• The summer break in therapy can bring up difficult feelings

  • Often, taking time away from therapy challenges our existing attachment patterns

  • Rae Freeman shares her experience and reflects on the value of her relationship with her therapist

This week starts the summer break. A break from sometimes-difficult work, work of a different kind. Therapy. Something I wouldn’t have called ‘work’ until I started it. This ‘summer break’ is rather an unknown quantity. The thought of an extended break from you and from therapy – twice as long as any previously - in many ways feels as, if not more, difficult than therapy itself. 

Some of the most raw material has come after breaks. Once I told you - and I dreaded it – that I was feeling ambivalent about you and therapy. I loathed myself for wanting to see you. I couldn’t handle the missing or the separation. I wanted an end to it. My head was split between wanting and not wanting to see you again. You didn’t flinch as I clumsily explained. You seemed concerned and engaged. I hadn’t realised that the break had challenged my rather frequent insecure pattern of attachment. A small-scale replay of my life. I naively used to think the break was mostly for your benefit – but now realise that it is as much for mine; recreating the ebbs and flows of real life relationships.

I have felt like a teenager recently testing and trying new ways of being; becoming increasingly self-aware. The break feels somewhat like I, an injured animal who is being coaxed into health and is developing the skills needed to more adequately fend for myself, and being given my first little flight of freedom. I am to fly the nest briefly, out in the wild, testing my wings. Of course I fear their strength to carry me – but I do feel more sure this break that I will be able to return to the safety of your space to consider and think more. I have explained to you my fears that I will crash land. Together, I hope, we will work again as I seek to glide more comfortably along with my own thoughts and feelings.

Until one day I fly the nest completely. Thinking of a goodbye now crosses my mind – a life without you. Despite our relatively short crossing of paths this is somewhat fear-inducing and fills me with sadness. Not many of my relationships would I look on this longingly. You are the first consistent and stable entity that I have known. I now know your professionalism and your work suggests a ‘positive regard’ – but I never felt you giving anything like a textbook response. I am glad this is only a break and not a goodbye; I wouldn't want that, not yet.

In one of our last sessions before the break I expressed confusion at a new situation I found myself in – and some bewilderment why ‘nothing much has changed’. You quite forcefully – in a way that now makes me smile and fills me with some confidence as I head out alone for the next four weeks – said you would strongly contest that there is substantial change.

I often wonder about you during the breaks. I wonder if you think about me. Although I am sure, judging by what I have read, that you are able to separate yourself from your work. Of course the question really is why I wonder about you. You are written in my mind. There are small and large acts of permanence I remember in everything I do at the moment, in each interaction and when I question my feelings. 

I haven’t told many that I am seeing a therapist so I am unsure of how others may feel. Maybe therapy go-ers can unite and share their experiences of the break.

Further reading

The summer break from a therapist's perspective

A letter to my therapist, from a client struggling in therapy

To my client who is struggling in therapy

Welcoming summer and emotional growth