Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Coping with holidays and counselling

Written by Deborah Kerr   Posted in:Counselling / Psychotherapy   August 13, 2015

Coping with holidays and counselling
The holiday period for those receiving counselling can be difficult to manage. Having regular appointments, i.e. same day and time each week creates a consistency and is what is known as the ‘therapeutic frame’. This frame can be experienced as the ‘heartbeat’ of the process. Having a regular time and day gives the client something they can rely and depend upon and gives focus to the work. Any changes to the regularity can be disruptive to the work and often leave clients feeling unsettled.
It can remind the client of past let-downs in their lives from being let down at the last minute to extreme abandonment by significant relationships. Some people may have experienced a temporary separation only to discover the person is never coming back. All these experiences can contribute to the way clients feel about their counsellor taking a holiday.
We know, as in all professions, counsellors also need to take a break, however, emotionally this can feel very differently. Clients can experience a range of feelings like anger at their counsellor for putting their needs before their own or they may feel anxious or worried that their counsellor might not come back or upset and concerned how they will manage while they are gone.
Counsellors understand that these processes go on when breaks occur and would encourage their client to express how they are feeling. The therapeutic relationship is unique to any other kind of relationship and counsellors regard the relationship as an important one so they know to spend time exploring feelings and to help their client understand with more clarity what is happening for them. Some clients find it too hard to be in touch with how they feel. They may not know what to say or feel too scared to and instead, try to make it alright for their counsellor, but if feelings are not expressed, clients may express their feelings through their action  (act out their feelings instead).  For example, the client might cancel their session before the break or even upon return. They make some reasonable excuse like feeling unwell or the need to work overtime. And at its extreme, some may say they are never coming back; disengaging from their counselling is another form of ‘acting out’ their feelings.

Attending counselling is about bringing new awareness to thoughts and feelings and to process them in order to manage better so it’s really important the counsellor helps their client handle the process of breaks sensitively and carefully. It’s the counsellor responsibility to raise the topic of the break and to make it safe within the session so their client can share honesty how they really feel. From this perspective breaks in counselling is an important part of the work and clients do survive breaks. They help the client to manage a depth of intimacy with their counsellor and also experience they can be self-supporting. Working within the therapeutic relationship is key to therapy and working through feelings with the counsellor be it breaks or otherwise enables the therapy to move forward as part of the powerful journey of self-discovery.

So clients….. relax…. take a break! Happy Holidays!

To find out more about Deborah Kerr, Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, visit her website:

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