Breaks- testing the secure base
As of tomorrow I am on holiday for a week. Breaks are so important on many levels.
Unless you work shifts, every week most people have a mini break (weekend) which gives us a chance to relax, let off some steam, explore somewhere new, spend time with others, sleep...
Holidays often provide us with all of these things but over an extended period of time and we need them! These last few months have been very interesting times and like a lot of people, I've felt a bit unsure of what was going to happen and when would be the right time to take a break. I tend to take a week long break every August and decided that it would be a good idea to keep that routine even in these uncertain times.
What does a break do to therapy?
Breaks can have a different impact whether planned or unplanned. Sometimes unplanned breaks can occur when the counsellor or client is ill/ suddenly unable to attend. Sometimes this can cause disruptions in the work. If a client experiences being let down by others, the counsellor suddenly having a break could remind them of those feelings. Ideally the counsellor will explore the impact of this unplanned break within the next session and use this situation to link to previous times the client has felt this way in their lives. The counsellor/ client relationship allows these patterns of attachment to be seen in real life, which hopefully allows for them to be worked through.
Planned breaks can also have different reactions, sometimes this can seem like a relief, knowing that there will be a break from sessions which might feel intense or hard. Other times it can cause a lot of anxiety, with the client wondering how they will cope when the counsellor isn't there. Clients might feel happy that they have saved some money but might feel shame or embarrassed to say this to their counsellor. By the way, its ok to say this to your counsellor! All emotions and thoughts that are triggered by breaks are useful and welcomed. The client-counsellor relationship allows unconscious emotions to be experienced, felt and understood.
Therapy aims to provide a temporary attachment figure in which the client can feel secure- the counsellor is consistent and emotions can be tolerated. It provides a holding environment in which a client can explore their pain (Johnson, p.5). Therapy creates a secure base in which the client can explore away from therapy, knowing they can come back the following week and the counsellor is still there.
A planned break gives an opportunity for clients to see what it is like without meeting as usual. It can provide an opportunity for them to test their inner resources without feeling like they are on their own as the therapeutic relationship will still be there on return from the break.
So I'm off on my break, hope everyone has a great week!
Johnson, S,. (2019) Attachment Theory in Practice. London: Guilford Press