Home > abandonment, acceptance, ambivalance, anger, boundaries, dependence, disorganized attachment, Emotional regulation, feelings, needs, pain, responsibility, shame, Uncategorized > ‘Tis the Season: Strategies for coping with a therapist’s absence – Part I

‘Tis the Season: Strategies for coping with a therapist’s absence – Part I

This is the first part of a two part series. (It got a little long! πŸ™‚ ) Life has settled down considerably but- of course- I am now working six day weeks because of a very demanding release going out the end of the summer. So I am re-engaging but would appreciate patience with my response times to comments and emails. But it’s really good to be back, I’ve missed everyone! Thank you all so much for you’re understanding and support while I have been away.

If you live in the Northern hemisphere (as many of my readers do), it is summertime right now. For so many folks that means a lot of lovely things: Barbeques, picnics, trips to the beach, freshly picked fruit, fireworks, longer days and swimming. But for those of us in therapy, it is also the dreaded summer vacation time for our therapists. A lot of us face a break in our therapy due to our therapists’ vacations. I myself am in the midst of a five week break (20 days to go, but who’s counting? Oh yes, I am! :D). This is longer than usual; BN usually takes two weeks for an annual family trip. But this year, he has a longer trip planned for Europe. So it seemed like a good time to talk about some strategies for getting through those inevitable interruptions in therapy.

Before I start, I want to recognize something that most, if not all, of us would consider reasonable. Therapists need and deserve a vacation, as much as the next guy, if not more. Their work can be emotionally demanding. If they’re doing it correctly, they spend the majority of their days focused on other people’s needs. Doing that with no break is the perfect recipe for burn out and becoming so drained that you have nothing to give other people. So of course they need to step away, go have fun, not stay focused on other people’s problems and recharge their batteries. Knowing this can make it difficult to recognize our feelings that can be evoked by our therapist leaving such as fear, anger and feeling abandoned. We feel selfish for feeling this way because we cognitively understand that our therapist is doing nothing wrong by taking a vacation. And they aren’t. But nor are you doing anything wrong by having feelings about their break.

And as painful and embarrassing as it has been, exploring my feelings about BN being away have yielded therapeutic gold. Every vacation used to take three sessions: one before to discuss how distressed I was about him going away, one when he got back to discuss my feelings of abandonment and one to discuss my anger about being left. Of course, most of it turned out to be feelings about my parents. πŸ™‚ This particular break has been difficult, in a way they haven’t been for a long time, because I have been depending on him so much. There is a level of anxiousness about having him away; especially since he is in Europe. So I think I am writing this post as much to remind myself how to cope as to share the information with other clients. So with no further ado, strategies for coping with a therapist’s vacation.

Do NOT compare the length of your therapist’s vacation with other people’s therapists: Some will be shorter, some will be longer and the only thing you will do is beat yourself up for feeling bad because other people are facing a longer break so why can’t you get through the shorter one. Or, even worse, you’ll hate the other person for facing a shorter break. πŸ™‚ A gap is a gap is a gap and pain is not a contest. You have a right to however you feel. Comparison’s are fairly useless anyway, because you are rarely comparing apples to apples. People who have been in therapy for a longer period of time and have worked through some of their dependency will tolerate a break better than someone in the midst of doing that kind of work. You also have to take into account therapy units. Therapy units, you ask? What are those? I’m glad you asked. πŸ˜‰ I define a therapy unit as the normal gap between appointments. So for someone who sees their therapist twice a week, a week is two therapy units. If their therapist leaves for two weeks, that’s four therapy units. I see BN weekly, so a two week trip is only two therapy units. Yes, I know this sounds a bit silly, but we do get used to the rhythm of our appointments. And then you have to compare things like personality, background, available support etc. So don’t. Too complicated to think about when you’re this upset!

