Mental health support at work: Counselling for employees

When things aren’t OK at work, it can be difficult. Tension and anxiety (common components of most of our lives to some extent) may increase to uncomfortable levels. The stresses and fault lines existent in our personal lives and relationships may be exposed to greater threats and pressure than before.


Under the heading of ‘things not OK at work’, come a multitude of scenarios, feelings, possibilities, symptoms and conflicts. Many of these will be known to us, if not from our own personal experience, from stories told in the workplace or by friends and relatives. We all know that things not being OK at work is common, but perhaps we underestimate the destabilising and cumulative effects this can have.

How can counselling help?

Workplace counselling is an increasingly popular resource to address psychological distress. Used by various organisations, it can provide employees who are experiencing work and/or personal difficulty, with the opportunity to talk things through. While not aiming to change things happening at work, (or at home), it may help build new perspectives and understanding, which can lead to better coping.

What is an employee assistance programme (EAP)?

Employee assistance programmes are employee benefit programmes offered by many employers. EAPs are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health and well-being. The process off seeking support through an EAP typicallys includes an assessment followed by a course of short-term counselling and/or referral services for employees.

Search for a therapist that accepts your EAP or health insurance provider today.

What's the benefit of an employee assistance programme?

For employees and employers, it is potentially a great asset. A space to review feelings of anger, resentment, fear, rejection, hurt and frustration that are harmful to individuals and counter-productive in the workplace.

It’s a chance to acknowledge and make sense of difficult feelings rather than them encumber individuals and destroy relationships and culture.

However, in the limited amount of time allocated for this work, only the very tip of these feelings is often - tentatively - aired. Like taking the top off a boiled egg. Time for a fuller, comprehensive appraisal is not always possible in the few sessions provided as part of an EAP.

Work problems almost always engender personal troubles, running alongside and into work difficulties. Often, the time-limited sessions might be sufficient to identify their existence and to initially map their nature and extent. But, a fuller, deeper exploration, taking account of their interaction with work-life and general well-being is almost certainly the stuff of longer-term work.

For some, however, this short-term intervention is enough. It might answer some useful questions and highlight the way toward other types of help and support, such as coaching. It may provide support at a time when it's most needed and where no other option was obvious.

Crucially, workplace counselling is a taste of the type of help that is always available; private one-to-one therapy and counselling from the many available independent counsellors and therapists. Perhaps the next step is to facilitate access from this initial short-term help to longer more rounded, therapeutic support. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, SW8
Written by Jill Twentyman, Registered Member MBACP (Accred) Integrative Psychotherapist
London, SW8

I am a BACP registered counsellor and have completed an MA in counselling and psychotherapy. I have experience working as an EAP counsellor, with addiction, trauma and with individuals who are estranged from their families. I work for the NHS and privately.

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