What if my Therapist Goes on Maternity Leave?

What if my Therapist Goes on Maternity Leave?

Nalleli Cornejo, LCSW-S

How to deal with your therapist going on Maternity leave: Expectation and general considerations of a collaborative plan 

Getting the news that your therapist is going on leave can understandably bring up a range of feelings and concerns. At RPC we currently have 2 amazing therapists anticipating their maternity leave. Having taken maternity leave 4 years ago, I find myself reflecting on this experience and want to explore strategies to navigate this situation and provide insight on things to be considered.

What to do if my therapist goes on Maternity leave?

Open communication- Your therapist will share with you when they anticipate their leave to be, usually a few months' notice, and they will tell you how long they anticipate being gone on leave. Know that it is valuable to take time to share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns in your therapy sessions. There will be regular check in’s as the leave approaches and opportunities to discuss your feelings and concerns as they arise. It’s understandable if you have a mix of emotions such as joy, sadness, anger, fear. It’s not uncommon to have the thought “happy for you but what about me?” Being open about your thoughts and feelings can help process them and aid in exploring alternative sources of support during the therapist's absence. 

Collaborative plan- You and your therapist will create a plan which will review the time remaining before leave, estimated date/week of last visit, current and future therapy goals to focus on for the remainder of your time together. You will also work together on a plan for coverage during the leave. This might include transferring to another therapist, referrals outside of the practice, or pausing therapy until your therapist returns from leave. Here is a general outlook of things to consider:

  • Temporary therapist- Your therapist may recommend a trusted colleague within their practice to provide support during leave. They may aid in setting up a consultation or meet and greet to help with the transition. Your therapist might share with you what they know of their colleagues' therapeutic approaches and style. The therapy consultation is a good way to get a feel for the new therapist and give you the  opportunity to share anything you would like them to know. 
  • Outside referrals- Your therapist might provide you with referrals to other therapists outside of the practice. Alternatively, referrals might also include local and international support groups. PSI has wonderful support groups that are free and online.. Joining a support group can be a valuable resource to help maintain emotional support, acquire new coping skills, and build a sense of community with others who share similar experiences.
  • Self-Help resources- Your therapist can recommend self-help resources such as books, podcast, workbooks, mobile apps, that align with your therapeutic goals. These resources can help you continue your personal growth and reflection during their absence. Journaling can also help you with reflection and continued engagement in your therapeutic process. When your therapist returns, you can review your journaling content or progress any other supplemental materials. Here are some options recommended by one of our psychiatrists, Dr. Haynes, in her recent blog, 8 Self Help Books I Recommend for Moms,  and our “Go to” resources for mental health and self care resources. 
  • Reviewing coping skills-  Remember, coping skills are mental exercises and there is great value in regularly reviewing and reflecting on what skills help you. This may include mindfulness exercises, grounding techniques, cognitive challenging exercises, somatic awareness and resourcing, or other self-soothing practices that you've learned during your therapy.
  • Support system- It’s important to identify who around you is in your support network. This may include, friends, family, partners, mentors, colleagues, spiritual or religious community. Consider who are individuals who can actively listen and be empathetic when you express your emotions. Sharing your feelings and concerns with those you trust can provide emotional relief. Consider scheduling regular calls, video chats, texts, and in-person meet ups with these people while your therapist is on leave..
  • Self care- Self care looks different for everyone, in therapy you can explore what activities “recharge your battery”. Consider some of the following:
  • Maintaining a routine- including exercise, nutrition, and healthy sleep patterns
  • Mindfulness - practice mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, stress management 
  • Healthy boundaries- set professional and personal boundaries
  • Hobbies and fun- What are some hobbies you enjoy? The most fulfilling hobbies are ones that resonate with your interests and provide a sense of joy and accomplishment- Reading, bookclub, painting, gardening, dancing, writing, DIY projects, sports, volunteering, traveling, sports, running.
  • Emergency contact- Incase of a crisis or emergency, emergency contact information will be provided. It’s important to save the contact information and know that 24/7 help can provide immediate attention. 
  • Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988
  • Emergency  Services: 911
  • Taking a break from therapy- Depending where you are at in your therapeutic process, taking a break from therapy might be something you and your therapist discuss. It is important to consider your support system, the duration of the break, stressors or challenges you anticipate. The decision should be made collaboratively and align with your needs, circumstances, and your therapist’s  recommendation. 
  • Therapist return and reassessment- When your therapist returns you can plan to schedule a session. This visit is an opportunity to reconnect, discuss your experience during leave, and reestablish your therapeutic goals. It’s not uncommon for this visit to be scheduled before your therapist takes their leave. If you transferred to another  therapist, there is value in discussing the upcoming return with them. This might include a reflection on your time with them, progress, continued goals, and collaboration on what makes sense in terms of transferring back to your original therapist’s care.  It is also important to note that sometimes, it’s in your best interest to continue working with your new therapist.  

Navigating the transition of a therapist's maternity leave is undeniably a complex process, filled with a whirlwind of emotions and considerations. However, it also presents a unique opportunity for growth, resilience, and self-discovery. By actively participating in this process, you can continue to work towards your therapeutic goals, maintain emotional support, and even develop new coping strategies in the therapist's absence. The experience can further solidify your understanding of your needs, strengths, and support systems, fostering a greater sense of autonomy and resilience. So, embrace this transitional phase with an open heart and mind, trusting in the collaborative plan laid out and the unwavering support of your therapist, as they navigate these changes together, one step at a time.