Employee wellness program offers support, guidance

By Dianne Ryder DLA Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency employees often hear about work-life balance, but may not be aware of the Employee Assistance Program, which can help them deal with personal issues that might affect job performance.

EAP is an agency-paid, confidential resource available to all DLA civilian employees and their family members. From initial telephonic consultation and assessment to short-term, in person counseling and referrals, the EAP staff can assist 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.

Program Analyst Laura Belk, DLA Headquarters EAP program manager, is a passionate proponent of EAP’s benefits.

“I’m thankful to be able to provide information on EAP services to employees who need a little assistance getting through a ‘rough patch,’” she said. “It’s refreshing to know that co-workers are seeking assistance to deal with issues while they’re more manageable than to let them spiral out of control.”

Employees can consult EAP counselors in many mental health areas, but can also obtain referrals for financial or legal matters, alcohol or substance abuse, illnesses, accidents and relationship troubles.

Drew Henderson, EAP program manager at DLA Land and Maritime in Columbus, Ohio, is a retired Air Force noncommissioned officer with a master’s degree in mental health. After retiring from active duty, Henderson pursued full-time employment as a counselor and has worked in Land and Maritime’s EAP office for 10 years.

He provides orientation briefings for new employees, but said many still have no idea what EAP is. He receives phone calls that run the gamut from processing retirement paperwork to requests for toilet paper in the building’s restrooms.

“The reality is, I’m a professional clinical counselor, and my main job here is to provide short-term, solution-focused counseling for our folks,” he said. “We have access through federal occupational health to six free counseling sessions — and I refer people there regularly.”

Henderson said it’s vital for employees to know there’s someone in the building they can talk to.

“A few weeks ago, my door was open and a lady knocked, came in and closed the door behind her. She said, ‘I’m sorry, I just need a place where I can cry for a few minutes,’ and I said, ‘Here you go — it’s a cry-safe zone.’”

EAP sponsors free webinars and presentations to help employees address everyday stressors and challenges. Because Henderson hosts monthly sessions on stress management, conflict resolution and family care, most DLA Land and Maritime employees know him.

“Two big things counselors, social workers or psychologists do is talk to people about depression and anxiety,” he said.

Henderson told a story about a female civilian who was deployed in a reasonably safe area.

“She was working out in the gym when a mortar round came through the window and exploded,” he said. “So, she was dealing with some physical issues and certainly some post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Henderson spent years at a counseling center and said he dealt with “just about everything,” including those on suicide watch.

“That’s one of the things that gets your attention, when you’ve got somebody that you know is having suicidal thoughts — and I do get that on occasion,” he said. “I get that when a supervisor or a co-worker comes to me and says, ‘I’m concerned about so-and-so.’”

But he advises managers they can’t “order” an employee to seek counseling. He also resists the temptation to call an employee who’s a suicide risk.

“My experience has been that if I do that out of the blue, their reaction is going to be ‘Somebody’s talking about me,’ and it’s not going to be a positive reaction,” he said.

Part of Henderson’s job requires discernment in referring clients to appropriate agency programs and resources.

“If somebody comes to me with trauma from a sexual assault, then I am absolutely happy to work with them on the trauma component, but I also would refer them to our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response [coordinator],” he said.

If an incident is categorized as sexual harassment, Henderson refers employees to the Equal Employment Opportunity office, and if the situation warrants, he may recommend contacting both SAPR and EEO.

He also refers employees who require longer term help dealing with anxiety and trauma-related depression, but he said some people just need to clarify the issue by talking to someone.

“People find [it helps] if they can just talk to somebody who’s not going to judge,” he said.

Research indicates successful counseling results from a positive relationship between counselor and client, Henderson said. His many years of experience have helped him build trust with employees and their family members.

“I have done some marriage counseling. I have done meetings with older children – high school and college age,” he said. “For the young ones, I encourage [families to seek help] through FOH.”

The EAP counselor reaps rewards beyond his job, thanks to feedback from people wherever he encounters them.

“I love to see people get better. My goal is to try and make people feel better when they walk away from me than when they walked up to me,” he said. “One of our human resources folks stopped me in the hall and said, ‘You’re always smiling – it makes me want to smile,’ and I said, ‘I guess I’m doing my job.’”

Some employees have told Henderson if they were seen going into his office, colleagues or supervisors might perceive they “have a problem,” while others marvel that the program is free and they can seek counseling during their workday.

EAP services benefit DLA employees whether they visit an EAP consultant or just browse the website for information. Employees can also call 1-800-222-0364 (1-888-262-7848 TTY/TDD) and identify DLA as their servicing agency.