Thrive on Campus//

“Take a Break From Therapy!” — Said No Therapist Ever

Here's how to deal without therapy while you're away from the therapist's office.

IvelinRadkov/Getty Images
IvelinRadkov/Getty Images

Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

So, you made it! You finally got therapy! Congratulations, you absolutely deserve it and I am so happy that you are getting the help you need. Just when you think you are getting used to those impeccably scheduled sessions — BAM! — break comes. If you do not live around your college, you are out of luck for a few sessions before your next semester starts.

What do you do now? If you are like me and found yourself at a loss for how to continue getting better without guidance over what felt like the slowest summer break of my life, then the following article will be helpful for you.

I started therapy in April 2018 and managed to squeeze eight sessions in before I left for break in June. I thought I would be able to handle my beautiful brain and myself for the summer, but that proved easier said than done.

To summarize my experience, I have gifted you all with a sweet, short rendition of my summer:


All doodles made lovingly with doodle.ly by Kris Gerdts.

So that these feelings of uncertainty do not happen to you and you can know how to better cope with life’s surprises and your mental illnesses’ unpredictability, here are a few things I have learned since then.

My tips before you head into a break:

  • Open up the conversation of therapy on break. Ask them what they usually do with student patients or what options you have.
  • If you already know what you want, you could ask for their policy on phone sessions or how they feel about a few quick texts every once in a while. If they say to call them only for emergencies, ask what constitutes as an emergency for them.
  • Ask about what your insurance would cover.
  • Respect their legal and professional boundaries and personal preferences.
  • Ask them if they know or can recommend someone in the area that you will be in over break, if none of the above options work for you. If they can’t do that, reach out to people in that area and ask if they know anyone, or google therapists, types of therapy, and insurance plans that work for those practices in the area you will be in.

You may be thinking, “Kris, why is this important anyways? I could probably do a few weeks or months without therapy.”

Yes, you are right! You absolutely possibly can do that. I say all of this because you do not know what life or your mind will throw at you and how it will affect you. If you can’t afford therapy in any way over a break for any reason…

Here are some ways to thrive until your next therapy session:

  • Continue taking your medication, if you have any. Our schedules are thrown off when we are on break and you may forget or just not want to — set reminders for times to take the pill with a little note that may help you want to take them.
  • Write, write, write. This is a great alternative to talking to your therapist as you will still explore your feelings, life circumstances and thoughts and you can write any questions you may have for your therapist when your sessions start up again. You can make this as long or short as you like and write wherever you prefer (a journal, notebook, Notes app, etc.), though I recommend setting a time to do this for at least five minutes a day.
  • Meditate. This can help center you, go to sleep, have restful sleep, help practice your mindfulness, etc. There are so many benefits to meditation. Here are some apps you can download for free to help you get started: Headspace, Insight Timer, and Calm.
  • Do things you love and make you happy. You are on break! Sleep, rest, do things you love! Read, paint, draw, sing, play an instrument, or even pick up a new hobby! Talk to people you trust and build your support system!
  • Check in on yourself. Take some minutes every few days to ask yourself questions like “How are you feeling today? Are you okay with where you are mentally right now? Do you need more support? What do you need from those around you? From yourself?” It is okay to challenge your thoughts and be completely honest with yourself. This also makes it easier to be more clear with the people around you who love you to understand and support you better.

These are some things that have worked for me and numerous people I have talked to. This may or may not help you, but I encourage you to try anything that you will think will help you or a loved one.

You can also check out this Thrive Global article on chat therapy that mentions apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp.

Remember, you have many options and, most importantly, you can do this.

Subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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