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Workplace counselling: everything you need to know

Get the full lowdown on workplace mental health support that actually works

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What is workplace counselling?How does workplace counselling work?What are the benefits of workplace counselling?Spill as a workplace counselling provider

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  • Workplace counselling is a confidential mental health support service with mental health professionals to help employees navigate personal and professional challenges that affect their job performance, retention, and overall happiness at work.
  • 88% of UK businesses now have an employee assistance programme (EAP) or other workplace counselling service to support the growing number of workers struggling in an increasingly uncertain world.
  • There are three main types of workplace counselling services: external EAPs, in-house counselling, or specialist solutions like Spill.
  • Workplace counselling offers various methods of counselling, such as solution-focused, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychodynamic, and person-centered therapy.
  • Workplace counselling benefits both employers and employees, contributing to better performance, fewer sick days, higher retention, improved communication, and an overall more productive work environment.

What is workplace counselling?


Workplace counselling is a form of counselling or therapy that you can offer your team through the company. By providing confidential mental health support, you can help employees deal with personal and professional issues that may be affecting their ability to perform well at work. 

Delivered by professionally qualified specialists, counselling in the workplace helps people (including you!) navigate mental health challenges that when ignored, can affect not only job performance, but also employee retention, engagement, and overall happiness at work. 

Workplace counselling can help with a range of mental health issues, such as stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, conflict, relationship difficulties, grief, and many more.

The need for workplace counselling

Workplace counselling is becoming an increasingly common way for companies to support their team’s mental health: the latest figures show that 88% of UK businesses now have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or other workplace counselling service.

As for why so many companies are adopting employee counselling the short answer is: people need support in this increasingly uncertain world. The long answer is that, hot on the heels of the pandemic —a time that rapidly progressed the conversation around mental health— we’ve found ourselves plunged into an era of uncertainty, with economic woes and global events fuelling financial difficulty, job (in)security, and a decline in all-round mental wellbeing.

The effects of this collective mental strain can be seen everywhere, including at work. This year, 55% of employees will be unable to work or function, or feel unmotivated, flat, burnt out, anxious, or low. On top of that, 79% of UK employees feel close to burnout and 87% feel a sense of dread once a month.

Taking all that into consideration, it's hardly surprising that 50% of long-term employee sickness absence in the UK is due to mental health. Or that poor mental health costs UK employers around £56 billion every year

Not only do these numbers paint a sad picture for individual quality of life, they impact your business, too. Poor mental health, whether triggered by personal or work-related events, affects job performance, and that affects your company’s output, staff retention, and finances.

There’s an increasing number of ways companies can reportedly improve their team’s mental wellbeing, but the one coming out on top is workplace counselling: not only does it actually help people, it’s the best choice financially, too.

A testimonial from the founder of Quantico saying: "Spill means that anyone on the team can get access to workplace counselling immediately — no questions asked."

What are the different types of workplace counselling?


Workplace counselling can be provided in-house via a private counsellor, an external employee assistance programme (EAP), or through a specialist employee counselling service, like Spill.  There are also different methods of counselling: solution-focused counselling is often associated with workplace counselling services.

Every company will feel the benefits of employee counselling but the exact type of counselling that’s right for your company will depend on the size, budget, and needs of the business — and your employees.

Generally, however, there are three types of workplace counselling services:

1. In-house workplace counselling services via a private counsellor

Offering a ‘DIY’ approach to employee counselling, some companies employ or contract a private workplace counsellor to support struggling employees. While it gives companies a way to tailor their mental health support so it's relevant to the intricacies of a specific business, in-house support tends to suit larger HR and leadership teams who have time to organise the logistics. It’s important to consider the impact of internal support on confidentiality, too.

2. External Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

EAPs are workplace counselling programmes that offer support for employees facing a wide range of personal issues, such as stress, substance misuse, relationship problems, financial difficulties, family complications, and mental health challenges. Offering short-term counselling and referral options to external resources, EAPs are a cheap way to provide counselling for employees, but they can struggle with long waiting times, have limited specialisms, and may not be able to support people with pre-existing conditions.

3. Specialist workplace counselling solutions

Another external option, specialist solutions (like Spill) focus on making counselling in the workplace as easy as possible: online booking systems, next-day therapy sessions, and, in the case of Spill, proactive outreach from highly-qualified therapists to employees reporting low mood scores. 

A testimonial from the CEO of Picnic saying: "Spill is one of the most important benefits we provide to the team: having access to workplace counselling in three clicks is a complete game changer!"

The methods of workplace counselling

Of course, there’s more to employee counselling than just the provider — there are different approaches and techniques within counselling, too (often referred to as specialisms). 

The exact style of therapy your team can receive depends on the therapists and specialities within your workplace counselling service. At Spill, our team of therapists can cover over 50 different specialisms, making it an accessible source of support for a diverse range of people and experiences. 

