What Happens When Your Therapist is Away? Navigating This Time Apart

Therapists are just people. They go through struggles, have family issues, and need a break just like everyone else. 

But, when you’re going through a difficult time or look forward to your sessions to get you through the week, it’s hard to think of your therapist as having “their own life.” 

So, what can you do if your therapist is away? Maybe they’re on vacation or dealing with a family emergency. They might even just be sick for a few days and need to rest. You don’t need to panic or assume the worst. 

Instead, you can combine some things you’ve already learned throughout therapy with some healthy coping skills. Doing so will help you navigate the time apart. It may even help you realize that you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. 

Let’s look at a few ideas you can use that will make a positive difference while your therapist is away. 

Talk to Your Therapist About It

Your therapist isn’t going to abandon you in any way. If they’re going on vacation, they’ll likely tell you about it ahead of time. If they’re dealing with any type of emergency, they might still contact you themselves or have a member of their staff do it. 

Either way, if you’re nervous about them spending time away, talk to them about it. They can provide the reassurance you’re looking for. You might also consider asking if they offer telehealth services. That might not be an option every time. But, if you’re really struggling and they understand your situation, they may make an exception. 

Ask for Suggestions

When you’re discussing your therapist’s absence, ask if they have any suggestions about someone you can see while they’re gone. It takes time to build a relationship with a therapist. But, talking to someone—especially someone your therapist trusts—can make a difference, rather than spending an extended period of time missing therapy completely. 

If you’re nervous about working with a different therapist, try meeting with them during your last session with your current one. It can help to be in a familiar, comfortable space, and they’ll get to see how you and your therapist interact with each other. 

Talk About Potential Life Stressors

You can feel better about your therapist being gone if you’re prepared with resources beforehand. 

During your last session before they leave, bring up any concerns you might have. Ask what you should do if you’re faced with any life stressors or triggers while they’re away. Ideally, you’ll be able to use some skills you’ve already been working on. 

But asking for practical, effective solutions while they are gone can offer you peace of mind and make you feel more comfortable in their absence. It can be helpful to make a list of their suggestions, so you can look at them whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or triggered. 

If you have a mental health emergency while your therapist is away, it’s also a good idea to talk to them about a plan of action. They will likely direct you to someone in the practice you can reach out to. If you’re having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. 

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and uneasy when your therapist is away, especially for an extended period of time. 

But you’re not alone. It’s a wonderful opportunity to put the things you’ve learned into practice while still working with someone else or finding support in another way. Believe in yourself and your ability to cope, and you might have an easier time navigating the waters than you initially thought.