When you miss a counselling session

To be clear, missing an appointment sometimes happens for very valid reasons like accidents or serious illness. In some other occasions, people simply forget. The question is, why do we forget?

Simply forgetting is normally not a reason, but a consequence. When someone misses an appointment there are other reasons behind it. Sometimes people lead chaotic lives and that is an issue in itself. Too much chaos leads to increased levels of stress and it has a domino effect.

Another reason could be due to drinking or drug use. When someone is drinking out of control or using drugs this usually translates in not being able to keep appointments.

Other reasons include stress, financial instability and anxiety. In fact good reasons to attend therapy and usually indicators that something is amiss.

All these are things that can be talked about during counselling. Clients sometimes get surprised by the talk about missing appointments, and it’s not that therapist is being a stickler, but rather that the underlying issues behind a missed session are worth understanding. Talking about those reasons usually leads to discovering important issues and are a great opportunity to deal with them.

Policy around cancellations

The majority of counsellors have a firm policy regarding missed sessions, normally charging clients the session. There are very clear reasons as to why that is done.

Firstly, the session time booked could have benefited another person that cannot use the time as it was booked.

Secondly, counsellors reserve the time in their appointment schedule and it is reasonable to expect compensation for that.

Other reasons

There are yet another type of reasons why someone may miss an appointment. These reasons are related to counselling itself.

These reasons are:

  • Feeling embarrassed about assisting to counselling
  • Fear of questioning by the counsellor
  • Fear of offending the counsellor
  • Dissatisfaction with counselling
  • Trying to avoid discussing the motive of the cancellation or start a conversation about an uncomfortable topic

What to Do

It is always better to cancel. It is ok to cancel a session and it is ok to decide on your own if you want to continue or stop counselling. It is also ok to change your mind about it even after having the appointment set up. Cancelling an appointment not only saves you money, but counsellors to open the time for someone else and shows that the counsellor’s time is being respected. Cancelling should not start an argument with the counsellor, most would be thankful that you were open about it, however, if the counsellor quibbles with you about the appointment cancellation, if there is no formal agreement about attendance, this could be a sign that you should find a different counsellor.

If the reason for cancelling the session is to avoid something (usually emotional), there is another option. It can be very useful to talk about your feelings or fears with the counsellor in a session. If you trust your therapist, this conversation can lead to addressing deeper and more important issues, which should turn into a big step forward toward healing.