The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy has a neat A-Z of the types of therapy, but for now, here are five of the most common methods of workplace counselling.

1. Solution-focused

A very common approach in workplace counselling, and particularly with EAPs, solution-focused employee therapy tends to be more of a short-term experience. Often, just three or four sessions are needed, during which the therapist will work with an individual on a current problem rather than dwell on the past. It creates a space to set goals and work out how to achieve them, offering up practical ways to help someone feel better.

2. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

A common approach for a range of mental health challenges and perhaps the most well-known workplace counselling method, CBT focuses on how someone’s thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes affect their feelings and actions. During a CBT session, the therapist will help identify and challenge negative thought patterns, and the resulting behaviour. CBT is a common treatment for a number of mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, stress, sleep problems, and many more.

3. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

A bit of a mouthful and a somewhat intimidating one at that, EMDR is another method of workplace counselling, developed as a therapy for treating trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Using side-to-side eye movements and talk therapy, EMDR can help someone process negative images, emotions, beliefs, and body sensations associated with a traumatic memory. It’s a specialist technique that helps the brain process unresolved memories and make them less distressing. 

4. Psychodynamic

Developed from psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy helps an individual understand how their past experiences and unconscious thoughts shape their current feelings and behaviour. It’s a technique that aims to find the root of the problem and can be used to help with many different problems, like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and addiction. 

5. Person-centred

A humanistic approach, person-centred workplace counselling is led by the individual rather than the therapist. It’s a dynamic that can help someone realise what resources and support they have available, build self-confidence, and grow into their true self. In return, the therapist will offer acceptance, honesty, and transparency in a judgement-free space, which allows someone to freely explore their own feelings, beliefs, and behaviours to become more self-aware.

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How does workplace counselling work?


There are typically five steps involved in accessing workplace counselling, which starts at the point someone realises they need help and ends when they finish their block of counselling sessions. The exact details of each step will vary depending on your workplace counselling provider.

No matter what type of counselling in the workplace you go for, providers all have the same goal: to help employees safely navigate personal and work related challenges. While each type of counselling for employees will look a little different, the way they work typically follows the same five steps.

1. Someone in your company realises they need support

At some point, someone on your team (that includes you!) will realise they need support from a workplace counsellor to get through a personal struggle. The journey to this realisation will look different for everyone — self-referral, friends and family, or manager referral — but no matter how they get there, workplace counselling serves as a proactive or reactive response to a specific challenge. 


💡 Product highlight: Spill Safety Net
Spill’s proactive care means we collect regular and confidential feelings data from your team, so we know who needs therapy the most. If anyone appears to be struggling, one of our therapists will personally reach out to them. In companies that use Spill Safety Net, twice as many employees access therapy and research shows that proactive care generates a higher return on investment, too.

2. Your employee contacts your workplace counselling service

Depending on your employee counselling provider, your employee will phone, email, or submit an online form to take the first step towards workplace counselling. For many people, this can be a big moment, so it's important they feel able to do this easily and privately. 


💡 Product highlight: book therapy in three clicks
Spill’s mission is to make workplace counselling accessible to as many people as possible, which is why it takes just three clicks to book a session. And with the number of therapists we work with, you can book a session for the very same day or within 24 hours.

3. Your employee has an initial assessment

For therapy to be effective, the therapist needs to find out a bit more about the challenges an individual is facing and decide if they’re able to help. Before starting therapy, the therapist will set up an initial assessment to find out more about the challenges they’re facing, as well as their goals and expectations of workplace counselling. 


💡 Product highlight: choose your therapist
To help your team match with the right therapist for them, our booking process includes the option to filter Spill’s therapists to choose one based on their preferred gender, specialism, and language. 

4. Your employee attends a series of workplace counselling sessions

The exact number of workplace counselling sessions your employees can have will vary depending on your provider, but usually this would be between six and eight sessions. Everyone’s experience of therapy will be different — we all have our own unique challenges, thoughts, and behaviours after all — but most 50-minute sessions will follow a similar format.

Before the session: find a quiet place with few distractions

5 minutes: introductions and understanding confidentiality

5 minutes: discuss goals and expectations of the session

35 minutes: the main part of the session to discuss and reflect on current feelings and challenges

5 minutes: the session closes with clear next steps


💡 Product highlight: no waiting lists
When someone on your team wants to access employee counselling, they won’t be added to the bottom of a waiting list: instead, they’ll be able to book a workplace counselling session whenever they want, including during working hours. 

5. Your employee finishes counselling and, if they were off, returns to work

Workplace counselling can be beneficial at any time: some people will book sessions as a preventative measure, while others may be off work and use counselling as part of their recovery. When workplace counselling sessions finish, your employee may feel ready to come back to work, need ongoing support, or spend time putting their learnings into practice. 


