Anticipated Therapist Absences: The Therapist’s Lens
Over the course of a therapist’s career, absences from work are inevitable. Although therapist absences undoubtedly impact the therapy process, the topic has not received sufficient attention to produce helpful guidelines. Instead, clinicians looking to the literature for recommendations find less in peer-reviewed journals regarding therapist absences than they would if they were to turn to popular media geared toward a client audience (Barchat, 1988). This study sought to begin to remedy this research gap using a Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) research design focusing on anticipated therapist absences. Ten therapists with at least two years of experience post-licensure were asked about their general thoughts and approach to absences and the training they had received regarding therapist absences. They were also asked to discuss in depth a time that they were absent during therapy with an individual, adult client, focusing on the period before, during, and after the absence, as well as its overall impact. Participants reported generally receiving minimal or no formal supervision or training regarding therapist absences, and experiencing emotional distress when thinking about absences as a whole. When asked about specific absences, however, participants reported experiencing more positive than negative emotions, creating a plan with the client, and generally achieving positive outcomes. Implications are discussed, including recommendations for training, clinical work, and future research.