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  • Writer's pictureKim Dudko

The Risks of DIY Mental Health Support: Why External Counsellors are the Safer Choice.

While supporting employee mental health is crucial, attempting to counsel your staff yourself can be fraught with risks. While good intentions may pave the way, the complexities of mental health require trained professionals to navigate effectively. Here's why partnering with external counsellors often surpasses internal attempts:

1. Lack of Expertise and Training:

Counselling requires specialised knowledge and skills beyond simply being a good listener. Attempting to address diverse mental health issues without proper training can lead to ineffective, even harmful, advice. Professionals understand therapeutic techniques, recognise signs of complex conditions, and know when to refer for specialised care.

2. Boundary Blurring and Dual Relationships:

The power dynamic inherent in an employer-employee relationship creates a complex ethical terrain. Engaging in counselling risks blurring professional boundaries, jeopardising trust, and making it difficult for employees to confide honestly for fear of repercussions. External counsellors offer a neutral, safe space free of such conflicts.

3. Confidentiality Concerns and Potential Legal Issues:

Maintaining strict confidentiality is paramount in counselling. Lack of expertise in data privacy regulations and proper documentation can lead to breaches and legal consequences. External counsellors, bound by professional ethics and confidentiality laws, ensure safe and secure disclosure.

4. Risk of Escalating Mental Health Issues:

Mismanaging complex mental health concerns can inadvertently worsen problems. Untrained attempts at intervention may trigger harmful reactions or leave employees feeling unheard and unsupported. External counsellors have the expertise to handle intricate situations while providing appropriate referrals if needed.

5. Potential Bias and Lack of Objectivity:

Personal relationships with employees can cloud judgment and limit objectivity, hindering effective support. External counsellors offer an unbiased perspective, focusing solely on the individual's needs without pre-existing assumptions or emotional involvement.

6. Unrealistic Expectations and Burnout:

Employees may view their manager as a substitute for professional help, placing undue pressure and unrealistic expectations. Lack of resources and experience can quickly lead to burnout for managers ill-equipped to handle these demands. External counsellors distribute the responsibility, ensuring sustainable support across the organisation.

7. Difficulty Identifying Complex Issues:

Untrained individuals can easily miss subtle signs of mental distress. External counsellors are adept at recognising diverse presentations of mental health concerns, ensuring timely interventions and appropriate treatment referrals.

8. Unpreparedness for Crisis Situations:

Workplace emergencies requiring immediate mental health support are challenging to navigate without specialised training. External counsellors possess crisis intervention skills and know-how, ensuring a calm and professional response during critical moments.

9. Impact on Employer-Employee Relationship:

Counselling by the employer can strain professional relationships. Disclosures within the counselling context may affect work dynamics and performance evaluations. External counsellors maintain a separate space, preserving professional boundaries and trust.

10. Limited Scope of Support:

Mental health needs are diverse and may extend beyond the expertise of any individual. External counsellors have access to a network of specialists equipped to address various conditions, ensuring employees receive appropriate and comprehensive support.

While offering support is commendable, remember that your role is to create a supportive environment, not become a counsellor. Partnering with qualified external professionals safeguards employee well-being, protects your organisation from legal risks, and fosters a workplace where mental health is openly discussed and effectively addressed. Remember, seeking professional help for mental health is just as crucial for businesses as it is for individuals. Choose the safer, more effective path, and empower your employees to thrive.


By Kim Dudko BACP


Kim Dudko has worked at Senior Management and Director level as an HR Professional for over 25 years and has retrained as a Therapeutic Counsellor, which she has been practising in over the last five years and runs 3 Shires Therapy (www.3shirestherapy.com). She has excellent insight into how companies and individuals benefit from looking after their Mental Health, whether as individuals or businesses.

Want to know how 3shirestherapy can help you, or your business get in touch via our website which has all our contact details we look forward to hearing from you.

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