February 9, 2005

EAP offers help for both work and personal issues

Upon entering the waiting room for the Employee Assistance Program, it is easy to forget it is a campus office. Classical music plays in the background and it’s more like a doctor’s office, complete with magazines to read.

Coping with tragedy

The EAP offers these suggestions for coping with tragic events such as the Indian Ocean tsunami:
  • Talk about it and share your feelings with others.
  • Take care of yourself with plenty of sleep, exercise and a healthy diet.
  • Avoid drugs and excessive drinking.
  • Maintain a normal household routine and take time for pleasurable activities.
  • Spend time with family and friends, letting them know you need support.

Clary Tepper, a clinical psychologist and acting director of the program, explains that the office is essentially a neutral entity on campus. The program, located in the health center, provides free counseling for faculty and staff of the University, ASI, University Enterprises and Capital Public Radio, and their immediate family members.

Counseling is not restricted to work-related issues, but is for personal problems as well. In fact, relationship difficulties and depression are two of the most common reasons people come in to the program, Tepper said.

“Personal problems can affect work performance,” Tepper said. “When you take care of personal problems, people function better at work and they are happier employees.”

Tepper said it is also not uncommon for people to seek counseling during times of tragedy or uncertainty, such as the recent tsunami or the ongoing war in Iraq, particularly if loved ones are deployed.

She notes that people are sometimes hesitant or nervous about coming in because they are afraid the counselor will report back to a supervisor or that their information can be seen in their personnel files. However, that is not the case.

“The service is completely confidential,” Tepper said. “No one has access to the records and I won’t even say if a person has come in for counseling.”

The EAP program reports directly to the vice president for student affairs, precisely because it does not deal with students. This way, the program maintains a distance from any office that may deal with employee affairs.

In addition to individualized counseling, EAP offers organizational interventions, consultations, education and mediation. The office also provides assistance with conflict resolution for supervisors and other employees. Tepper said that supervisors come in for advice on how to handle a situation with an employee.

“Supervisors often want to brainstorm solutions to a difficult situation,” Tepper said. “It can be helpful because sometimes everyone involved can get too close to a situation.”

The service is completely voluntary, and a supervisor cannot mandate that an employee attend counseling.

Employees are allowed to come in for counseling during work hours, although some choose not to for confidentiality reasons. Tepper said the President and the University have been extremely supportive of EAP and have helped to encourage employees to take advantage of the service.

Tepper said people should consider coming in for counseling if they have a problem that is affecting their everyday life or if they find themselves constantly crying, feeling depressed for no particular reason, having trouble getting out of bed or constantly thinking about an issue.

“Usually, people have a vague sense that they need help,” Tepper said. “It is a gut-level instinct or a nagging suspicion. There has never been anyone in here that shouldn’t be here.”

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