the fresh air.
For everyone: What else do you want to say about taking breaks from therapy? Metaphors, poems, stories, and facts welcome.
I think it is hard for me to feel that my therapist means so much more to me than I do to them. It’s hard for me to picture making a difference by not being there. However, there is a big difference when he is not there.
Sometimes I just can’t sit in this chair any longer!
As a client, it’s usually when she gets back that my behavior changes. I feel distant and that she might not like me anymore.
I always dread the August vacation, much more so than the December holiday break. It feels more personal, more hurtful, to be left alone when it’s summer versus the bustling holiday season. It brings up many feelings around missed or lost connection and I tend to imagine that some mystical change will take shape, forever altering the therapeutic relationship. I worry my therapist will have some life changing revelation and realize she hates me or hates being a therapist and she’ll just stay on vacation forever. And I worry that I won’t be able to hold all of my thoughts and emotions without my therapist to check in with several times a week. My day-to-day life changes significantly without therapy to attend and think about as often, which I always worry will leave me feeling completely empty, but I usually find it’s quite restful to have that time to recharge, which can be unsettling in its own way!
There is no doubt of the value there is in therapy and that the break could be a relief from the hard work to go in emotionally but there is the fear of abandonment which I know is not real. In this case, the therapist needs a break and I welcome it. It’s a good time for self-care and reflection.
As a therapist, it is a vital self-care tool. As a long-term client, it is helpful to have a break and get some breathing space to reflect on the work being done.
Luckily my therapist is available via text and quite often we can do FaceTime for at least 1 session while she or I are gone
Read “The Little Prince” and The Runaway Bunny.” They help so much with connection and trauma.
There is always a reason behind the break. Did the work get too difficult? Is there some avoidance going on? Does the client want to ghost their therapist? Is there a break because we are feeling stuck?
Reminded electronically of my standing appointment I am bereft. The day becomes unmoored. I lose my poise. I plodded on at work. I felt poorly for no easy reason. It was overcast and rainy inside and out. If only I’d played hooky from work. Embraced my inner fish. Well, I can still choose to do that today. Take an hour by the lake. I will!
I don’t like the breaks as I feel alone with my therapist away.
I think it’s great for the therapist and client.
One of the many things that impressed me in these responses is the diversity of feelings and thoughts from both clients and therapists.
And finally – all but one respondent is either a client or a therapist and a client. i.e. the overwhelming number of therapists who responded are also in therapy. That is a wondrous statistic.