Workplace therapy and wellness systems: A guide ft Kahamind

Feb 1, 2023

In the face of the ongoing global health crisis, it's been wonderful to see teams come together in support of one another and go the extra mile. But when your cup is so empty that you can't pour for someone else, professional help is that kindly third party who will listen, understand, and support without judgement or reservation.

That said, workplace therapy services are uncharted territory for many organisations. And, as with any unknown unknowns, a host of questions pop up, like:

  • What's the benefit of these services?

  • Are they worth it in the long run?

  • My company doesn't have the budget for mental health services, so what's the next best thing?

We've been there, too, and we'd like to help.

With expert inputs from Meghana Davotta at Kaha Mind, an online counselling platform (and our long-standing mental health partners at Pause and Obvious), we've answered some frequently asked questions around workplace therapy services.

Let's jump into it!

What is workplace therapy?

Workplace therapy is what it says on the tin: therapy services provided to employees, usually as part of an employee wellness programme. Think of workplace therapy as a safe space to discuss the mental and emotional repercussions of the kind of work you do every day.

"Workplace therapy services focus on both prevention and intervention when it comes to burnout and any other mental health concerns".

— Meghana Davotta, