Building a relationship with a therapist relies on security, comfort, vulnerability and trust. It might take years to find the right therapist to develop a solid relationship, and a therapist plays a crucial role in helping you maintain success in your recovery. Therefore, when a therapist leaves for an extended period, or perhaps indefinitely, it can be devastating. You might become flooded with thoughts of hopelessness, thinking, “Where do I go from here” or “I will never find anybody as good for me.” You may also experience a great sense of abandonment that, over time, can lead to feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety and depression. However, there are things that both you and your therapist can do to make your transition as easy as possible.
Talk in Advance
Unless it is an emergency, most therapists will notify you months in advance that they are leaving. Such notice includes them taking a short, extended or permanent leave from their practice. Having this time will allow you to process your thoughts and move away from the initial strong feelings you might experience after hearing such news. Having this time also allows you to talk about your emotions and concerns about them leaving. However, you might feel uncomfortable doing so and instead put on a brave front because you do not want to hurt your therapist’s feelings. However, later you might regret it because you did not get to use this situation therapeutically. Remember, no matter what the scenario, your therapist is here to help you – even amid these circumstances. Being honest about how you feel can help bring about closure and allow your therapist to work with you to overcome their leaving.
Don’t Dwell on the Farewell
The farewell process can become a healing process if you ease into it ahead of time. Remember, recovery is all about building and managing healthy relationships. If you struggle with ending relationships or saying goodbye, then you can use this opportunity to learn how to become better at saying goodbye. Remembering that this person cares for you and being able to grieve with the person you are saying goodbye to can be enlightening and healing.
Make a Plan Together
Your therapist will not just say “see you” and leave you to figure things out for yourself. Depending on the duration of their departure, they might accommodate phone sessions or even recommend seeing a colleague of theirs. The idea here is to allow you the choice that best suits you and makes you the most comfortable. Likewise, if you discover that you do not like something, then listen to your gut. Agreeing to something because you think it is convenient to your therapist is no way to decide. You must always be open and honest with how you feel, and if something is not working, then perhaps this is an indication that maybe it is time to move on.
Get Your Therapists Talking
One of the most significant impacts of a therapist going away is the thought of starting from the beginning with a new therapist. The idea of having to rebuild what could take months or years can deter you from ever seeing another therapist. However, prior to your therapist leaving, ask them to recommend someone as well as provide some backstory information about your potential therapist. It will help minimize the amount of time you spend playing what seems like “catch up” with a new therapist. If your therapist has a consent on file, they will be able to communicate and share information with a new therapist to pave the way for your treatment. Taking this step can make for a smoother transition and also help you not feel too overwhelmed.
Stay on Track with Your Goals
While your therapist might be a critical factor in maintaining your recovery, this does not mean that you should neglect all other necessary aspects that help your recovery. You can even work with your therapist in your final sessions to develop goals that help you stay focused on your recovery and help with your transition to a new therapist. Write down goals and ideas about where you see yourself in the coming weeks or months; this way, when you do find a new therapist, you have goals already in place to start building your new relationship. You might also enjoy discussing your plans with a new and fresh perspective.
Most therapists realize that their patients’ lives don’t stand still when they leave or retire from their practice. However, the transition period can be challenging and even lead you down a path of negative thoughts and behaviors. At Associated Behavioral Health Care in Washington state, we offer an environment to help individuals rebuild or continue their recovery journey. No matter your needs, we meet everyone where they are at and help them continue their journey to tell their story. To find out more, reach out to us today by calling (844) 335-7384.