Karthik’s wife had been suffering a neurodegenerative disorder for years. ‘It will worsen’- the doctor’s prognosis told them, early on. If hiring a nurse was a nightmare earlier; more so now, during the pandemic.
In addition to this mental and physical stress, Karthik was also feeling guilty of not being able to be of help to his elderly parents living on the other side of the city.
Laboring through a punishing routine, Karthik could only think about the hollowness and the vicious grind of life.
It did cross his mind to visit a counselor through the EAP program offered by his organization. But the last time he discussed it, his best buddy advised against it. This time around, he decided to go ahead and book an appointment with the counselor.
Yet, he dilly-dallied for days, wondering:
- Did his life-experience qualify to visit a counselor?
- What will his Manager think, if he got to know about Karthik’s visits to the counselor?
- Would HR reveal it during a reference check from a subsequent employer?
Fortunately, an email from HR regarding a virtual awareness session on EAP came as a blessing. It clarified the various life-situations wherein employees have benefited from EAP. And, also dwelled on the absolute confidentiality between the employee and the EAP counselor, amongst others. It gave Karthik the courage he couldn’t muster earlier, to reach out to the counselor.
The result? He found EAP to be a boon!
In time, his attitude evolved to reflect the quote “Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their minds.”
Like Karthik, most of us adopt the ‘two steps forward, one step backward’ approach while considering counseling. We get bombarded with several taboos and fears that we tend to forget its original purpose.
The purpose of Counseling
Counseling is a process that psychologically empowers individuals to gain control over their mental health or well-being.
It increases self-awareness, a sense of well-being, and also an understanding of the resources that one can use. It is for anyone struggling with personal concerns.
Unfortunately, the heavy shroud of the taboo that surrounds it; prevents most of us from considering it with an open mind.
The taboo against Counseling
Some common reasons why people do not take the help of a counselor are:
- Denial about the need for help
- The fear of what others will think
- Being branded ‘crazy’
- The negative impact on career/social life if HR or manager gets to know
- Lack of time and money, and
- Lack of awareness
There are other dimensions too. For instance, gender (men feel they will appear weak if they visit a counselor.)
As taboos are deeply entrenched, there is a need to get past them, to enable people to opt for counseling.
5 key tips to engage people to use your Employee Assistance Program
- Publish – Your EAP policy and make it accessible for employees
- Promote EAP – Create and send out periodic communication mailers,
- Confidentiality Assurance – Maintain utmost confidentiality and provide the assurance as this enhances the trust among employees that their mental wellness will not impact their career/Job.
- Sensitise – Create more awareness using wellness workshops , Get the Counsellor to do floor walks or sessions to break the taboo
- Celebrate – Identify Brand ambassadors for EAP from within your employees. Get leaders or senior people who have used Counselling services to openly share their benefits, this is one of the best ways to enhance confidence
Building Awareness on Counseling
In KelpHR’s live session around ‘Maximizing the benefits of Counseling for employees,’ Mr. Kannan Parthasarathy, a leading psychologist, opines that getting past the taboo lies in ‘building awareness around counseling.’
People are unaware of who can opt for counseling and the reasons for doing so. The taboos that exist, shackles, and prevents them from taking the first step of reaching out to a counselor. Just as one goes to a doctor for a small cold or a terminal illness, similarly, one can visit a counselor for varied problems, from stress to mild forms of depression, etc. Employees need to be made aware of this.
Again, there is a need to re-iterate that psychological counseling does not necessitate medicines. Only specific reasons require a psychiatrist to prescribe medication.
Through an anecdote, Mr. Kannan says that even after scheduling 4-5 visits to a top-notch Indian conglomerate, none of the employees visited him, to consult. So, along with HR, he walked onto each floor of the sprawling offshore development centers of the organization, to talk to employees for 7-10 minutes about counseling. After that, employees felt comfortable walking-in for counseling.
Counseling will help us avoid looking at our problems from a single axis. Only by building awareness around counseling, can we get past the taboos and access the help we need. That’s the way to go.
KelpHR is helping build awareness around the importance of counseling and EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) for organizations and individuals at https://www.kelphr.com/eap.html
Feel free to reach out to email@example.com for more information around counseling for both individuals and organizations.