Psychotherapy is the underrated, yet most valuable employee benefit

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Tokyo, July 2021. The Olympic Games sure look a lot different with covid measures in place. Yet this didn’t take away from the magnitude of the event. 

Participating in the most prestigious international sports event is a dream of most professional athletes. But there’s something far more important than that: taking care of your mental health.

When the young Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast of all time, decided to withdraw from the competition, people were confused to say the least. Was she injured? Was she feeling ill? Very few have actually considered the possibility that Biles wasn’t feeling mentally fit to compete. 

Biles took a brave path and decided to openly discuss her struggles which made room for the topic of mental health in public conversations. Step by step, a safe environment was being created to facilitate these talks.

This is just one of positive examples that contributed to destigmatizing mental health. Our society is becoming more sensitized. People are realizing how complex and layered human identity is - and just how wrong it is to narrow it down to what a person does for a living (let alone to expect outstanding performance every time).

Bearing all of this in mind, let’s see how you can establish a healthier work environment by introducing an in-house therapist.

Normalizing psychotherapy as an employee benefit

Large tech companies such as Bumble, Google, Hootsuite, and others gave additional time off to their employees to improve morale and prevent burnout. Changes of internal policies were fueled by the need to eradicate vacation guilt. In addition, businesses introduced remote or hybrid work settings, provided more flexibility to employees, and adapted to the new circumstances brought to us by the pandemic.

But is this truly enough?

Unfortunately, a lot of conversations that explore the ways of improving employee mental health have transactional relationships in mind. This means that the management teams look to deploy different tactics and strategies to support their staff, but primarily because a healthier worker means a more productive worker as well. A healthier worker drives more revenue and helps the organization optimize costs.

The business benefits are obvious. But we believe that the motivation for supporting employees should shift from perceiving the issue through a financial lens and towards creating a healthier workforce because a) it is important and b) you have the tools to do that. Psychotherapy is one of the most powerful ones.

Offering psychotherapy as an employee benefit helps to destigmatize mental health at work and ensure your team is getting the right type of support when they need it.

Employee mental health

Psychotherapy can help your employees:

  • Build emotional resilience and intelligence
  • Recognize and correct harmful patterns of behavior
  • Identify irrational thinking
  • Understand other people’s points of view better
  • Learn how to communicate effectively and be assertive
  • Improve their work relationships
  • Become more calm and satisfied with themselves
  • Increase their focus
  • Restore or maintain their work-life balance

The above list is not extensive, though. Talking to a professional helps us heal and understand ourselves better. Contrary to a popular belief, psychotherapy is not just for those struggling. It is also an important piece of the puzzle we call preventive medicine given the fact it helps us identify potential issues before they even occur or improve areas before they become a bigger problem.

How to introduce in-house psychotherapy as an employee benefit

Employers who want the best for their employees might face challenges when it comes to encouraging people to actually go to psychotherapy. As much as we hate to admit it, but we are all typically very resistant to change and equally worried about what our social circles might think of us. And even though we are making progress when it comes to destigmatizing mental health, it is still an issue. 

In addition, employers need to overcome the following obstacles:

  • Reassuring employees that psychotherapy is a part of their benefits package and that the company has no “hidden agenda”
  • Explaining that everything that employees say in sessions stays between them and the therapist, and that they are free to discuss non-work-related topics as well
  • Educating about what in-house therapist does
  • Implementing this in the right way
  • Mental health is not recognized as an important segment of medicare

It is well known that therapy is not likely to work if a person doesn’t want to work on themselves or is forced to go. This is why introducing psychotherapy as an employee benefit requires change management and creating a safe environment for everyone. 

Here’s how we managed to implement this in our own company.

Creating a safety net for employees

Private therapy session for employees

At Inviggo, we introduced in-house psychotherapy as a benefit while respecting three main principles:

  • Psychotherapy is of course optional and available to employees two times per month (duration of one session is one hour)
  • Therapy sessions are strictly confidential 
  • The management team is not notified about who’s going to therapy

This way, employees have a safety net they can rely on and are also encouraged to discuss what’s on their minds with a professional in order to feel better. 

Therapists have an ethical obligation to conduct sessions in complete confidentiality. What’s specific about in-house therapy within a work setting is the fact that the therapist is also a co-worker.

This adds an extra layer of complexity to a standard relationship between a therapist and their client, but it also has its pros. People can feel more comfortable with confiding if it’s a familiar face they are conversing with.

Educating employees about the sacred therapist-client relationship can help them feel more at ease to book a session when they need to. In addition, it’s good to underline to the employees that they are in full control and can determine the agreement and dynamic with their therapist. Nobody else, especially not the management team, will have any sort of influence there. 

Final thoughts: addressing mental health in a work environment 

Talking about disrupted mental health is no longer as big of a taboo as it once was. This has a lot to do with the outbreak of the pandemic as well.

The pandemic has pushed us outside of our routines. We have become hyper attentive, heightened, more vulnerable, and more aware of the importance of building resilience together. But what does this mean for the new work environments?

Although it might seem blunt to frame it this way, there is a certain silver lining to everything that’s been happening with COVID-19.

Firstly, we globally rearranged priorities and set aside our differences to unite against the spreading of the virus. There’s hardly anything that unites people more than a common enemy and shared misfortune.

Secondly, we shook off the logical fallacy of argumentum ad traditionem and learned that, just because we’ve been doing something in a certain way in the past, it doesn’t mean we should continue doing it.

Challenging outdated practices and humanizing our work environments is the first step towards a healthier society. We all spend a huge chunk of our time at our jobs, but we should acknowledge employees as team members and responsibly design a workplace that helps them grow, both professionally and personally. At Inviggo, we feel that having an in-house psychotherapist is making a huge difference.

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