Transitional object: If it is at all possible to obtain (and most competent therapists get their client needing a transitional object and are willing to provide SOMETHING) have your therapist provide an object that is a physical symbol of the relationship. It provides security and a reminder of the connection while they’re away. Remember, we are dealing with catching up on some developmental steps if you have disorganized attachment, so think of a three year old with their blankie. πŸ™‚ You can get very creative with this one. I actually bought BN a new chenille throw for his office, so I could take his home with me (it was used in a significant way in several sessions). I love it because I can wrap myself in it. (I take it to really bad sessions so I can feel held). So it’s a very powerful symbol of his care. Downside of this one, my family calls me Linus. πŸ™‚ I don’t have a regular appointment, so BN gives me one of his business cards with my next appointment on it at the end of every session. These are scattered throughout my life: desk at work, purse, Kindle case, bookmark (in fact, a close friend of mine actually has one of his cards, because I mailed her a book and had left the card in it. πŸ™‚ ) I know people who have borrowed a book, taken a pen or some other small object from their therapist’s office. One person I know who had DID with children parts used to make a paper chain with her therapist with a loop for each day of the break and her therapist would write messages on the inside. Every day her therapist was gone, she would cut a loop so that the chain would get shorter. One of my most powerful transitional objects is a voicemail on my phone. I had actually asked BN at one point if he could call and leave a voicemail because I thought it would help to hear his voice but didn’t want to call him all the time. He was great about it and I have this really sweet message on my phone that I think covered every base he could think of. πŸ™‚ Another friend of mine asked her therapist if she could take his picture on her cell phone, because she had trouble remembering what he looked like (He hated having his picture taken but for the sake of his client went through with it). A handwritten note, or even just your name written by your therapist on a piece of paper. Anything really will work that has some kind of meaning for you and reminds you of the relationship.

Outside contact: Before discussing this one, I want to apologize to the people who do not have this option. I know not all therapists offer outside contact, nor should they. Some therapists cannot provide that and take good enough care of themselves. But I know it can be incredibly painful to see other people get that which you cannot get (my list is hugs, hearing “I love you,” and BN initiating contact for anything other than a schedule change. We all have our list.) If your therapist provides outside contact, use it. I know it can be hard, I really struggled with it. But I eventually realized that BN answering an email or talking with me on the phone for two minutes was better for both of us than coming back to a destablized mess because I just gritted my teeth. Sometimes it would help just to be able to express how I felt. Not proud of it, but I once wrote him an email on his vacation to tell him I hated his family(!) because they got to know him and spend time with him in a way I never could, then I told him to have a wonderful time with them. Therapy can lead to doing strange things. A brief contact can be very reassuring and very calming; if it’s available, trust your therapist that they are tending to themselves and take advantage of it.

Journaling: This can be useful both as an ongoing tool and something to do during a break. For a long period of time during my therapy with BN, I would journal after every appointment to describe what happened and would turn to the journal at other times when I needed to get some feelings out. I found that going back over my journal and reading about my positive experiences (and I would write things about how at that moment, in that session, I was certain of his care and how real the relationship was) would remind me of what the relationship really was, and how much I could trust BN. I also found that breaks away from him were sometimes very productive in what came up. I have a difficult time knowing how I feel and recognizing my needs when around other people because I had needed to be so focused on other people to keep myself safe. So often, when BN left, I think it would feel unconsciously safe to allow some feelings out. Since I didn’t have BN to talk to, I would write in my journal instead. My journal is really private, no one reads it but me. The process of writing would sometimes allow me to connect things in the same way that talking with BN would so that I could gain understanding and insight into what was being evoked by his absence. And then it provided a record so that if I did figure out something I wanted to take back to therapy, I had a way to remember it. Journaling can be especially effective for people who struggle to allow their feelings in because it engages both sides of your brain at the same time. I highly recommend it. Or you could start a blog, which pretty much now serves the same function for me. πŸ™‚

I’ll be back with the rest of the strategies soon! The rest of which you can find in ‘Tis the Season – Part II.

  1. Jay
    July 17, 2014 at 2:19 am

    Loved this post and only wish it would have come just before my therapist and I had a series of interruptions recently! I found it really helped having fellow bloggers around who were also going through a break. We blogged about our experiences and checked up in each other regularly. Had to laugh because I was trying to tell myself I only had to deal with a few on-off two week breaks when others here were going through four week breaks with much more serious issues. So your first tip really spoke to me… Thanks! I guess this also highlights my habit of tending to prioritise other people’s needs and problems above my own, i.e. “I must cope but shame, how are they coping?!”

    Glad to have you blogging again. Just thought I’d let you know that finding your blog a while back was the inspiration to start my own. My blog focuses on the relationship between my therapist and I and my personal growth and dreams.

    Keep up the good work and strength to you during these next 20 or so days x


    • July 17, 2014 at 10:28 pm

      Hi Jay.
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for introducing yourself. I am so glad that my blog inspired you to start you’re own. I think the more people that join this conversation, the more strength we all share. I will check it out. My deepest apologies for my bad timing. πŸ™‚ But you already knew to reach out to the community around you, so go you! And please trust me that I know about the comparison thing because I have done it many a time. I’m really glad it helped you to catch yourself and know that it is ok to have your own needs. Tough lesson to learn. Looking forward to getting to know you. I have been in contact with BN recently and am feeling pretty good about making it through the break. Being back on my blog is really helpful for me. ~ AG


  2. July 17, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Welcome back, AG! I am so glad to hear from you.

    Many good tips here. It is a challenge to learn how to accept that your feelings and needs are legitimate even when they conflict with another’s legitimate, reasonable and healthy needs, isn’t it? That is a huge therapy lesson in itself.

