July 17, 2000 -- Your spouse just walked out. You can't stop drinking. Your son committed suicide. Where do you turn? More and more people struggling with such crises are going to their employers -- not just for sympathy, but for professional advice.
Fifty-six percent of companies with more than 100 employees now offer in-house counseling and referral programs, according to a 1998 Business Work-Life Study, sponsored by the Families and Work Institute in New York.
By Catherine Guthrie
Simple, field-tested strategies you can use right now
You know what stress looks like: The sun rises; so do you. Your child suddenly remembers that he needs cupcakes for the school party. The dog's gotten sick in the living room. Your spouse leaves for work in a huff after a pre-breakfast tiff over finances. You leave for work without a report that's due today. You double back, grab it from the kitchen counter, trip over an Everest of laundry — must we go on?
"Just as industry takes care of its equipment -- from computers to pumps to pipelines -- it has an obligation to take care of its people," says Drew Cannon, MSW, an employee assistance counselor at Chevron Chemical in Houston. "I don't mean just for the eight hours that they're on the job," he says. "I mean 24 hours a day."
Does than mean the company will be psychoanalyzing you or peering into your private life?
"Absolutely not. We don't do therapy," says Cannon. "We refer people out to confidential treatment programs. We don't talk to supervisors about their employees or tell them who's in counseling. We just make sure that people get the help they need. "
Says Chevron manager D'Ann Whitehead, "People want and need this kind of help. Our marital and family counseling program has increased since 1997 and now accounts for 43% of our referrals."
Do these benefits translate into more committed workers? Absolutely, says Whitehead. Consider the case of Nancy M., 57, a marketing specialist who discovered that her 33-year-old son had started taking drugs. "My son lived 60 miles away, and I had no idea how to deal with the situation. Cannon referred me to a well-balanced treatment program, and my son got straightened out.
"I was just beginning to get my sense of balance back, when my husband had a major heart attack and my mother had a stroke. Chevron held a special seminar on how to cope with aging parents. Then Cannon got me into counseling. I'm grateful to the company, and so I'm going to do the best job for them I can."