Coping while Your Therapist Is on Vacation

ErinTherapy19 Comments

I should have written about therapists going on vacation at the beginning of the summer so this post could be more helpful, but my therapist’s vacation is starting today and so it only crossed my mind to write about now.

It’s fair to say that I always have a hard time when my therapist goes away on vacation. It used to bring me to tears – and still sometimes does – but I’ve figured out a few tips to keep my head above water for my few weeks without a life jacket.

1. Make it Your Vacation Too

Sure, we can’t exactly take a vacation from our mental health issues, but we can look at the therapy break as a good thing. When was the last time you were bored and said, “Oh, I know what would be fun: THERAPY!”  Yeah, it isn’t a walk in the park and although it can be comforting and reassuring, therapy is not fun. There is a board game called “Therapy” though, and somehow it sells. Anyway, if you miss therapy THAT much, play the board game. Otherwise, focus on giving yourself a treatment break and have some fun. Fun can be a foreign word to those with depression but it’s just as important as anything else in life, if not more important. If you’re stuck for ideas, hang out with a little kid for a while. They don’t know how not to have fun!

2. Connect with other Supports

I remember three or four summers ago my mom came to my bedroom and saw that I’d been crying. She asked me what was wrong and I told her the truth: I was worried about getting by without my therapist for a few weeks. She got me to come upstairs with her and along with my dad we devised a plan so that I could feel supported and safe by the other caring people in my life. It can be hard to reach out to people we love when we are in pain because we don’t want to hurt them, but that’s what friends and family are for. Remember, the more supports you have, the stronger you will be. Even saying something like, “I’m okay for now, but I wanted to let you know that without my therapist around for a few weeks, I might need to lean on you more than usual. I’ll come to you if I need to,” can go a long way.

3. See it as Practice

A metaphor I used in my second paragraph touched on how therapy can feel like a life jacket. It can also be seen as a safety net, there to catch you when you fall, if you fall. Like with anything else in life, eventually the training wheels come off and we have to balance on our own. We’ll never learn to swim if we’re always wearing a life jacket, so a few weeks without therapy can be a test run for when we no longer need therapy one day. You are stronger than you think!

4. Stay Busy

Have you ever worried about something so much that you were paralyzed to do anything about it? I remember being in school and being so stressed out about studying for my exams that I wasn’t getting any studying done. Worrying does not help pass the time, it makes time stretch out even longer. Pick a project to work on while your therapist is away, whether it’s cleaning out your room or starting a fun art piece. Treat yourself to some new clothes or ice cream or something. Watch the classic movie about a patient tracking down his psychiatrist while he’s on vacation: What About Bob?

5. Remember that “Out of Sight” Isn’t “Out of Mind”

I used to have a hard time believing that my therapist thought of me outside of session times, but I began to believe it after my therapist told me, “Erin, I don’t think it’s even possible for two people who spend so much time together to not care about each other.” I wasn’t ready to trust that she truly cared yet, but I realized that it would be pretty impossible for her to forget about my existence after seeing me up to three hours a week for so long. So, remember that your therapist is remembering you and that just because you aren’t seeing him or her, it doesn’t mean that your connection is broken.

We’ll see how I do for the next few weeks without my therapist around but I’m sure I’ll be fine, especially considering I have to see my shrink-wrap (psychiatrist) once during that time. I need to do a major clean-out of my apartment and I’m spending lots of time with Milo while my parents go on vacation. Party!

ErinCoping while Your Therapist Is on Vacation

19 Comments on “Coping while Your Therapist Is on Vacation”

  1. Rachel

    Oh I struggle a lot if my therapist goes on holidays. Today is reading weeks so I don’t have my usual appointment with either my psychiatrist or doctor, and I usually don’t have an appointment with my therapist this week, but because I didn’t have any other appointments i set an extra appointment, if my therapist was on holidays I don’t know what I would do. Once I actually called my therapist while she was on holidays she did call back but still.

    1. carla

      This was such an issue with me that I eventually wrote a book called “While My Therapist is on Vacation”. It gets me through those times

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  5. Helen

    Hi Erin,
    My therapist is going on holiday soon and I’m worried. I won’t see her for two weeks and I didn’t cope very well last time when we didn’t see each other for about a month.
    I decided tonight to try and prepare myself for when that time comes. I looked online for some advice on how to help myself. I found your blog! Even just seeing your blog it looked nice and human unlike some of the therapy websites which mean well but are a bit clinical (in looks and content).
    I have written down your five top tips and already I feel a wee bit better. I feel like I’m doing something to help myself which always feels better. You write with ‘heart’ and understanding.
    Thank you muchley.