    I am incredibly grateful that Mama Bear doesn’t tend to take long breaks, but she does take several 5 day weekends and generally at least one full week during the summer. My other favorite T would take up to 7 weeks though. That 7 week break just about did me in because I had only been working with her for a few months and the traumatized parts of me had only just decided that she probably was trustworthy. At least she left me with another therapist in her practice that I went on to work with in multiple capacities over the next 2 years. But it was terribly disruptive. That first break was particularly triggering because she went to Japan for 7 weeks. One of my worst abuse periods was when my mother packed me off to my grandparents for almost 2 months, while she joined my dad in Asia. Eerie how often these parallels crop up, isn’t it?

    It sounds like work is keeping you pretty busy, so hopefully the time will pass quickly and before you know it, you will be past for BN’s vacation and the work crunch.


    • July 17, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Cat so good to hear from you!! I’ve missed you (and have been meaning to comment on your last post, will try to come over soon, but it sounds like you’re doing really good work). I think that is really lovely that Mama Bear limits her breaks. But I can totally understand how bad that seven week break was, especially with her on the other side of the globe. In the usual parallel our healing journeys seem to take, BN and I had a five week break about three months into our work together because our vacations overlapped and then it got extended a week because of the birth of his first grandchild (and I mean, how can you fault a guy for that? πŸ™‚ ) But it was the same kind of thing, my attachment mechanisms had been activated but there was no sense of connection so it was just terrifying. I finally broke down and called him and spent the rest of the break wondering why i waited so long.

      And oh yes, finding ourselves in those situations that are eerily similar happens often enough that I have given up believing they are coincidences. I was talking about this with a friend today and told her that I truly believe that when you are ready to heal and working to do so, you are lead into the very circumstances that you need to face in order to heal. Ah, it’s just lovely to talk to you again. πŸ™‚ xx AG


  3. ms.c
    July 17, 2014 at 7:05 am

    AG, Thank you for taking your time to share your experience and understanding via your blog. This is my first comment but I have read all of your blog. You have no idea how much it has helped me.


    • July 17, 2014 at 10:38 pm

      Ms. C! Thanks for coming over to my blog and welcome! I am so glad that reading here has helped you and so appreciate you taking the time to say so. I know that things are pretty painful and confusing right now, but I hope that you’ll find a way forward to more peace. ~ AG


  4. liz
    July 17, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Add “compulsively read AG’s blog” to the list!

    Welcome back,so many good tips in this post.
    I’ve been scheduling sessions once a month or every two months for a while now, so summer break will be surprisingly less hard to survive this year (while reading, I actually felt a little nostalgic of my first years of therapy, when I had trouble surviving the week between one session and the next :-D).
    Of course, now that I’m finally getting used to this situation, it turns out I’ll (probably, maybe, almost certainly but who knows – I don’t want to jinx it) move to a different country next year, and I am freaking out, because I don’t want to change therapist and I am not ready to not have sessions for, like, ten months straight.
    Sooo, if any of you has ever tried long distance and would like to share his/her experience…
    (sorry, AG, I just had to ask this :-D).

    Anyway, I hope your break will be relaxing and full of good stuff (but not too long!).
    And now, this summer, every time I’ll be in Rome or Venice or Florence or some place like that, I’ll be staring at american tourists wondering if BN could be one of them πŸ˜€


    • July 17, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      Liz!!! So good to hear from you (this feels like a reunion, I have really missed all of you). Umm, I kind of said that one, at least for me. πŸ™‚ I will confess that I sometimes read old posts to remind me of the relationship. How nice to know it can work for other people (you are too kind!). I loved that you said you felt nostalgic, as there was some of that feeling while I was writing this. My skills have grown rusty. Wow, has to be scary facing a move like that. I have taken a four month break with BN and did several multiple year gaps with my first therapist, but must admit that it was my choice not forced by circumstances. FWIW, I know of two people who are doing long distance therapy over Skype (one is between someone in the States and a client in the States but with a significant distance between them and the other is between a therapist in the states and a client on the other side of the globe (scheduling is a little trickier). But both clients are finding it very effective; a combination of their own willingness to dig in and do the work and finding really excellent therapists. Both factors that are in your favor. And think of it this way, you can at least try it to see if it works out. If not, you’re not any worse off and it could provide some transition time. And you can always find us. πŸ™‚

