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Counseling For An Employee?

Are you considering suggesting counseling for an employee? When you see friends and family struggling with life stress,  you may feel comfortable suggesting they try counseling. But what about when you’re a manager or business owner and you see one of your employees struggling?  With employees, you may not see the actual personal things they are going through.  You may see a decrease in performance, missed deadlines, conflict with coworkers or customers. , tardiness or taking more personal or sick days than usual.  You might just notice they are more distracted than usual.  Your employees personal struggles can lead to problems that affect the company such as lowered overall performance or even workplace accidents.

I recently worked with a manager of a company who was a valued team member but was letting the stress of the job interfere with working relationships between himself and subordinates.  He was developing a temper that was starting to affect other people at the office.  This was due to having taken on extra work when someone quit unexpectedly.  The company was taking a while to find a qualified replacement.   A solution focused approach to counseling helped him figure out successful ways to deal with the stress and communicate better with coworkers, which eased his stress and things at work soon got back to normal.

What affects your employees may be more personal than work stress.   They may be going through a divorce or other crisis.  Quite often, employees are reluctant to get counseling for problems and try to tough it out on their own—especially men.  They feel responsible to show up for work or are afraid to take time off work to address their personal mental health.  They often don’t realize they are not functioning at their usual efficiency. Or, they just hope it goes unnoticed until they get through whatever it is they are going through.  

Suggesting counseling for an employee can be useful by le them know you’ve noticed a change and suggest they try counseling.  You may already have an employee assistance program in place so your employees can get help.  If not, it may make sense to develop a relationship with some outside therapists so you can refer to them.  Your employees might be receptive to contacting a therapist if you suggest it. Let them know you are okay with them taking time off work to address the concern.  It may be the push they need to get help sooner rather than later.  It also helps if you can recommend a therapist or a group practice that you can recommend personally. 

What Therapists Should You Refer To?

You may want to call some therapists and learn about how they work. Or meet some therapists for coffee to learn how they work and what problems they prefer to work with.  A therapist should be able to describe how they work and how they help their clients in therapy.  And they should be able to explain it in a way that makes sense to you. 

 The counselor should also be someone you would consider working with yourself if you were looking for a counselor.   Your employees won’t stay with a counselor who turns them off in some way or can’t make a connection.   Many counselors describe themselves as eclectic. However, I prefer therapists who are grounded in one main theory.  Having one primary theory gives therapists a mental compass to refer to and get back on track if a session gets off track.   Working from several theories can be ineffective.

Supporting your employees in making use of Employee Assistance Services or seeking outside counseling will help them come to work with a clearer head. Employees get some relief from their personal problems that will help them stay focused at work.  Stay in touch with them about whether they find the counseling useful. This helps you decide if that counselor could be kept as a contact for future needs.

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan.  He provides counseling for couples, counseling for teenagers, and adults.  He provides counseling for anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, and relationship problems.  For more information, please visit the website at