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.
The holidays offer plenty of reasons to be stressed out and anxious -- the
gifts you haven’t wrapped, the pile of cookie exchange invites, the office
parties. But for many, the biggest source of holiday stress is family -- the
family dinner, the obligations, and the burden of family tradition. And if
you’re fighting clinical depression, or have had depression in the past, the
holiday stress can be a trigger for more serious problems.
“There’s this idea that holiday gatherings with family are...
"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."