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What is a Therapeutic Gap Year (or Semester)?

A therapeutic gap year, also known as a “gap year with therapeutic support,” is a period of time typically taken by young adults, often after high school or during college, to focus on personal growth, healing, and addressing mental health or emotional challenges. During a therapeutic gap year, individuals may engage in various therapeutic activities and have both 1:1 and group therapy with experiential learning or professional coaches or mentors. The goal is to provide support, develop coping skills, and work on emotional well-being to shore up life skills or explore other interests before continuing with academic or career pursuits. It offers an opportunity for self-discovery and personal development in a structured and therapeutic environment.

10 Reasons To Choose A Therapeutic Gap Year (or Semester) 

1. Mental Health and Wellness – To address and manage mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, or trauma in a supportive living community or throughout patient services.

2. Emotional Healing – To work through emotional issues, grief, or past traumas with the help of therapy and counseling. 

3. Substance Abuse Recovery – To focus on overcoming addiction and building a strong foundation for a substance-free life. 

4. Academic Burnout – To take a break from the pressures of academics and regain motivation and confidence for future studies. (WSJ article)

5. Self-Discovery– To explore personal interests, passions, and values in order to make informed decisions about career and life goals. 

6. Life Skills Development – To acquire practical life skills like time management, financial literacy, social skills and interpersonal communication. 

7. Career Exploration – To gain clarity about career goals and interests through internships, volunteer work, or job experiences. 

8. Family Dynamics – To address family conflicts, improve relationships, or create boundaries in a therapeutic setting. 

9. Crisis Recovery – To recover from a significant life event, such as a major illness, loss of a loved one, or a traumatic incident, and regain stability. A therapeutic gap year can provide a safe and structured environment for individuals to work on these aspects of their lives before moving forward with their education or career goals.

10. Social Skills Development –  To practice or further develop social skills in a community that provides support white exploring and developing additional learning or professional opportunities.  

It’s important to note there could be more than one reason, an overlap, based on the young person’s needs and their emerging and developing goals. 

Many students choose to attend college right away because they are afraid to stop, that they will not start again. Yet according to the Wall Street Journal, “90 percent of students who took a gap year returned to college within a year.” 

A therapeutic gap year is not one size fits all. It may have different levels of support within its own specific program or perhaps between it and another program. A program might be recognized by gap year associations and accrediting bodies, have licensed clinicians as part of its programming, or have formal clinical underpinnings. It is crucial to research and choose a program that aligns with the specific needs and goals of the individual considering a therapeutic gap year. Lastly, considering factors such as location, cost, and the availability of therapeutic support is essential when selecting the right semester or gap year program. 

Through self-reflection, experiential learning, and personal growth, young individuals can emerge from a therapeutic gap year better equipped to navigate the challenges of adulthood with improved mental health and resilience. It provides them with a valuable opportunity to step back from the pressures of academics and gain a better understanding of themselves.
There are several options here on, each with a different approach. Be sure to read the details about each program and connect with them for more information. Consulting with mental health professionals and program admissions staff, an expert like a  therapeutic consultant (placement professional) can also help make an informed decision.

Want to learn more about taking a gap year? Check out some of these great articles on this blog: