Workplace counselling: benefits and how to implement it

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Workplace counselling is a tool that can help employees deal with any issues at work. Usually short term, employees may focus on any specific problems that they have in the workplace that are affecting them mentally. If you run a workplace, you may be wondering about the advantages of implementing office counselling and whether it's worth incorporating in your workplace. In this article, we explain workplace counselling, explore its benefits, discuss how to introduce it and provide tips for talking about it.

What is workplace counselling?

Workplace counselling is a type of therapy that involves talking about issues, assessing why they are mentally impactive and finding resolutions. While many people who have counselling suffer from mental health problems like depression or anxiety, it is becoming increasingly common for people to have counselling when dealing with stress.

Sometimes, a person may feel stressed about their workplace. A workplace counsellor who can listen and provide confidential advice can be valuable for a team. Employees can discuss stressful parts of their job and evaluate their mental impacts.

Related: 8 tips for the management of stress when you're at work

How does work counselling differ from regular counselling?

Counselling in the workplace has some significant differences from regular counselling. These are the main ones:

  • Work-focused: While employees may talk about their personal life and consider how it affects their sentiments towards workplace issues, most of the discussion is around the workplace.

  • Based in the office: A workplace counsellor usually happens in the office. They may station there permanently or come in one day per week. Some counselling also takes place online.

  • Short-term: Work counselling is usually short-term and generally deals with one issue in the workplace. If the counsellor thinks that a person is struggling with other mental health problems that need longer-term support, they may refer them to another counsellor.

Related: What are stress relievers? 10 effective stress relievers

Benefits of workplace therapy

There are quite a few benefits of workplace therapy, including the following:

Easy to access

One of the main reasons for people not having traditional counselling is that it can be difficult to access. Free mental health support is often challenging to acquire, and private healthcare can be expensive. If a counsellor operates in-office, your employees may find it much more accessible. They could be much more inclined to try out counselling, especially if they can have a session at a time that suits them.

Related: 11 stress management apps to minimise stress at work

Reduces stigma

Mental health can still have a stigma surrounding it, but having accessible support in the workplace can help to reduce this. If one person signs up for workplace therapy, their closest colleagues may do the same, particularly if they hear that it has helped. The more people try office therapy, the more stigma surrounding mental health reduces, leading to a more positive and proactive office.

Short term

Workplace counselling is usually short-term, so employees tend to use it to discuss just one particular problem in the workplace. Employees may no longer have counselling when the issue resolves, although they could start it again if the issue repeats itself or if they have another problem. The fact that it's short-term may encourage some employees to try it, as they aren't making a long-term commitment.

Related: How to take time off work for stress reasons (plus tips)

Lower staff turnover

Workplace counselling encourages staff members to talk through and deal with their issues. The counsellors are trained professionals who can analyse office psychology and discern why certain people feel a particular way. Sometimes, if people ignore these problems, they could escalate into reasons why staff members leave a particular office. But when a professional offers their opinion on these issues, the problem may rectify itself. This could lead to lower employee turnover, which generally means increased business productivity and profits.

More positive office

When you deal with an issue, you might find that you have a more positive office. Counsellors typically provide their perspective on any issues and offer tips for dealing with them, making the entire office space feel more at ease. A more positive office could increase productivity and staff satisfaction and improve the workplace.

Related: Should you complain at work? A guide to stress management

How to introduce office counselling into your team

If you're thinking of introducing office counselling to your team but aren't sure how here are some steps:

1. Find the right office counsellor for you

The first step is to find the perfect office counsellor for your team. Ideally, they have professional counselling experience and worked with a similar team. It could also help if they know your industry. Take time to find the most suitable counsellor, as you may wish to interview a few before you choose one.

2. Call a meeting to discuss workplace counselling

You may find it easier to initially discuss workplace counselling in a team meeting, either in person or online. Ask if anyone has heard of workplace counselling before. If nobody answers, you could give a brief overview of it and discuss its incredible benefits. Ensure that everybody knows this is a positive addition to the workplace and that it would be fully confidential.

Related: How to manage feeling overwhelmed at work (with steps)

3. Encourage but stress how it is optional

When talking about workplace counselling, make sure that you mention that it is entirely optional for staff members. Stress that nobody has an obligation to speak about any issues, but if they do wish for some confidential, professional advice, the option is now there. If you feel comfortable, you could mention some issues you might talk to the workplace counsellor about. For example, you could detail how you struggle to switch off after a busy day and want to discuss this with the therapist. Your own experience could make it seem more relatable.

4. Detail how to book a session

Finish your meeting by mentioning how any staff member can book a session. You may have a portal where staff can book, or they could contact the counsellor direct. Make sure that everybody knows the easiest way to get in touch with the counsellor from the beginning. This could encourage them to book a session when they feel ready to discuss any particular topic.

Related: How to deal with anxiety at work: helpful tips and tricks

5. Mention the counsellor in everyday conversations, but don't probe

Mention the therapy services every so often in meetings and other workplace conversations. But don't probe into whether other people have had sessions, as all meetings are confidential. You could gently suggest that somebody see the therapist if you notice that they are having some issues in the workplace. For example, if a team member finds client deadlines too stressful, they can have a few sessions with the counsellor to discuss ways to manage stress.

Tips for talking about workplace therapy

Not everyone on the team might be keen on taking part in workplace counselling right away. You can help them understand it and decide whether it would benefit them by having open conversations about workplace counselling and its benefits. Here are some tips to help you start conversations about workplace counselling:

Talk about your own experience

If you feel comfortable and have had some experience in counselling, you could talk about it with your colleagues. For example, if you've dealt with immense stress in the workplace before and used counselling to turn it around, this story may help others. Alternatively, if you have had some other therapy sessions for any other issue before, you could also talk about these. Any story that makes therapy seem relatable could help.

Related: 13 things you can do to help stop anxiety at work

Suggest group counselling

Group counselling could be another option. If a few members of your team are struggling with stress, you could suggest that they seek counselling together. While some people prefer to talk about their issues in private, others like to deal with group settings where they feel supported by other group members. This could be an excellent first step to help people who want to try counselling but are nervous about the process.

Encourage staff members to have multiple sessions

While it's essential not to probe into whether employees have seen the counsellor, some may approach you to mention that they have had sessions. If they discuss this with you, encourage them to undertake multiple sessions to deal with whatever issue they have. Although workplace therapy is usually short-term, most employees have more than one session (often around four to six). You could also mention that employees are welcome to have multiple sessions in team meetings.

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