Need help breaking free from addiction?
1-888-993-3112
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Ad Info & Options

Absent Therapist

Question:

I have issues about attachment and trust – almost everybody I came to trust and rely on (especially my parents) eventually became mentally or otherwise ill. This became even harder after a sexual aggression. I’ve decided to consult a therapist since these problems led to issues with intimacy. After a few months, I finally developed trust and felt very comfortable with her. She took a month’s vacation recently. A few days before our next appointment, her assistant called to let me know she needed “a few more weeks” of rest. I can’t take this! On the one hand, I feel the urge to change therapists – this is one too many times. On the other hand, she’s helped me a great deal up to now and I’m afraid I’ll have trouble finding another therapist with which I feel so comfortable. Insecurity about whether she’ll really come back or not is also eating me up inside. Should I wait or find another therapist?

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
Answer:

It is not all that typical, in my experience, for any therapist to take such an extended vacation without making arrangements for the care of her patients. An indefinite vacation would violate a core ethical principle that at least Psychologists have to abide by: Don’t abandon your patients. Even if your therapist is ill, she should have made some contingency plans for getting her cases covered. It is unfortunate and frustrating that things are going the way they are.

<

p>Like it or not, your therapist’s absence has played right into your core therapeutic issues and you are understandably upset. Before rushing to switch therapists (as you have indicated that this therapist has been helpful to you, and because your condition – while painful – would not appear to be life-threatening), you might consider waiting the additional several weeks. You could use your next appointment to discuss your discomfort with her extended absence. This situation really could be made into a positive therapy exercise if you were to look upon it as a challenge in how to maintain a sense of trust under conditions where it is hard to do so. There are lots of other good ways to look at the situation too, however, and one of them is that your therapist is less than completely responsible. If you do decide to wait it out, you should, I think, set a time limit for her re-appearance that you can live with. If the vacation goes on past your limit, then go on to a new therapist who will be more reliable. Know also that you can file a complaint with the state board that licenses your therapist if you come to understand that his/her behavior was truly out of bounds.

More "Ask Dr. Dombeck" View Columnists

Close

Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.

Close

Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand