Making a plan is key. Here are some of the tips and resources I use when I have to manage my depression alone.
At the beginning of June, I met with my therapist, who told me things were changing a bit in the following weeks. She said she would be away for 3 weeks in late June and early July, and she wanted to tell me beforehand so we could prepare together.
I was nervous about her going away for such a long time. We typically meet every week, so going 3 weeks without seeing her felt like forever. At the same time, I knew I could handle it as long as we prepared for our weeks apart to set me up for success.
If your therapist recently put you in the same boat, you’re not alone. Therapists need a vacation just like everyone else, and summer is the perfect time to step away from work to enjoy the outdoors.
It’s also important to note that we all have different relationships with our therapists and different degrees of reliance on them for support. You might feel completely fine about your therapist going away — and that’s great!
However, if you do feel nervous about any upcoming break in therapy, here’s how I prepared for and coped with this time alone and some resources to help in case of an emergency.
Your therapist wants the best for you, so they’ll likely let you know about their time off in advance to allow you both to create a strategy that helps keep you on track with your recovery.
Some therapists work in a practice with other therapist co-workers, which means they can potentially set you up with someone else in the office to support you while they’re away.
However, that isn’t an option for everyone — and it wasn’t for me! So, what else can you do to support yourself while you wait for your therapist to return?
If you believe you need structured therapy during the time your therapist is away, you can look into local therapy groups or peer support groups in your area that let people pop in as they please.
There are various options out there. You might be able to decide between attending a group in person or checking in online. You might also find groups for different mental health struggles or communities, like an LGBTQ+ mental health support group.
While it’s not the same as seeing your therapist one-on-one, it may help bridge the gap between now and your next appointment.
Luckily for me, my therapist’s time off coincided with a period where my mental health was more stable than not. So, I decided not to pursue other therapies while my therapist was away.
Instead, I relied more on my family and friends to support me. I knew I wanted to keep busy with pleasant activities to help me glide through the 3 weeks without my therapist’s support. I made plans with friends and family every weekend to help prevent me from isolating in my bedroom and falling back into destructive patterns.
The first weekend, I went to a little league baseball game with my parents. The following weekend, I visited my best friend, who lives a few hours away. The final weekend, I was lucky to be invited to a friend’s birthday getaway at a lakeside cabin.
But there are many things you can plan for your weekends or time away from work, like going out to eat with a friend, hiking, or searching for free events in your area.
If you feel comfortable doing so, tell your loved ones about the upcoming gap in your care and ask for extra support. That way, they know what’s happening and can check in with you more often to ensure you’re doing OK.
Telling my parents and close friends I may need some extra help was daunting, but after I did it, I knew I made the right choice. I felt less alone and more safe.
Suppose the worst case happens, and you experience a mental health crisis while your therapist is away. In that case, you still have options for support.
As a part of your preparation before your therapist departs, it’s a good idea to set up some crisis-coping skills that have worked for you in the past. This can include journaling, meditation, throwing ice-cold water over your face, or going for a run. Whatever works for you. Just make a list and have that ready before your therapist departs.
Another option is to talk with someone you trust about what’s going on. Human connection helps me feel less alone and more like life is worth living. But if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone in your own life, there are crisis resources out there to help you.
Before your therapist leaves, consider researching suicide or mental health crisis hotlines and text lines to jot down in your journal or type into your phone’s notes so you can access them immediately. In the worst-case scenario, you can always contact 911 for help.
When my therapist told me she would be out of the office for 3 weeks, I was anxious about getting through that time without her. But after I prepared everything with her and set up weekend plans, I felt a lot more reassured.
When she was away, I surprised myself with how well I coped. Don’t get me wrong. I had moments when I felt very depressed and anxious and wanted her support. But I had my journal and self-care set up, so I could overcome the hurdles by myself.
I met with my therapist for the first time in what felt like forever last week and told her everything that happened while she was away. She told me how proud she was of my achievements and ability to cope independently, and what’s even better is that I felt proud of myself.
I felt capable, brave, and resilient.
Medically reviewed on August 10, 2023
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