What to do during therapist's maternity leave?
May 29, 2012 10:34 AM   Subscribe

My therapist is gone on maternity leave. Does anyone have any tips/stories about going through the same thing?

I've been seeing my therapist for about 5 months, and I really like her and trust her. It's the longest I've stayed with a therapist in awhile. However, she has just started maternity leave. I knew about this well in advance (obviously) but we were supposed to have two more sessions, including the one where we talked about coping while she was on leave. Except she went into labor on Sunday, so obviously those last two sessions won't be happening.

It's crappy timing for this to be happening. In general my anxiety and depression are (mostly) manageable, but it's nice having her every week. I still haven't gotten to the "Why am I still doing this?" point yet. But this week has been rough - basically, long story short, I tried to adopt a dog, it overwhelmed me to a debilitating degree (to the point where I wasn't taking care of myself), so now I'm having to give him back which I'm sad and angry at myself for, etc. Basically lots of big negative emotions that I was looking forward to discussing in therapy. So these feelings have gotten me thinking about what to do while she's gone.

I have several options. She texted me to tell me she had the baby, and said we could talk on the phone next week and she could give referrals for someone to see during her leave. I'm really hesitant to start seeing someone new. I don't understand how the length of her maternity leave (3 months) is enough to form a new relationship with a new therapist, give my background, get comfortable discussing all of this, and then just as I form a relationship, get my therapist back.

But at the same time I'm not sure I can handle 3 months with no therapist at all, which is obviously another option.

The other two ideas I can think of are the therapist I had years ago, that I saw once or twice about 6 months ago before terminating because I don't live close enough to her office anymore. But she does know me, I did see her for awhile. The other option is the counselor I had in my hometown (Buffalo) when I was living there over a year ago. She offered to do Skype or phone sessions if I ever needed to, and even though we haven't spoken in awhile, I think she'd be more than happy to work something out with me.

Has anybody else gone through this? What did you do while your therapist was on leave?
posted by dithmer to Human Relations (5 answers total)
Is your therapist up for Skype sessions? She might not have thought of it, yet it might be a good thing for her as well, as she can have more time at home with her baby, and you (and others), can get your theraputic needs met.
posted by Vaike at 10:47 AM on May 29, 2012

I have gone through it, yes, a couple of times. Many years ago. I'd like to tell you the story, but I think that would detract from just telling you the things that helped me. For what it's worth, I do not look upon those few weeks with any sort of fondness. It was a very difficult personal time and I saw my therapist as my mother. To deal with her going away to have her own baby? YUCK! ;-)

Anyway, here's what helped me:

1. Phone calls. Yes, they're not perfect but if your therapist is offering them, then do it. At times it will feel like it's not really helping, but do your best to treat the phone call as if you were in the same room. Verbalize as much as you can while on the phone with her. It will help.

2. Stop thinking about the time in total. I know this is hard to do, but to think of "THREE MONTHS" is just going to make it a lot bigger in your mind. To be sure, three months is certainly not three hours, but you can't do anything about the passage of time. Try to take every day on its own. All you have are the moments in which you are living. Some of them will be lousy. Others won't.

3. Call upon your extended support network. Whatever it is: Family, friends, other therapists willing to speak with you, the Internet. Share yourself if you can. It's worth it. It will dull the ache you feel. Even if that's only for a moment, it's worth doing even when you think it's not. It might be worth exploring group therapy for these few weeks. Many are free and just getting in the room with others will help.

4. Remember that your therapist wants to help you. This may be more projection that anything, but I would so often find myself in internal dialogue about my therapist when she was on maternity leave. She left because I'm hopeless. She doesn't REALLY want to call me back even though she's done so continually. etc. etc. Try not to do that. If you have been given coping methods like CBT exercises then do them.

5. Get outside. I hate going outside. I am of the Internet generation, but I make it a point to walk places when I can. It helps. It just takes me out of my head for a little while.

6. Tell yourself that you can make it. I know this sounds trite or glib but the truth is you can make it through this period. What's the alternative? Suicide? Not really! And the world is likely to keep spinning and your body is likely to continue to exist in the next minute, the next hour, the next day, the next week, the next month. The only way to the end of this period is through it. So tell yourself every moment if you have to -- in between sobs if you have to -- "I. Can. Make. It."
posted by tcv at 11:09 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

My therapist asked if I wanted to see one of her colleagues while she was out. When I said that I didn't have the energy or want to spend the time filling in a stranger, she said that that was her job and she would fill the person in. You might want to ask if that's something yours is willing to do.
posted by paindemie at 11:12 AM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree with paindemie; also you might be surprised how effective seeing another therapist on a short term basis might be; they will view their work with you through a slightly different lens. Give it a try!

Also, try writing down some of the key messages you have taken away from your therapist and keep them on hand. I did this in between sessions with my former therapist, and having those reminders at the ready really helped in moments of crisis/self-doubt, etc.
posted by retrofitted at 11:38 AM on May 29, 2012

I've pretty much done what tcv said when I was in this situation. But, depending on where you are-there might also be mental health helplines and distress lines that you can also use for some extra support.
posted by livinglearning at 12:23 PM on May 29, 2012

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