In this issue


‘I’m in trouble at work’ (free article)
When an employer begins formal procedures our clients are rarely prepared for the psychological effects that will follow. Patrick Quinn outlines the specific skills that counsellors need to help support clients through the process.

Wellbeing uncovered
Vicki Badham explores whether workplace wellbeing is a tick box exercise or a proactive way of supporting employees to flourish

Meaningful work 
A team of psychologists and counsellors delivered experiential training to improve psychological health and resilience in NHS staff. Teresa Jennings, Elaine Whipday, Kath Egdell, Simon Pestell and Paul Flaxman share their findings.

Brexit at work
Members of the BACP Workplace Executive Committee share perspectives from their sector


Notes from the chair 

The bigger picture 
Elizabeth Cotton – Surviving work in mental health

Workplace matters (free article)
Sandi Mann – Brexit stress

Talking purple (free article)
Kate Nash – When therapists walk in purple shoes

EAP matters 
Eugene Farrell – When trauma strikes

Practitioner matters 
Jennie Cummings-Knight – A bird’s eye view

Cover of Counselling at Work Autumn 2016

A pdf version of this issue is available from the Counselling at Work archive

First words

It’s not unusual to see clients in the midst of an investigation, disciplinary or grievance procedure at work. While such processes surely play a role in managing an effective and functioning workforce, I often wonder whether a more experienced or competent manager might take a less punitive path to addressing a problem with an employee’s performance or behaviour at work. Holding our clients through the isolation and trauma of what is often a painfully protracted affair while tending to our own process is the subject of Patrick Quinn’s thoughtful article, ‘I’m in trouble at work’.

The role of management and the culture of a company in contributing to employee wellbeing, is considered in Vicki Badham’s article, ‘Wellbeing uncovered’. Working with fifty-five companies in the public and private sectors, her research explored what wellbeing means for organisations. It’s a catch-all term that can be used to encourage employees to eat more fruit, wear a pedometer or learn about self-care. From the research, it transpires that what wellbeing actually means varies considerably from one organisation to another. As workplace counsellors it’s important to be aware of this, as our clients will have a range of understandings too. What I found most striking is the absence of awareness that there could be a connection between how manager behaviour impacts on staff wellbeing. Staff who feel engaged, valued and supported by their managers, tend not to end up on our waiting lists citing symptoms associated with work-related stress and anxiety.

Given the pressures on the NHS and its staff, it was particularly uplifting to read ‘Meaningful work’, co-written by a committed team working to introduce early interventions to improve staff resilience and reduce the likelihood of stress and burnout at the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHCT). Training staff across the Trust in acceptance and commitment therapy and mindfulness is a powerful example of how counsellors can work beyond the counselling room in organisations as educators developing emotional intelligence and providing supportive spaces that foster resilience and deepen relationships among staff. Providing cost-effective and potentially life changing training for carers who are so sensitised to the needs of others has benefits not just for the staff themselves but also for patient care.

An optimistic picture of our departure and future outside the EU continues to be reflected in the pages of much of the press. Far from optimistic, and impossible to ignore, I find, are the dark displays of nationalism and the spike in hate crimes and racist offences which, according to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner, have still not returned to pre-referendum levels. Such attitudes leak into all spheres of life, including our workplaces, where ethnic minorities and EU workers can be targets for hostility and discrimination. At both an individual and organisational level, uncertainty is the new normal, with potential consequences for mental health. Reflecting on the impact on their sector, members of the BACP Workplace Executive Committee and Andrew Kinder, Chair of EAPA, address how their clients, teams of counsellors and organisations are responding to the current climate, in ‘Brexit at work’.

And finally, you’ll hear from our Chair, Tina Abbott, who pens her last ‘Notes from the Chair’ this issue. Tina’s wise stewardship has been of great value to BACP Workplace during a period of significant change within BACP. I shall miss her optimism and supportive leadership. She hands over to Nicola Neath, who is eminently capable and well placed to take up the BACP Workplace reins.

As the nights draw in, I hope you find ways to stay well in your work and that you’ll enjoy this issue of 'Counselling at Work'. As always, if you have views you’d like to share on anything you’ve read, or you’d like to submit an article idea of your own, do get in touch.

Nicola Banning