      Ah you’re going to Italy!! Deep envy, only been there once on Med cruise, but fell in love with it, especially Florence. But as amazing as it was, it was also frustrating because we only had hours in each city. My husband and I really want to go back someday and spend some real time getting to know the country. i hope you have a wonderful time. Just carry a sign saying “Are you BN? If so, say hi!” LOL xx AG


  5. Ms. Sharkey
    July 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    First off, welcome back AG! Seeing your name in my inbox definitely lifted my spirits this morning. πŸ™‚

    Secondly, boy oh boy is this a timely post. My therapist is on vacation right now for 3 weeks. That means one whole month with no sessions. *gulp* We had a similarly long break last summer and I did *not* handle it well. I had always insisted that my therapist’s vacations didn’t bother me. Nope, not one bit! I was fine with it! I liked the break! Last summer, we were doing some heavy work and as his vacation approached, I felt edgy and unhappy but I didn’t want to admit to it. Because admitting it meant admitting that I’m attached to him, to therapy. I had fought against attachment the entire time I’d been in therapy. I had told myself I could come and talk to this person every week about deeply personal things and not get attached. And there I was, finally admitting to attachment just as my therapist was going on vacation.

    All of that threw me into a headspin and I journalled madly about attachment, dependency and shame while he was gone. And then I got the bright idea to send him the journal entries. I had used journal entries in our work before, but only a paragraph or two at a time. This time I sent him several pages of very intense writing. That first session after his vacation, I was mute with panic. I had revealed too much, too quickly and I paid for it with several weeks of panic attacks, followed by several months of constant low-level anxiety.

    This summer, my therapist told me he was going on vacation and at the next session, he asked how I felt about it. I.shut.right.down. I was terrified of a repeat of last summer. A couple of sessions later, I was able to talk about it. My therapist asked how I felt about him going on vacation and I kept talking about how I felt about my feelings, without actually naming my feelings. Very gently but persistently, my therapist kept bringing me back to face my feelings until I named them and we were able to talk about them. So, as a result of all that, I’m handling his vacation pretty well. Sure took a hell of a lot of work to get there.


    • July 17, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      ((Ms. Sharkey)) Every comment that came in just made me happier. πŸ™‚ So good to hear from you and thank you for the welcome back. πŸ™‚

      Oh good, at least I got the timing right for someone. πŸ™‚ And good for you discussing your feelings. It is so scary to become vulnerable enough to allow our therapist’s to know how important they are to us, but so important. I love that you were able to acknowledge your needs around his absence and ask for what you needed to get through it. So glad you are seeing such a difference to pay off for your hard work (and yeah, hell of a lot of work is an understatement akin to the Atlantic Ocean is a bit damp. :D). Hang in there. Before you know it we’ll be back in their office with them (and probably wondering why were in such a rush to get there. LOL). xx AG


  6. Ann
    July 17, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Ms Shakey, I totally get your feelings of shame around attachment to your T. I have finally owned up to it, most because AG’s site has given me the permission to do it! My T is leaving for vacation soon, so now I have a regular session, then one more in the same week to just deal with his leaving. We did this the last time he left and it made a huge difference. He let me pick out a transition object which I carried in my purse, but just having it was enough, never once looked at it. Now not everyone has the resources to do this, but last time I donated his T fee to a cause I believe in. That way, even though I am not receiving therapy during that time, I know someone is benefiting from my donation!
    AG, Welcome back! You returned at the perfect time to hold our hands while we miss our therapists! Xoxo We have missed you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 17, 2014 at 10:58 pm

      ((Ann)) You always say the nicest things. πŸ™‚ And as always you don’t give yourself enough credit! I am very glad that my writing helped, but you’re doing all the hard work. That was really lovely to donate your therapy fee. I have often found that my volunteer work can be very helpful because stepping out of yourself to help other people often leaves you in a much more peaceful place and provides a deep sense of perspective. (Talking to people in crisis can allow you to see so clearly just how much you have to be grateful for. ) And thank you for the welcome back and the offer of a hand to clasp. Just what I need. πŸ™‚ I have missed you also. xx AG


  7. unspoken
    July 18, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Hi AG
    I’ve been reading you blog since I started psychotherapy two years ago. Massive thanks! When I started I had all of those ‘what its this insanity I’ve thrown myself into’… It’s a relief to know some of the thoughts through the journey are completely normal!
    In regards to this post, as with other my therapist has just come back from a big break… Loved the post and will book mark it.
    Thanks a million!


