7 Things You Can Do When Your Therapist Is On Vacation

Dear patients,

I’m a therapist and sometimes I go on vacation. When I do, here’s what I want you to know and some things you can do while I’m gone. 

1. Know I still care.

I know this can be a tough time, but I need you to know I still care about what happens to you even when I’m not there. Please don’t feel abandoned or rejected if I need to take some time off. My positive regard for you never changes, whether we’re in the therapy room or not.

2. Take this as an opportunity. 

When I’m not there, you have a fantastic opportunity to show me how you cope on your own. This helps us discover the areas where you excel and narrow down where the biggest challenges lie. It’s an opportunity to get a good look at how things might go once therapy ends, so let’s make the most of it.

3. Focus on your skills and strengths.

You might be tempted to focus on what’s going wrong. I’d like you to focus instead on the parts of your life that are working well. We can deal with the heavy stuff when I get back. For now, practice what we’ve been working on and hone your strengths and skills.

4. Make use of your wider support network.

I’m only one part of your support network. If you know I’ll be away, then please make sure you have supportive people around you. That can include other health professionals, family, friends and even pets.

5. Schedule yourself a self-therapy session.

For each session we miss while I’m away, I want you to schedule yourself a self-therapy session. Here’s how it works: set an agenda (what you’ll be working on in your session), reflect on how things have gone since your last session, start going through your agenda/problem list and think of one skill you could apply to help with each problem. Then, have a go at it. Think about what I would say if I was there if you get stuck, then at the end of your session choose a homework task you could work on before your next one. It’s particularly helpful for me if you can write this all down and bring it along next time you see me.

6. If you need more urgent help, then please seek it.

If a crisis occurs while I’m away, please seek help as soon as possible. Options include contacting your nearest emergency mental health service, seeing your doctor, going to a hospital or calling an ambulance. Please don’t wait until I am back if you’re at risk of hurting yourself or someone else — seek help immediately. You can also always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

7. Please remember I’m human, too.

When I tell you I’m going on vacation, I see that look in your eyes — the disappointment, the fear — and it can make me feel guilty. The only way I can care for you is if I care for myself, too. I have a responsibility to look after my health and well-being, and that’s what I’m doing when I go on vacation. Rather than feel badly about me not being there, instead celebrate the fact I’m showing you I value my own mental health.

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