By Karin Blak
In the past, going to therapy used to be taken as a sign that we couldn’t cope and if our line manager got to know, our career prospects would be seriously damaged. Thank goodness those days are, for the most part, gone. The question now is: how do we talk about therapy at work, who should we talk with, and what should we say?
A lot of life’s experiences need coping strategies that we don’t necessarily possess. Whether that is births, deaths, relationship break down, or a situation at work; any situation that causes us to experience additional stress can affect our work performance. Therapy can provide us with a confidential space to develop the skills and strategies we need and talking with our trusted colleagues and line manager about our experiences can ease our process of recovery.
Talking with colleagues
The conversation about anxiety and depression is becoming acceptable at work and is more readily recognised as a part of life. Talking about therapy on the other hand still seems too personal for some, yet it is one of the major solutions for gaining coping mechanisms to reduce the effects of anxiety and depression on our life.
The kind of conversation about therapy we can have with trusted colleagues could be about our general experience of the process. It can even be reassuring for our closest colleagues to know that we are taking action to work with our mental health issues. Saying that we are seeing a therapist who is helping us through talking about our experiences is probably all our colleagues need to know.
No doubt there will be some curious colleagues who will want to know more, and they might be brimming with questions about our therapeutic experiences. How far we take those conversations depends on how comfortable we feel talking about the subject. However, we need to look after ourselves and make sure we are not venturing into an area that will overwhelm us and so stop us from working. For that reason, it is advisable to:
- Only talk about therapy as a general topic.
- Be ready to tell our inquisitive colleague that we’d rather not go any further with the conversation.
- Know our own boundaries, something our therapist can help us with.
- Rely on our support network outside of work for our more personal and emotional needs.
Talking with our line manager
Our line manager will want us to perform the best we can, and they should be supporting us in doing so. If we have been struggling at work, they might have helped us get in touch with a therapist linked to an employment support scheme or encouraged us to see our physician for a referral.
Of course, we might have sought therapy without encouragement from work. Whichever it is, if our line manager is the supportive sort, they will want to know that we are looking after ourselves and developing coping skills. Letting them know that we are seeking therapeutic help for a specific issue can enable them to provide specific support for us for the time we are in therapy or while we need it.
In general, work is not the place most suitable for the deeper explorations of our therapeutic experiences. It is a place where we are paid to perform a specific role. Opening up the general conversation about therapy with colleagues can begin to generate a wider acceptance of therapy and become a resource of understanding in our working lives.
Karin Blak is a qualified couples counsellor, family therapist, and psychosexual and relationship therapist. In 2019 she received the East Midlands SME Most Dedicated Relationship Therapist award. Karin has worked at GP surgeries, inpatient units, Sure Start Centres, Relate, Connexions, and in private practice, and sat on the ethics board at the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapy (COSRT). She has spoken on BBC Radio and blogs on Medium about relationships and self-development topics.
Karin’s book, The Essential Companion to Talking Therapy is for those currently in therapy, seeking therapy, considering returning to therapy, or supporting a loved one through it. The book is available from 9th February in multiple formats; pre-order your copy here.