    • July 19, 2014 at 12:50 am

      Hi unspoken,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! I can definitely relate to the whole “what have I got myself into” feeling. πŸ™‚ Therapy is downright weird at times. So glad that you can feel more normal by reading here. Thanks for for letting me know. I am again, sorry to be late but hopefully it will come in handy the next time your therapists leaves. πŸ™‚ ~ AG


  8. Pop
    July 18, 2014 at 9:03 am

    I have a 4 week break coming up in a few weeks – so almost perfect timing for me! I’m just glad I find this blog no matter when my therapist’s break is!
    I’m with you all on the shame thing. Its a real fall from grace to realise you need to be ‘seen’. And on top of that, they ‘see’ you for who you are and not the person you’ve created to make yourself seen. That is to say – we can’t control it, they accept us whatever. We’d like to think we can take it or leave it or push them away but its finally getting through to me how dependant I really am. Just before a freaking break!!!!
    Its caused fresh confusion for me – I thought I was coming to terms with/facing the painful memories from childhood of being without attachment then I get walloped in the face with a warm fuzzy feeling of attachment. So I say to myself ‘No! Therapy can’t fix it, you’re just going to get hurt again!’. So confusing. I guess healing is looking at the past pain and realising we can’t change it, but as long as we are trying we never move forward to get our needs met by someone else.
    I’m not sure if any of that really makes sense. I’m just scared this attachment is me just deluding myself that I can be cared for.


    • July 19, 2014 at 12:57 am

      Hi Pop,
      Oh good, I got the timing right for someone! πŸ™‚ And I understand how hard it is to realize that your dependent and all the fear and shame that can kick up. The truth is the last time we depended it didn’t work out so well and we got really hurt. Is it any wonder that doing it again does not feel like the most brilliant thing in the world to do?

      I also understand your confusion Pop, but think you actually have a good handle on what is going on. There are real losses associated with our early attachment not going well. Losses that can not be fixed and can only be mourned. But that does not mean that therapy cannot fix anything. It provides a safe place to feel the grief while also teaching us what a healthy attachment is like. Once that attachment develops, we can use the strength and comfort of it to help us face the pain, and then learn how to meet our needs going forward so we do not continue to create loss in our lives.

      So you are not deluding yourself. You are worthwhile, you just don’t realize it yet and you really can be cared for. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get hurt again or even that you might experience disruptioins, but true care is what sticks around and repairs those. There’s a far side to the pain. ~ AG


  9. Little Blond Girl
    July 18, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Welcome back AG! So nice to have you back and read another great post.

    I’m coming up on an almost month break as our vacations overlap and as always am feeling a bit challenged by it. I have such a hard time giving myself permission to actually miss him when either of us go away. Thanks for the reminder to use some of the things I have (eg transition object, voicemail), instead of trying to just ignore my feelings and get through it alone. Some time ago you had mentioned that you had asked BN to leave you a voicemail and I thought what a great idea, so mustered up the courage to ask for the same, and got it! I also email with my T so have lots of emails I can go back to as reminders. And at least while I’m away, we can be in touch…sometimes I very much feel like the small child that needs daily contact with their AF, even if I’m the adult who has to understand that I can’t have that…though I do double up on sessions the week before the break and the week after.

    I hope you have worked through some of what you needed to and that you have been tending to your needs.



    • July 19, 2014 at 1:07 am

      LBG!! Wonderful to hear from you! I’m glad this was a timely reminder. I do that too! Just try to ignore the feelings and push through. Its so much easier when you stop and acknowledge them and act to soothe them. But its still such a new skill that it can take me a bit to remember to do so. I am so glad that you took the idea for a voicemail to your therapist. Ironically enough, it was writing this that reminded me I had the voicemail. Listening to it helped. πŸ™‚ And I think you’re exactly right, I think are like a small child that needs daily contact because that’s where we developmentally. I really appreciate that BN gets that so that we have phone calls that must seem insane from the outside. I emailed BN about a week into the break and didn’t hear back for five days. I was getting upset and didn’t want end up exploding, so I decided to call. Since I know he is Europe, I was fully expecting his back therapist but to my shock BN called me back about 10 minutes later. I asked him about the email and he told me he never got it (he was forwarding his email and evidently mine didn’t make it through). I told him I was relieved to hear that. He told me that if I wanted to resend it he would be glad to look at it. I told him it really had just been about wanting to connect and the phone call took care of that, He told me I was right to call. We got off. Total elasped time on the phone, under two minutes. Result: calm, stable client. Just hearing his voice had an incredibly calming effect. So contact him if you need to (Its SO easy to tell other people to do that. πŸ˜‰ )

