In this issue
Trauma support: let’s prepare not scare
How do you support a workforce in the event of trauma? Kate Nowlan outlines how EAPs can prepare organisations for the worst.
PTSD = Soldier?
Margaret Chapman challenges some popular misconceptions about PTSD in the armed forces.
Help or hindrance?
Stephen Regel shares his perspectives on the NICE Guidelines for early interventions following trauma and treatment for PTSD.
The new counsellor
Embarking on a new career in the workplace sector, Hilary Green reflects on the challenges and learning.
Notes from the chair
The bigger picture
Lead Advisor Rick Hughes on the latest workplace news
Dr Sandi Mann: How to survive a trauma at work
Dr Kate Anthony: The reality of virtual trauma
Inside the organisation
Annette Greenwood talks to Counselling at Work
One day in December 1988, I took a day off work and went Christmas shopping. It turned out to be the day that my usual morning train to Waterloo was involved in a collision just outside Clapham Junction, tragically killing 35 people and injuring hundreds of others. Although entirely uninvolved in this experience, it left an impression, disrupting my otherwise largely unconscious routine of getting to work and bringing into my conscious mind images and associations that in the aftermath were hard to shake off.
Given the proportion of our lives spent at work, it follows that exposure to trauma is likely to happen either at work or en route. By its very nature, trauma does not politely announce itself or come with a warning. And yet, a key message seems to be that if we psychologically prepare ourselves for trauma, we can increase our chances of survival.
This is something my father’s always known. Family holidays always involved him in a reconnaissance trip, checking emergency exits, positions of lifeboats and potential escape routes in case the worst should happen. This behaviour came to be a rich source of family jokes. But one night when the worst did happen and an electrical fault turned into a serious house fire, my father (then well into his 70s), in the pitch black, proceeded to save his home from being burnt to the ground. Later, the attending fire officer, who assured him his actions had saved not just his home, but also his and my mother’s life, asked him about his background; he simply answered ‘national service’.
Core survival skills may be fundamental to those who work in the emergency services or armed forces, but for those of us who spend our working lives at a desk, we may need a bit of help. Organisations have a duty to prepare for trauma, and training is at the heart of this, explains Kate Nowlan in her article, ‘Trauma support: let’s prepare, not scare’. Kate describes a form of ‘psychological inoculation’ which can help protect organisations and staff in the event of a traumatic incident. She highlights the role of EAP providers as educators, training staff, and providing managers with sufficient understanding about trauma so they can best support their teams towards recovery.
Earlier this year, Stephen Regel was invited to speak to the London Trauma Network on the NICE guidelines following trauma, and the treatment of PTSD. I’m pleased that Stephen has summarised his presentation for Counselling at Work, highlighting some of the confusion that exists around early interventions for trauma. He raised some questions about what the guidelines mean for organisations, clients and practitioners, and asked whether they are a help or a hindrance. I wonder, what do you think? If you would like to comment on this article or the guidelines, please do get in touch.
PTSD is not an inevitable outcome of war, argues Margaret Chapman in her article ‘PTSD = Soldier?’ Challenging some stereotypical views that all military personnel are suffering from PTSD, Margaret draws on her research and her work with veterans, to portray a far more complex picture of the mental health of the armed forces. Acknowledging that PTSD is a very real occupational hazard which can often go undiagnosed, she highlights the need for greater understanding and research so that those who are most in need of help, get appropriate support.
At a Making Connections event for students last year, one of the questions most often asked was, how do you get into the workplace sector? As a distinct branch of therapy, rarely covered in general counselling courses, it can be a challenging field to enter. So I welcome Hilary Green, who will be writing a regular column for us this year, ‘The new counsellor’. She brings fresh perspectives and insights into what it means to start on a new career, negotiating the challenges of the three-cornered contract between client, counsellor and organisation.
‘The trauma that our staff experience is on a whole different level’, explains Annette Greenwood, who leads the Trauma Service for staff working in one of the country’s largest secure mental health hospitals. Staff work in a constant state of hypervigilance, where everyday items such as hair grips or pens are potentially harmful implements. Annette’s commitment to supporting her staff is unwavering, and this issue she’s our inspiring interviewee for ‘Inside the organisation’. Last year, she became a Nursing Times finalist and was awarded for ‘Excellence in supporting staff health and wellbeing’. She told me that the award validates much of her life’s work in fighting to ensure that the nursing profession have psychological support when they need it. With great modesty, she told me that she shares her award with all of us involved in the endeavours of workplace counselling and trauma support. I thought you’d like to know.
If you’ve read an article in Counselling at Work that you would like to comment on, please do get in touch. This is your journal – your thoughts and opinions are important and we want to hear from you. I hope you enjoy this issue.