    1. Erin

      Hi Helen! Thank you so much for the wonderful comment. I’m so glad my writing resonates with you. I hope the time away from your therapist goes well. I’m thinking of you!
      Love Erin

  6. Ruthie

    i can typically handle when my therapist takes a vacation but in month of november he will be away for total of 3 weeks. he said he put as many clients he could on his Monday schedule. i wasnt one of those clients. i do feel hurt by this. im facing being terminally ill and I’m at the end. i can reach out to others for support but no one is as close as my therapist. he doesnt allow contact between sessions. i will continue being busy. i will have to utilize my time with my home health care. my therapist recently changed to no contact between session’s. so i dont but this has caused increase of my using my target behaviors. his going cold turkey with me has caused me to go backwards. i feel i should be one of the clients being added to his monday schedule considering im the one client facing critical issues and traumas. help.

    1. Erin

      Hi Ruthie,
      Wow, it sounds like you’re dealing with a lot. I haven’t been in your exact shoes before, and I’m not trained at counseling, so I don’t think my advice is the ultimate solution for your current situation. I know for myself, though, that telling my therapist when her actions have triggered or upset me, has gone a long way in helping me feel better. I often pull back at those times though, and fall back onto old coping methods. I definitely encourage you to reach out to anyone else in your life who can be a support to you in the coming weeks. You’re in my thoughts for sure.
      Love Erin

  7. Ruthie

    Thank you for your encouraging words. My therapist and I seem to be at a standstill. We both question the other of not hearing what the other is feeling. I have researched how to get through while therapist is away. He is a great therapist and I am a client enduring a lot of traumas. Now I am facing my own terminal illness. I don’t have people in my life that understands my traumas. I already keep contact with people, but friends are not therapist. How do I repair damage with my therapist. Neither of us can see the others view and we both suffer the consequences. I cherish my therapist and trust him. He wants me to repair the damage. How can I fix things? I have talked with him and he to me. I feel like I just need to obey but he doesn’t want that. Help please. I’m tired of being wrong my whole life. Trust me, I’m a challenge. No matter my intentions, it comes across as inappropriate. The hard efforts I’ve made in past 3 weeks go unnoticed. I take full responsibility for pushing him away.

  8. Andrenid

    Hi Erin! I little familiar with this subject. My therapist move from my country to USA and it hit me so bad. I was so desperate and not knowing what to do. I thought it was the end of everything. I haven’t been over it yet, but still struggling to understand that she’s gone she’s never coming back. It’s hard for me because the chemistry we’ve reach was beyond espectacular and everything was running smoothly. Now I’m left alone with this other therapist that doesn’t quite understands me as much as my other therapist did. And it has being difficult and things got worse and stuff. But I still come back and still fight to find the way to recover myself from this loss and from depression. They’ve run a few new tests that reveals that I got another diagnostic to add to the list. But atleast now I got hope that they had found the missing piece to solve the puzzle and have more information of it as a whole so they can concentrate on what really matters and not get out of sight things. I still have some contact with my old therapist. Not as much as I would like but life is like that. What can I do? Only keep updated of your blog and find some relief that I’m not alone in this fight and that it feels like group therapy. Thanks for everything. With love Andrenid from Puerto Rico.

    1. Erin

      Hi Andrenid,
      Thank you for your comment! Having a therapist change their practice or move away, as you describe, is so hard. I’m sorry you had to go through that. When I’ve changed therapists for similar reasons, it was so upsetting. I think you’re awesome for still continuing in therapy and your recovery and trying to connect with a new therapist. You’re really brave. Thank you for reading along.

  9. Julie

    Thank you so much for posting this! My therapist is going on a two week vacation and I feel lost. We meet on Friday’s and there is always so much going on in my head at any given time, that without her I don’t know if I can truly go that long. But….I guess I really have no choice but to make it through, the question is… How am I going to do that? I really like your ideas on what to do while she’s gone. Very helpful :0) thanks again! Julie from Oregon

  10. Rachel

    Haha. Oh my gosh. As soon as I read this post’s title I thought of What About Bob?!! It’s one of my favorite movies! I’m glad you can laugh about like I can! ;-)

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