Our Everyday Consulting Practice − Self-Discovery through Coaching
Proitera social worker and consultant Sharon Lang allows us an inside view of her daily work. She supports her clients with a great deal of sensitivity and professional know-how. In her consultations she responds to individual needs and together with her clients and their employers works out the best possible solution for difficulties at work.
Sharon Lang, consultant and social worker at the Basel location
Sharon, why did this morning’s client come to see you?
Today I had a follow-up interview with Ms. M. She first came to us 5 months ago for a consultation at her employer’s initiative. At 43 she was very often ill with an influenza or gastrointestinal problems, resulting in many absences.
Her line manager appreciates Ms. M. as a very good employee. But due to her many absences he is considering dismissing her. The consultation with us is a last attempt to clarify the situation.
«Due to her many absences her superior is considering dismissing Ms. M.»
How is Ms. M. handling the situation?
In our first consultation Ms. M. explained that the frequent illnesses were a great burden for her. She could not explain her many infections. Further examinations by her GP, such as blood counts, did not result in any new findings, nor did her state of health improve. Formally, Ms. M always acted correctly towards her employer by submitting medical certificates.
Are there any other difficulties Ms. M. has to deal with, apart from her health issues?
In the course of our first conversation Ms. M. told me that she suffers from severe insomnia, mainly before working days. She finds it difficult to unwind in the evening and feels exhausted and sluggish. Consequently, she cannot bring herself to meet friends or engage in activities, but mainly sleeps.
What role does work play in Ms. M.’s difficulties?
Basically Ms. M. likes to work. But at the beginning of our consultation she simply couldn’t see how to cope with the stress and the many tasks at her job. She had the feeling everything was overwhelming.
How did you assess the situation on the basis of this information?
I saw that Ms. M. was not doing well physically, but also psychologically. When I mentioned this to Ms. M. she started crying. She said that she was feeling bad but that there is no acceptance of psychological problems in her family. Nor is there any tolerance for accepting outside help in her environment.
«In the course of our first conversation the client told me she suffers from severe insomnia.»
This makes it difficult to provide help. How did you proceed?
I suggested that she consult her GP not only about her physical symptoms but also her psychological needs. With the consent of Ms. M. I could let the employer know that my client was undergoing further medical examinations.
The doctor explained to Ms. M. that there was a connection between her psychological strain and her physical complaints. She can now accept her mental suffering and the external support. Meanwhile her doctor has prescribed medication for depression and psychotherapy, which Ms. M. is now following.
How was the employer involved in this process?
In consultation with Ms. M. her supervisor has regularly been informed about the status of her consultation. Given the professional confidentiality this requires the consent of my client. After the first visit with the psychiatrist the employer received another interim assessment. This enabled him to understand that to get used to her medication Ms. M. would again be on sick leave during the first phase of her therapy.
In the meantime Ms. M. is back at work. What has changed at the workplace?
Together we analyzed the problems at work and found that she feels responsible for much more than she really is on the basis of her job profile. I therefore showed her how to set boundaries and to formulate clearly when asked to take on tasks outside her area of responsibility, for example, or when she has no more capacities for a pending job. Ms. M. has tried this approach and it seems to be working: the team and her supervisors have given her positive feedback. We also looked at her leisure activities and reflected on how Ms. M. could get more strength and positive energy from them.
«Ms. M. is now in good hands. She has learned a lot from her crisis.»
You are about to end the consultation with Ms. M. What is your conclusion?
Thanks to the measures we worked out together Ms. M. was able to put a positive angle on her crisis. In today’s follow-up meeting she told me she was fully able to work again and that she felt competent to do her tasks. She has not had any further absences from work because she was better mentally and had regained her joy at work. Ms. M. is learning to set healthy boundaries. She says this is the best thing that could have happened to her. Through counseling and psychotherapy she has found her inner balance and her family has learned to accept her psychological problems.
I know Ms. M. to be in good hands, even outside work. I will now get in touch with the employer to bring my assignment to a close since the employer feedback to my interim reports had been very positive.
What support will Ms. M. still receive?
She will continue her psychotherapy. I was in touch with her therapist and learned that they were still working on the professional challenges. The confrontation with herself helps Ms. M. not only at work but for her whole life.