Trust me, you need a vacation.
Although we preach and teach balance and perspective to our clients, helping professionals rarely take their own advice in this area. So many practitioners don’t take time off either due to a sense of obligation to their clients or for fear of the financial impact it may cause.
This is a recipe for disaster!
Without proper time away from work, practitioners start to burn out, get exhausted, get sick, get stressed and their overall ability to be present with clients starts to decline. So you end up working twice as hard but are only half as effective in your work. And if you are running at half capacity, how long will your clients keep coming back or referring people they know? Nobody is winning there.
First off, you need a break just like everybody else. And I don’t mean just a long weekend. I mean at least a week so you can fully decompress, relax and re-balance. As much as you love your work, you are not a robot and as a member of the human-being club, you need downtime too. That could mean having a stay-cation with your sweetie, taking a solo adventure across the globe or signing up for training course to get you re-inspired and re-engaged. Any break in your routine will allow you to look back on what is and isn’t working in your life and adjust accordingly. Without perspective, it’s easy to get tunnel vision in life and in session, and burnout isn’t far around that corner.
Your clients deserve the best version of you in the room with them.
I promise you the sessions you have after a vacation will be some of your most inspired work. Your clients will ultimately benefit from you being in a more centered place.
Therapeutically it is actually highly beneficial for your clients if you go away from time to time. It allows clients time to reflect on the work they are doing with you as well, and sessions after a break are often more focused and energized. It can also allow an opportunity to work through any fear, anger or anxiety about people leaving and not coming back, or how to say goodbye.
Use your absence as tool to help your clients in their work.
If you never go away, it can create a sense of dependence and fear of coping without you. Part of therapy is supporting clients to become self-reliant and learn new ways to deal with stress and uncertainty. Having a defined time away can increase client’s ability to depend on their inner resources and can build resilience and confidence.
Tips for making your vacations a positive experience for both you and your clients:
1) Consider booking off time throughout the year, even if you haven’t decided where you will be going or what you will be doing.
I recommend booking off at least one week every three months but that is a minimum. You can always move the dates around but consider these like place-holders for the breaks you are going to take. If you don’t schedule them in, they are very unlikely to ever happen. As the saying goes “Time Flies” but without a little bit of planning, you definitely won’t be.
2) Tell your clients far in advance
As soon as you start to solidify your plans, give your clients a heads up and remind them often as you get closer to the date. Depending on how you work, or who you work with, some clients may panic at the thought of you not being there. Plenty of advanced notice allows you to work through this clinically in session, and create a plan so your absence doesn’t create a therapeutic breach.
3) Create an action plan for what to do in your absence if they need support
This can be a great opportunity to remind and encourage clients to draw on supports that are available to them in their day-to-day lives. For some clients this can be as simple as asking them what they can do or who they can reach out to while you are away, for others it may be more involved. Consider what events or issues may arise during your absence, and together come up with a plan for how they can support themselves while you’re away.
4) Name an alternate therapist for emergency sessions if you have an extended absence.
If you are working with a higher-risk population or clients are going through a difficult event while you’re away, having a back-up therapist can help ease anxiety (theirs and yours), even if they never end up seeing each other.