💡 Product highlight: access therapy with the tools you already use
With Slack and MS Teams integration, your team can securely access Spill, no login details, phone number, or access code required. And to use Spill outside of work, all that’s needed is a personal email address.

Spill gives your team quick access to high-quality workplace therapy in just three clicks.

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What are the benefits of workplace counselling?


Employee counselling benefits both your team and your business as a result of better performance, fewer sick days, higher retention, improved communication, and an all round more productive company.

The benefits of workplace counselling for employers

With a team that’s mentally cared for, your business will also benefit. Here’s why employers should invest in workplace counselling.

💰 Your company will save money 

There are three areas that cost your company money when it comes to mental health: presenteeism (when someone shows up at work everyday but is unable to do their job properly), time off, and turnover. Together, they cost a company an average of £1,529 per employee, per year. Instead, spend some of that money on workplace counselling: you can expect a return on investment of £7 for every £1 invested in mental health support.

⭐ Your company’s output will improve

It’s said that happy employees are, on average, 13% more productive. Employee counselling can help your team deal with their mental stressors, which in turn enables them to do their work well. And when people do good work, they feel motivated, engaged, and satisfied. 

🔄 Your company will have fewer absences and lower turnover

The average time taken off work by someone due to mental health is 18 days. On top of that, 61% of UK employees who left a job in the last year or plan to leave in the next 12 months cite poor mental health as a factor. For an employee in emotional pain, work is often a major contributor and as a result, the first casualty. But with workplace counselling in place, you can help your team safely navigate life’s more challenging moments. 

🙂 Your company will have happier, engaged employees

By offering employee counselling, you’re sending a very clear message to your team: you value them, you care for them, and you want to support them. And with 81% of people saying they’ll look for workplaces that support mental health in their future job search, you’ll stand out from the competition, too: when people feel secure and looked after, they’re more likely to enjoy their work and stick around.

A testimonial by the co-founder of Jumpstart: "Spill provides super easily accessible workplace counselling and therapy sessions rapidly"

The benefits of workplace counselling for your team

Counselling in the workplace lets your team access mental health support that’s otherwise very difficult to get: 23% of people wait more than 12 weeks to start mental health treatment on the NHS. But aside from making this vital service more accessible, employee counselling has a host of other benefits for your team, too.

🧠 Workplace counselling can help your employees improve their emotional intelligence

Counselling in the workplace gives your employees space to safely discuss and acknowledge their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. With this comes a level of self-awareness of their triggers, biases, and patterns, improving their emotional resilience and social sensitivity.

🤯 Workplace counselling can help employees manage stress

Work is the most common cause of stress, with work-related stress affecting 79% of people. And a stressed employee is not a happy or productive one. Workplace counselling can help members of your team find strategies to manage and reduce their stress levels.

Workplace counselling can improve employee performance

Mental health directly impacts an individual’s ability at work: focus, engagement, productivity, and motivation are all affected when someone is dealing with a work-related or personal issue. Workplace counselling offers a way to not only unburden heavy emotions, but to develop coping mechanisms, resilience, and confidence — all things that will help improve performance at work.

🗣️ Workplace counselling can help employees communicate better

Sharing a difficult emotion doesn’t come easily and this stickiness in sharing how we feel is often mirrored in the workplace. During workplace counselling, people get better at speaking up for themselves: they’ll be able to communicate sensitively, assertively, and honestly about how they feel. At work, these skills can look like offering constructive feedback, openly sharing feelings, and setting boundaries. 

💪 Workplace counselling helps your employees develop

Therapy isn’t just about sharing emotional experiences: it’s about being challenged as an individual. It can be a vulnerable space in which personal beliefs, fears, and opinions are not only exposed, but opposed. A journal of personal growth, workplace counselling can help your team develop as a whole individual — and that means professionally, too.

How effective is workplace counselling?

There’s no doubt that if implemented and utilised effectively, employee counselling is beneficial for both employees and employers. But just how effective is it?

Well, the latest information shows that employee counselling can:

Spill as a workplace counselling provider

Spill is a specialist employee counselling service specifically designed to remove the barriers that are so often associated with mental health support.

Forget NHS waiting times (12 weeks!), lack of specialist insight, and inflexible appointment times or locations: with Spill, you’ll give your team quick and easy access to 1:1 employee counselling with qualified professional counsellors:

✅ Easy next-day booking process
✅ Online counselling sessions
✅ 80 specialisms, 15 languages
✅ Proactive care finds those in need
✅ Only pay for what you use

A testimonial from the Head of People at THIS: “Since launching Spill, uptake has been high: people are using it proactively. I love the fact that Spill’s integrated with Slack and because it’s so visible to the team, it’s a benefit that stays front of mind. Everything is simple and intuitive, to have instant support there for the team is just priceless.”
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Spill Therapy reliably reduces mental health symptoms in 72% of cases and can be accessed by anyone on your team.

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