The dog days of August in most parts of the U.S. mean a mass exodus as vacationers scramble to find cooler climes and water in all its forms. For those who regularly see a therapist, it also typically means going without at least some sessions, as those in the mental health profession traditionally take off for vacation now, too, and sometimes for the entire month.
So what can you do if you need to see your psychotherapist, psychiatrist or counselor and she won’t be back in the office and seeing clients for a week or two, or even more? Below are a few easy-to-find resources to get you through until your next appointment.
When You’re Off the Couch …
Don’t shrink from research. Therapy has probably already taught you the value in self-discovery. And while there’s no substitute for the compassion and help of a skilled pro, one of these reads may be useful in delving into issues and understanding yourself a bit better: How to Be Your Own Therapist: A Step-by-Step Guide to Taking Back Your Life by Patricia Farrell, PhD, or Unchain the Pain: How to Be Your Own Therapist by Bob Livingstone, LCSW.
See your doctor. Sometimes the whole-person perspective of a good family physician or nurse practitioner (NP) who knows you well can be a welcome addition to the care you get from your therapist. Especially if you’re experiencing side effects with a medication or complications from a mental disorder, there’s no need to wait for your counselor’s return. Physicians and NPs you see for checkups and flu shots can also be a great resource when it comes to mental health matters (including addiction). In fact, in order to provide optimal treatment they should be kept abreast of your mental health. Internists and family practitioners may even identify a physical reason contributing to your discomfort and can assess whether you need emergency treatment if you’re not sure if you’re in crisis.
Try a different therapist. Don’t think of it as cheating on your favorite shrink. A fresh perspective can be invigorating, and your therapist may well have someone covering for him while he’s out, so you may have a ready option to try during your therapist’s vacation. You may find that the new person you see will be an even better fit or offer an insight you wouldn’t have considered. This can be especially useful if you’ve felt stalled in your therapy and have been considering trying someone new. (You may also find that your current counselor is a better fit for you than you may have realized.) If you’re looking for names, call your health insurance provider or check the provider’s therapist directory for professionals who are in your plan.
Join a meeting. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to a 12-step meeting (such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Codependents Anonymous and many others), or you’ve never been to one, now could be the perfect time to try one, or try a new one, on for size. You may find someone, or even a group, with whom you connect and that will offer you support. You can also find online support for 12-step meetings and alternatives to 12-step program, like SMART Recovery.
Go to a church, synagogue or mosque. No matter your religion (or lack thereof), if you’re looking for a calming environment and a sense of community, the longer, slower days of late summer might be a good time to consider attending religious services or going more frequently. Often, places of worship are open for people to drop in and pray indoors or at an outdoor space if you don’t want to attend a mass or service. Clergy, ministers and rabbis are also often available if you need someone to talk to, too.
Take a yoga class. Yoga isn’t just about stretching. If you’re feeling anxious and upset, practicing the breathing and movement of a simple beginner-level yoga class (if you’re new to the practice) can help you feel more balanced. A restorative class may be an especially good choice to calm jangled nerves and encourage restful sleep.
If you feel suicidal, call 911 or make your way to an emergency room immediately. Another great resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24/7 resource. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime.