There are many reasons why your therapist may be out of the office. Maybe they have a personal or family emergency, they are going through a major life transition, or simply they are away on vacation. The client and therapist relationship is one that is cherished, valued, and respected. So, when your therapist is out of the office and unavailable to you for an extended period of time, it can be difficult and can be met with some struggle. In my years of practice, I have been out of the office for a variety of reasons and each time, I not only prepare but have learned a lot in the process (both for myself as a clinician and from a client’s perspective). Therefore, I wanted to offer some suggestions, that will hopefully help you during your therapist’s absence.
- Please keep in mind that we are human, too. Meaning that outside of the therapy office, we have myriad of roles and responsibilities that require our attention. I often say, I practice what I preach. Therefore, establishing boundaries and a self-care routine is of the upmost importance to me. As a result, it allows me (and other therapists) to be at our best and optimal self. Therefore, I value my own mental health and wellbeing.
- We continue to care about you and your circumstance. The fact that we are not available is not a sign of indifference. You are not forgotten. We very much care about you and what you are going through. In fact, I can share that I have a list of clients that I will be contacting as soon as I get into the office to start our working together.
- Prior to leaving the office make sure that you and your therapist have discussed a plan of self-care, action, and resources that will be of support to you during their absence. I can’t stress this enough: don’t skip this conversation. I know that a lot of my clients resisted this conversation because they didn’t want to think of me out of the office, however, it is necessary because as mentioned above: WE CARE. Sometimes, a therapist will have someone “fill-in” for them while away and sometimes they won’t. Sometimes, they will have to do work to connect you with another practitioner in their absence. Each client is different and part of the plan is to create a plan that is best for you and your situation. So, it’s important that you get your plan prior to their leave. Additionally, identify a wider support network, maybe this includes a nutritionist, personal trainer, group therapy, etc. Always, have emergency numbers available in case of a crisis.
- See this time as a chance to practice and implement everything you have learned while in therapy. Take the time to focus on the skills you have discussed and really highlight the strengths you have developed while working with your therapist. Keep the same appointment time with yourself and take that time for self-care! Take the time to journal and process the previous week; jot down your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors as a result of what you have lived in the past week. What are some possible solutions that you can brainstorm and put into an action plan for the following week. A lot of growth can occur during these times of self-reliance and you may very well be surprised of how much you have growth. This doesn’t mean that you are done with therapy but can really take the time to bask in your personal growth!
- If your therapist informs you of an impending leave of absence, I suggest don’t ignore the message. Schedule a self-care session and prepare just in case. You never know what may arise and when you reach out to your therapist you receive an out of office email. I really don’t want that to happen to you. Be proactive. Each therapist has a policy on how often they will contact someone before they close their file. Of course, you can always resume contact with your therapist, at your initiation.
These are not an exhaustive list but merely some suggestions that I thought would be helpful a time when you do not have regular access to your therapist. What do you think you need to better prepare for your therapists absence?