      And thanks, things are much better. It was a tough passage, but a lot of good came out of it. And I promise I am taking care of myself. πŸ™‚ xx AG


  10. July 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Do you ever feel like once you hit a certain amount of time away it starts to get easier? Like you get used to not seeing them? I tend to want to go back the very next day or two, and then it gets a little easier, then I miss them again when it’s about time for my next appointment or there’s a bit longer gap in between than normal. I go once a week as well. But then after that it gets easier to be away. It’s like whatever gets stirred up settles down or something. Or is it just torture the whole time for you?


    • July 19, 2014 at 1:11 am

      Hi Judy,
      Most definitely. I actually find the first 24 hours after a session to be the worst. It’s having to step away from such a deep connection. BN and I have often talked about the end of a session being a difficult boundary of the relationship (I once literally started crying while shaking his hand and just blurted out “I don’t want to leave” and he very gently told me that he knew this was really difficult. ) Then I kind of calm down and contain things again. Then as I move closer to the next session, I start to ramp up again. I am usually quite nervous when I got to a session, because I know I am safe enough to feel what I am feeling there. So no, its not torture the whole time (although it used to be a lot harder than it is now). ~ AG

      Liked by 1 person

  11. H
    July 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for this. I’m in the middle of a two week break, and having a really difficult time… as much as I am insisting to myself that I won’t let it bother me, in reality it’s not going so well.

    Thanks especially for your comment about not comparing. I read the posts on PsychCafe and another forum I am an active part of, and it is difficult not to hate myself for struggling so much when other people have worse situations. And again with the therapy units… I see my T twice a week, so I feel like I have no right to have such a hard time when many people don’t have that chance.

    I don’t have contact between sessions. I struggle with that all the time, whether she’s here or not… but right now I feel desperate. I know she’s not AWAY… she is staying home this break, and so she is in the same town as I am. I want to just see her and know she is still herself so badly, and I’ve forgotten what her face looks like now.

    It’s also hard for me to go back. I feel scared and unsafe. Our worst ruptures have occurred in the first couple weeks after she returns from a vacation. I’m scared to let her know how hard it is for me – anything related to attachment is so hellish to deal with. Reading your blog has helped, but it’s so hard to know what to say.


    • July 19, 2014 at 1:21 am

      HI H,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I’m sorry to hear its not going so well, but as I said in the post, try not to beat yourself up for that. Its really understandable. I’m very glad that some of what I wrote highlighted for you the ways that you are too hard on yourself. I am also sorry about no contact between sessions, I can imagine how desparate it feels and oddly also understand its harder knowing she’s in town. Because that means the only thing separating you from her is the boundaries and they can be painful to run into. But as hard as the no contact is, in the long run it is much better for a therapist to set that boundary if they need to, then to offer contact and burn out. I’ve seen it happen a number of times with therapists who did not hold their boundaries and then ended up abandoning the client and hurting them very badly.

      I may be offbase, but I am wondering if the ruptures are a result of you trying to deny your feelings or not express them. For me, the feelings that I don’t acknowledge are the ones that actually get me into trouble. If I allow myself to feel them and express them (and sometimes, let me tell you, I am not very proud of a lot of my feelings being as human as the next guy) then I don’t need to express them by acting out. I know, I really do, that its scary to talk about these feelings, but those disruptions are probably rough on both of you. Most therapists really want to hear your real feelings. I remember once getting really angry with BN in session and actually saying “F*** you” to something he said to me ( I was unhappy about an observation he made, despite it being very true. πŸ™‚ ) He told me he wasn’t angry that I was angry, that instead he felt connected because I was being so authentic with him. Therapists are weird. So it may be, that as scary as it is, risking to talk about these feelings would really help. When you’re ready. πŸ™‚ ~ AG


