Confidentiality & Workplace Counselling
If you are accessing counselling through your workplace, (an EAP, occupational health or paid-for service where your employer pays for your sessions) you may have questions about the level of confidentiality.
Basically the worry is
“Will my boss know what I’ve said to my counsellor?”
The answer is
Your employer will not know what you say in your sessions.
SO let’s just flesh out that short answer.
What is Workplace Counselling?
Workplace counselling is provided to support employees. It is usually short term in nature and provides an independent, specialist resource for people working across all sectors and in all working environments. Giving all employees access to a free, confidential counselling service can potentially be viewed as part of an employer’s duty of care.
My particular specialism is the education sector.
Responsibilities and skills
The counselling process is about providing a safe place for people to talk about issues that trouble them and allowing counsellors to help them find their own solutions to problems or develop better ways to manage issues.
It is important that your counsellor is properly qualified. I hold the PG Diploma in Counselling from the York St John University, a Masters’ Level qualification and am a registered member of BACP.
Counselling is not about giving advice or guidance, but about providing a non-judgmental, empathic and accessible means to allow an employee to find their own way forward.
Workplace Counsellors have a specialist viewpoint and skillset, as they essentially have two clients: the employee accessing counselling is the Primary Client, and the organisation, who is paying for the service is the peripheral client. It’s important to remember that the peripheral client is just that; on the periphery, existing only to pay for the service and refer, or encourage self-referrals for counselling.
Workplace counsellors are mindful of the context in which the employees work and have a crucial understanding of the environment to which the people will be returning. My own expertise in the education sector means I am well placed to understand the context in which teachers, TAs, middle, senior leaders and Headteachers work. I understand the complexities and dynamics of working in a school.
As workplace counselling is short term (up to eight sessions), practitioners are commonly “integrative”, meaning they have trained in a core therapeutic approach and assimilate other disciplines into this.
"Integrative" is how I work. I am centred on You, the Client and your experience; working with you as a whole person, not just as an employee. Research shows that the choice of the approach used by the counsellor usually matters less than the quality of the counsellor-client relationship, with trust and openness helping to maximise success.
That trust is based on the central, non-negotiable practice of Client Confidentiality.
How is Counselling provided?
Several factors, primarily the size of the organisation and the funds available, dictate how counselling is provided within an organisation. Most important is the understanding that counselling must be confidential and voluntary, so it should not be used as a conditional requirement or as part of a disciplinary process.
We all experience life-crisis issues at different stages in our lives. Experiences such as bereavement and loss, relationship and family difficulties and stresses at home can all preoccupy someone’s thinking and distract them from work. This distraction and low performance can often be the first indicator to colleagues or employers that a person is experiencing difficulties. In certain safety-sensitive or safeguarding dependent jobs this can also be a major risk.
I work on the basis that a person can self-refer or ask their manager/headteacher to be referred. I then invoice the workplace/school for the sessions.
This means that the manager/headteacher will know that a person has accessed counselling support but that is all. No information other than that necessary for invoicing will be disclosed to the manager/headteacher/employer.
Currently I do my counselling in a comfortable room in a quiet location on the west side of Harrogate.
Counselling Skills in the Workplace
Increasingly, many workplace managers, especially Headteachers and Deputy Heads are choosing to learn some counselling skills. This can help them better engage with colleagues experiencing difficulties, develop skills in empathy, demonstrate a more open and transparent manner, and build a closer trusting relationship with the staff member.
I can help with this training and would be pleased to work with schools to enhance all staff, especially senior leaders’ counselling skills.
However, it is important to remember that receiving introductory counselling training does not equip someone with sufficient knowledge to provide an employee with full counselling.
A person with some counselling skills may think they can support or counsel a depressed employee, but what if that employee goes on to reveal a history of childhood sexual abuse, alcohol dependency, or discloses that they are considering suicide?
Managers, including Heads and SLT have found counselling skills training to be hugely helpful in terms of how they manage people. Poor people management skills are often cited in dysfunctional workplace relationships.
Does it work?
There is a growing body of academic research that says counselling has real benefits and that it does work in alleviating distress and enabling people to live happier lives.
If you are thinking about counselling and want to have an informal chat about that possibility I am happy to answer any questions you have.
SO that’s a quick overview of Workplace Counselling.
And the most important thing for you to remember is that your sessions are confidential.
Please have a look at my website www.space2breathecounselling.com where you will find more info and a useful FAQs page.
And please do get in touch for a chat or if you have any other questions.