NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: Old Abandonment Issues Can Get Triggered When Your Psychotherapist is Away

Abandonment issues from early childhood can get triggered when your therapist goes away for a while.  This is a common response for many clients in therapy (see my article: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment).

Old Abandonment Issues Can Get Triggered When Your Psychotherapist is Away

Most psychotherapists give their clients advanced notice as to when they're going to be away so it gives them time to talk about any issues that might come up due to the therapist's absence.  It also gives the therapist and the client a chance to plan for it.

Many clients, especially clients who are feeling emotionally vulnerable, can get emotionally triggered because the therapist's absence can bring up earlier memories in clients' history when they felt emotionally abandoned or, in some cases, even physically abandoned.

Planning in advance with your therapist, before she goes away, about what you can do if you feel emotionally vulnerable can be helpful.

Old Abandonment Issues Can Get Triggered When Your Psychotherapist is Away

Just knowing that this is a common experience that many people feel when their therapists are away can be a relief.

Also, even though they might feel intense, just knowing that these feelings are usually related to an earlier time can be somewhat comforting to know.

As compared to when you were younger and you experienced the original emotional abandonment, it's important to remember that, as an adult, you now have internal resources that you didn't have when you were a child.  So, in most cases, what you're going through now isn't nearly as bad as it was when you were younger.

Some Tips That Might Be Helpful While Your Therapist is Away
  • If you think you might feel shaky while your therapist is away, talk to her about it before she goes.
  • Stay in contact with friends and loved ones.  This isn't the time to isolate.
  • Confide in a trusted friend or loved one about what you're experiencing.
  • Remember that what you're experiencing is common for many people who are in therapy, especially people who have experienced abandonment as children.
  • Continue to engage in activities that you enjoy.
  • Set up an appointment with the covering psychotherapist, if you feel you need to talk to a professional before your therapist returns.
  • Write about your feeling in a journal. This can be very helpful.
  • Think about what your therapist might say if you told her that you felt emotionally triggered (many people, who have worked with a therapist for a while, have internalized their therapist so that they might already know what she might say that would be comforting).
  • Many cities, have free support groups through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) that might be helpful in your therapist's absence.
  • Recognize that you've been through much worse and, most likely, you will get through this until your therapist returns.
  • Remember the saying, "This too shall pass."
  • If you feel so overwhelmed that you think you might hurt yourself, you should go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
  • When your therapist returns, talk to her about your reaction while she was gone.
Even when you know that what you're feeling is from the past, the emotions can feel powerful.

Having self compassion and being gentle with yourself during this time is especially important.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you are struggling with abandonment issues and you're not in therapy, you're not alone.

Rather than suffering on your own, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional who specializes in helping clients with this issue.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.