In this issue


Uncomfortable truths
Keon West reveals how privilege and prejudice perpetuate inequality in the workplace.

Hitting home 
Employers must wake up to the hidden cost of domestic violence. Melissa Morbeck and Matthew Lewry make the case.

The value of evidence
Internal counselling services need to collect the data into therapeutic outcomes and communicate the value to the employer. Tina Abbott explains.

All work and no play
Having a laugh at work is good for us.and our employers. Sandi Mann highlights.both the benefits and the danger spots.

The new counsellor
Hilary Green continues her reflections on the challenges of a new career.

On reflection
A perspective from Nick Wood

Are you on the Register? 
Hadyn Williams explains the different.routes to join the BACP Register


Notes from the chair

The bigger picture
Lead Advisor Rick Hughes on the latest workplace news

Workplace matters
Dr Sandi Mann: How being nice could be bad for your health

Dr Kate Anthony: The reality of virtual conferencing

Inside the organisation
Liz Aston talks to Counselling at Work

Cover of Counselling at Work, Summer 2014

All articles from this issue are not available online. Divisional members and subscribers can download the pdf from the Counselling at Work archive.

First words

The conscience of the organisation’ is one phrase that’s been coined to describe the role of the workplace counsellor1. As our work is frequently uncomfortable at a personal, organisational and political level, I think there’s often a lot on our conscience too. This thought has been much on my mind as I’ve put together this issue following the BACP Joint Practitioners’ Conference held earlier this year. I found it an incredibly stimulating day’s CPD and my thanks go to four of the speakers: Keon West, Melissa Morbeck, Tina Abbott and Sandi Mann, who all presented as part of the BACP Workplace programme and who have contributed articles to this conference special issue.

Beginning with a health warning, BACP Workplace keynote speaker and social psychologist, Keon West, informed us that his presentation might make us feel uncomfortable. He was right. It did. This discomfort serves as information about the bias that exists within our society and, more unsettling, within our own belief systems, and is explored in ‘Uncomfortable truths’. Keon considers how prejudice and privilege operate in society and how discrimination in the workplace, based on gender and ethnicity, continues. The lack of diversity in the higher echelons of our public and private bodies and organisations, a steady gender-based pay gap and a widening White-Black pay gap are just some of the truths. For me, the words ‘equal opportunities employer’, don’t have quite the same ring after reading this article.

The theme of uncomfortable truths remains present in Melissa Morbeck and Matthew Lewry’s article, ‘Hitting home’. The Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence (The Alliance) is a charity committed to working with organisations to understand the impact of domestic violence on their workforce. It’s shocking to learn that 75 per cent of people who are experiencing domestic violence will be targeted at work, because the perpetrator knows exactly where to find them, and knows they will pick up their phone or leave the building at the end of the day. Employers have a duty of care to their employees experiencing domestic violence, so what measures do organisations need to have in place and how can they best support their employees?

Practitioners are often reticent about presenting statistics, but if stakeholders and funders do not know what we do and what our impact is, why would they continue to fund us? In ‘The value of evidence’, Tina Abbott explains how she had to provide a robust response when her employer announced that her counselling service was under review. She shares the presentation she and fellow executive member, Barry McInnes, gave to the conference on the importance of measuring the outcomes of the work that we do in the counselling room. This vital data can be used to fight for, champion and save in-house counselling services under threat from budget cuts and outsourcing.

Linda Smith, the late comedian, once described her early experience of working in a supermarket as being much ‘like spending your youth in Poland under martial law’, a sentiment that I suspect might resonate for many reflecting on our former workplaces. So when our regular ‘Workplace matters’ columnist, Sandi Mann, asked us at conference: who works for ‘a fun organisation’? perhaps it was not surprising that most hands stayed firmly down. During times of austerity, organisations become even less fun. But what are the benefits of humour to the workplace and how might an organisation create a more fun-loving culture without it being nauseatingly insincere? This is what Sandi weighs up in ‘All work and no play’.

And finally, wrapping up our conference issue, my thanks go to Nick Wood for providing his reflections on attending the conference. 

In our regular interview slot, ‘Inside the organisation’, Liz Aston, of Birmingham City Council, sheds light on how the relentless process of change within local government impacts on staff wellbeing and how her team responds to meet the need. And Hilary Green returns with the second part of her series ‘The new counsellor’ in which she experiences an uncomfortable encounter with a client.

Reflecting on your recent responses to the Counselling at Work readers’ survey, it’s heartening to discover that there is much that you find both useful and relevant to your work covered within these pages. If you took the time to fill out the survey – and you know who you are – thank you. Your responses to specific topics that have appeared in the journal, such as resilience, supervision and trauma, suggest that these have been well received. And to those who’ve observed a regional bias in the coverage, please can I assure all readers that I welcome your ideas for articles, wherever you are, either geographically or theoretically speaking.

If you think you have an article of potential interest to Counselling at Work readers or perhaps if you know an inspiring colleague whom you think would make a good interviewee, please do drop me a line. Wherever you are in the country, it’s good to hear from practitioners and workplace specialists involved in the many endeavours which name and address the concerns and uncomfortable truths that people face and which help to make our organisations more emotionally and psychologically healthy places.

Nicola Banning