Home Contact Me
Cactus Counselling logo: prickly pear

Cactus Counselling

People Bereaved For Their Therapists (or Supervisors)

Many therapists out there offer therapy for bereavement, but I offer something more specific: bereavement therapy for people who have lost their therapist. Additionally, I offer bereavement therapy for therapists who have lost their supervisor.

I'll explain: your relationship with your therapist is unique. It's simultaneously a professional, and a personal relationship. On the one hand, your therapist is a paid professional who you are hiring, with whom you have a business contract, and who you may expect to part company with at some point. On the other hand, they are also a safe person who you depend upon and form a strong relationship with, so that you can do the work you haven't been able to do alone or with family or friends. It's natural for us to develop a strong bond with our therapists for precisely this reason.

This dynamic becomes difficult if your therapist becomes unavailable to talk to you - for example, if they are suddenly hospitalised, or if they die. You may wish to mourn your therapist, but as you were effectively their customer, it's unlikely you'll be invited to their funeral. This can leave you stranded, with no 'standard' way to mourn your loss.

This isn't how things are supposed to happen in a situation like this. Usually a therapist creates, and maintains, a document called a therapeutic will; it's considered good practice to have one. A therapeutic will names another therapist (called the professional executor or locum) who can help out if your therapist becomes unable to contact you. They take your therapist's client records and reach out to you, to make sure you're informed of what's happened to your therapist. The professional executor may also support you in finding a new therapist.

That's how the scenario should work, but it doesn't always. If your therapist dies suddenly, is in denial about their condition, or simply cannot keep up with how quickly their illness is progressing, they may fail to inform their locum of the need to step in for them. This can leave you, as the client, uninformed indefinitely.

You Mentioned Supervisors. What Are Those?

Some therapists choose to have ongoing therapy, and all therapists have ongoing mentorship, which we call supervision, on a mandatory basis. The above scenario can happen to therapists with their supervisors, and who are themselves clients to other therapists. This creates extra complications that are worth anticipating in order to prevent them from happening. One example of this is the risk of a therapist parallel processing the situation with their clients.

As someone who's had this experience, I'd like to offer support to any therapists who have lost their own therapist or supervisor without warning or time to adjust. Processing your uncertainty or grief with me may help you to keep this from happening and make the journey easier for you to cope with.

How To Get Started

If you'd like a 15 minute, no obligation talk by telephone or Zoom, you are welcome to request one on my Contact page or reach out to me on the details below.