  12. Karen
    July 19, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Thank you so much for your blogs about your therapists absence. While mine has not been gone for 5 weeks, he goes out of town frequently in the summer. He has also had back or knee surgeries and has been out much longer. We do not have outside the session contact. He is quite strict with boundaries and wants me to be able to cope and use my resources to get through these times.. I’ve cried, felt anxious and depressed and really as if I was white knuckling the time. He works hard and is an exceptional therapist who deserves his time away as well. I can’t help but miss him and feel fear, sadness, anger, rejected and abandoned as well. I remind myself as he as often reminded me, he’s not leaving me and is coming back, despite how I feel. I know he cares and loves me deeply in a therapeutic way and takes out work very seriously. At times, I’ve shown my misdirected anger towards him and we processed this very emotional feeling. He asked me once “what did I want to do with my anger towards him?” I was completely surprised by his question and simply shrugged my shoulders and began to sob uncontrollably. I felt that small child again, but for the first time the ability to process my feelings about his absence. It is just like your situation in which you feel it is a deeper issue that originated in childhood and never feeling that safety and support. When he goes away like this time, to visit his daughter for her birthday, I am left with a great sense of longing and depression. I’ve never had that and the thought of having a father taking time away from his busy life and traveling out of state for my birthday, is completely foreign and leaves me feeling that loss of a healthy, engaged father. I’ve never spoken of this as it makes me feel ashamed for wanting something that someone else has. Maybe this week’s session I will have the courage to talk to him about these feelings.
    You were right on when you wrote about activity helping your mood and the time to pass. This absence has been by far the most successful. I am involved in a 12th step group and stepped up meetings, accepted invitations to my women friends home, rode my bike, solo and with a friend, had breakfast and lunch with another, I’ve really been taking care of myself and giving myself a break for any feelings of separation anxiety or sadness. I know my feelings change and like clouds, they will pass. I can see my own growth today and it feels good. It’s still uncomfortable to tell him the good things that I’ve done and how I’ve coped in his absence for fest that he will think I don’t need him anymore. Not true. We still have a lot of work to do together. Thanks again for your blog as it has given me the opportunity to reflect on how I’ve handled my own situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 21, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Hi Karen,
      So glad you found this helpful. I am sorry you do not have outside contact, but as hard as it is, better your therapist hold his boundaries in a place that he can sustain for the long haul. And he sounds like a wonderful, attuned therapist who welcomes your feelings, even the ones that are about him. So very important to healing. I felt very touched by what you said about him visiting his daughter for her birthday and the kind of pain that evoked in you. One of the most intense sessions I ever had with BN was when I finally expressed that I wish I would have been able to have him as a father. I felt so ashamed and humiliated, it felt pathetic to express something impossible and yes, terrible to want what someone else has. I will never forget how accepting BN was about it. He didn’t see me as terrible at all, he thought it was a good thing that I longed from something that I really should have had. You know I have always wanted to give him a card on Father’s Day but always held back because it felt “over the line” to me. Well, this year, because I have been leaning on him so much, I decided to chance it. (Interestingly enough, it was a clear sign to me of my sense of security. I realized that if BN had a problem with it, then we’d talk about it, but I knew the relationship would be intact.) I did start the card by saying that since they don’t have a “Earned Secure Attachment Figure” day, then this seemed like the most appropriate time to send a card. πŸ™‚ He was so gracious about it, and obviously touched by what I wrote, that I felt silly for waiting so long. Which is all my long-winded way of saying I think how you are feeling is really normal, and even healthy and I think that its safe to talk about these feelings with your therapist. In some ways, our therapists help us to understand our losses, by showing us what we should have had. That sounds terrible until you realize that understanding our losses and mourning them is what frees us to get what we need now and move forward with our lives. I wish you the best in talking about it and if you do, please let me know how it goes.

      I love the list of activities, Karen, because at the heart of them I see so many which are about connecting with other people. Our human attachments and the love in them is how we find strength and comfort to face life’s pain. I think you should be really proud of how you are handling it. Thanks for sharing, I think this will be very encouraging for others to read. ~ AG


  13. happylou
    July 19, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks for your post. I have been checking your blog frequently to see if perhaps you had written anything new. I was delighted to find today that you had–in fact, you had written about the very subject my T and I just discussed…our plan for working around his upcoming vacations. Lucky for me, he only has three weeks planned this summer. I hope the 5 weeks you are facing are passing as quickly and painlessly as possible.

    It also made me smile–and feel less alone–to know that your list of wants from your therapist is IDENTICAL to mine! My T and I have been discussing “love” for our last few sessions, but he will not say the words. It drives me crazy! I am left to wonder if it is because he simply does not love me or if this is just a line he refuses to cross. Hugs are also out of the question and I also only ever hear from him if there is a scheduling change :/ Anyway, thanks for reassuring me that I am not alone in my needs.

