You have our number, picked up the phone and are about ready to call for a counseling referral, and you think, Am I going to have to share my story? What is going to happen when I call LifeMatters? There is likely to be a certain amount of apprehension.
We do ask you to tell your story, but we also try to allay any anxiety you may have in calling us. We let you decide how deeply you want to go in telling us what led you to call. All of us counselors have our own style, but here is generally what will happen.
I most often ask your first name (although you may remain anonymous) and if you have called before, and then phrase my next question something like, “What’s going on?” or “What led you to call today?” We will spend some time talking about the issues you are calling about, but I will also ask about other areas of your life to see how they may be affecting you as well.
Areas I ask about are relationships, including how any children in your life are doing. I ask about physical health, work and how you are doing with sleep and appetite. I like to ask if you have a support system, either those you are comfortable talking to about deeper issues, or those you just hang out with to get away from it all for a period of time. I tend to ask about coping strategies you have used, things that may be directly helpful, as well as things that help take the edge off and give you a break. Since we do not always choose the best coping strategies, I also ask about any alcohol or drug misuse or abuse. For safety reasons, I will ask about any violence, or thoughts of violence towards yourself or others.
This may seem like a lot, but if you are not much of a talker or do not feel like telling us much, we can get through it all in a matter of minutes. If you want or need to talk more in depth, we are here to do that as well.
I like to ask why you called now, rather than calling a week sooner, or putting it off for a few more days. Oftentimes, whatever it was that gave you that extra nudge to call gives a clue to what will need attention when you begin counseling.
I thank you for telling me your story, because I know the things we talk about are not the easiest to discuss. I respect and honor your decision to share it.
Some of the other things that occur when you call – the phone is answered live by an EAP counselor, no need to be transferred or to “press one for counseling”. At the beginning of the call, I tell you about confidentiality: Your employer does not know you called; unless there are legal obligations to protect your safety or that of others, your information (briefly summarized) goes only to the therapist I connect you with. At the end of the call I ask for basic demographic information, including a password you can use in case you call us back.
I give you the name, address and phone number to one of the clinics or therapists we work with that will be able to address your needs. I ask you to call them to schedule your first appointment. I let you know I will follow up with you in six weeks to see how you are doing, and that you can call us back at any time with any questions.
One final thought – Sometimes we are able to hear background noises and know when you are driving, at work or in a hectic situation at home. We will ask if this is a good time for you to talk; other times, the background noise is not as noticeable and it is helpful to let us know that you may not have the privacy or safety you need to talk.
We look forward to hearing from you. Hopefully, this has answered some questions about what takes place when you contact us. If you want to know more, give us a call or ask me below. We are here to answer your call.
Reggie E, MSW, CEAP, joined Empathis in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.