bird flying alone in the sky
CPD Credits
Event Type
Live Online Event
Zoom & Recording for 365 days
9:30 am - 1:30 pm
Book Tickets
bird flying alone in the sky
Friday, March 1, 2024

The Impact of Breaks in Therapy 

With Charles Brown, Linda Cundy & Joy Schaverien 

This conference will identify and explore the different types of breaks that may occur in the process of a therapy. Breaks might include an unexpected break or a planned holiday, a tech dysfunction or the time between sessions. Each type of break carries its own unique significance and challenge for therapeutic practice. 

A key aspect of understanding the impact of breaks is recognizing that client responses to the breaks are deeply influenced by their relational history and core patterns of attachment. Separations in early life and defenses to protect against them play a crucial role in shaping reactions to breaks in therapy from crisis to avoidance. By considering early dynamics, and dynamics in the transference therapists can gain valuable insights into how to effectively navigate and support clients during these periods. 

Our speakers will explore how shifts from separation terror and anxiety can move towards a sense of ‘going on being’ and tolerance of breaks and how this can be fostered within the therapeutic alliance. By creating a secure and consistent therapeutic environment, therapists can help support clients to develop object constancy and resilience in the face of separations whether micro or macro and enable the client to use the separation as a positive experience of agency and growth. 

We will have three presentations through the day each with a different emphasis and an extended Q&A of one hour to dig deep into the challenges that working through separations can present and the possibilities of deep internal change. 



09.30 Introductions
09.35 Linda Cundy
The spaces in between: from separation anxiety to security

How clients respond to breaks in therapy encapsulates their core pattern of attachment and defences against separation. While some patients welcome time out, perhaps introducing extra breaks by missing sessions, others protest or collapse in the absence of the therapist. Unexpected breaks due to therapists’ life events are particularly challenging and sometimes catastrophic. But, while the regularity and rhythms of therapy help to create a secure base, the spaces between appointments are essential, holding different meanings at different stages of the work. Drawing on both Attachment Theory and the work of Winnicott, this presentation also considers the aim of psychotherapy and how breaks, including the therapist’s holidays and sabbaticals, provide essential developmental opportunities.

10.20 Q&A
10.30 Break 
10.45 Charles Brown
Breaks in online ‘remote’ therapy: Avoidance, intimacy, and loss

This presentation explores challenges regarding the experience of breaks, online therapy practice to traditional in-person therapy. Referring to Freud’s seminal paper, Mourning and Melancholia, the presenter considers both macro breaks such as gaps between sessions, holidays and due to illness as well as micro disruptions and moments of disconnection in online ‘remote’ therapy. Charles will explore the more profound, unconscious ways in which clients and therapists respond to the experience of loss as it emerges through breaks in therapy.

11.30 Q&A
11.45 Break
12.00 Joy Schaverien
Breaks and the Repetition of Trauma: A Hidden Aspect of Boarding School Syndrome

Why is it that some adults, who attended boarding school as small children, may seem impervious to breaks in analysis? Abandoned, Bereaved and Captive, children in boarding school learn to Dissociate. This is the ABCD of Boarding School Syndrome. This is not a single psychological wound but a series of traumas that is repeated every term time and every holiday break. The pain of these broken attachments is such that, unconsciously, children learn not to be aware of their own suffering; they cut off from feeling. Many people are traumatised in childhood; and abandonment, separation anxiety and abuse are not exclusive to ex-boarders. However it is the repetition of these losses that makes adult ex-boarders particularly sensitive or insensitive to breaks in the frame.

12.45 Q&A
13.00 Q&A with all speakers
13.30 End