    Kudos on another terrific post. You and your amazing insight have been missed! πŸ™‚


    • July 21, 2014 at 10:20 am

      Hi Happylou,
      (Your name always makes me smile. πŸ™‚ ) Yes, someone else I got the timing right for!! I hope some of these help and I am very glad that you are able to be open with your therapist and have his help in planning how to manage his absences. And thank you for your loyalty in my absence. πŸ™‚

      I totally understand about not hearing the word love. BN will not say “I love you.” We have directly discussed the word (see The “L” word) and BN has made very clear that this is a loving relationship and even that he loves me, but he will not cross that line because he said it becomes very complex because it is hard to know what it means for the person who said it and for the person who hears it. I know that these boundaries are difficult and painful but I hope you can take comfort in knowing that they are imposed to take care of you. I have seen the incredible damage imposed by therapists who do not properly hold boundaries, and our pain seems to me to be the better path. But you’re correct in that there is nothing wrong with your needs. The problem was not having those needs met properly. Thanks for all your kind words and I hope the breaks go quickly! xx AG


  14. Betty
    August 9, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    AG – as always, your time is impeccable! My T is going away again for another 10 days within the last 2 months & after reading this blog, well all I can say is WOW!! I could not have said it better and this happens over & over again each time they leave!

    Also, you had given me someone to contact for the DID & we did very well at first. It seems I made a mistake & scared them away. I thought I would ask permission to discuss our conversations with my T instead of assuming it was ok & I scared them away. I deleted my account so hopefully they no longer feel threatened. If you could possibly reach out to them & just let them know I only asked to be respectful not to frighten them & it is ok they have their feelings and I am truly sorry.

    I expressed this but I know they trust you and maybe by hearing it from you they will truly understand I had no ill intentions. If not that’s ok too!!

    Please keep writing as this has been one of the most helpful places I can come to as a resource for my own healing journey πŸ™‚



    • August 10, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      Hi Betty,
      Glad I got the timing right for some people! πŸ™‚ I hope some of the suggestions help you get through the break. Thanks for passing that on about the person I put you into contact with. I will certainly let them know. Please do not be too burdened by it. I know that safety is a very high priority for them which would explain the reaction, but I am sure there are no hard feelings. And thank you for the kind words about my writing, I am very glad that you find reading here so helpful. ~ AG


      • Betty
        August 10, 2014 at 9:54 pm

        Hi AG,

        Thank you for your sweet reply & even more important, letting them know as I cannot tell you how much this means to me! I being in the position I am in can fully understand the reaction knowing just a bit of background, hence why I tried to be respectful and ask them. I never did pass the information to my T as trust is a huge factor for me also & even though I could have I chose not too!

        All I can say is that I am so very glad for your blog!! I have spent months & months and many books, online research & I have yet to find such a blog as yours explaining things in a way I can understand and despite the difficulties like all with the emotional side of it, has given me an understanding (I am a very logical thinking person) that has “literally” helped my progress!! If anyone should have a book out there & receive monies for something we can all understand, combined with our therapy I do believe many others would benefit greatly in their healing!! I say this with 100% truth & I commend you being able to go through your healing process with such strength and on top of it being able to write in such a manner that is so very, very beneficial to so many!!

        Thank you again and please know even though I have DID (oh crap I said it – LOL) your writings have helped my logical side apply many things in my healing process!!

        Kudos to you!!



  15. Susan
    April 29, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Wow! Thank you for this great description of what it’s like when a therapist goes on vacation! I have never told anyone my horrible story of my childhood and I finally found a therapist who I could tell. I still have a long way to go but I’m making progress. She just left for Mexico and I thought I was crazy for feeling absolutely abandoned. The adult side of me knows that it’s normal for her to go, etc. but the child side of me is absolutely terrified. I am embarrassed that I feel so bad but after I read what you wrote, I realize it’s completely normal to feel that way. I’ve been abandoned (literally) many times and it makes sense I’d feel this way. Thanks for the ideas and the honesty here! This is great!


    • May 1, 2017 at 11:43 am

      Hi Susan,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! I am so glad that you found this to be reassuring. So many times we beat ourselves up for how we feel and think there is something so wrong, when what we need is to see the feelings and behaviors in the right context. I want to assure you that eventually you do learn a deeper, more sure sense of connection. These days I can go any length of time between seeing my therapist without it being very difficult. And also fwiw, there was a time where EVERY vacation entailed us spending a session talking about the feelings of abandonment it evoked. I hope you are able to discuss what is coming up for you with your therapist when she gets back and that the time passes much more quickly than you expect.



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