Although absences from therapy sessions can occur for legitimate reasons (business trips, illness, etc.) they may also be the result of increased anxiety. As a group develops and members sense that subsequent interaction may penetrate into areas that are frightening or potentially harmful, some may become absent.
For the sessions to be successful for the client, it must be a significant aspect of the client’s life — it must not be a casual discussion that may either be attended or let alone. For these and other reasons, the orientation of group life, the clarification of goals, and skilful leadership are essential. While lateness or absenteeism is frequently regarded as a form of resistance, a member’s absence may be his way of testing the limits of the therapist’s acceptance, or it can represent resentment.
Discussions of absent client provide the group with a different focal point, delay the work at hand, and allow some individuals to verbalize what they may not be able to do when the absent member is in the group.
The therapist should make an effort to contact absent members, especially in the early stages of the therapy. Members need to know if their presence is required and that they have been missed. A personal phone call from the therapist can effectively communicate to the absent individual that he does have an important reason to be there.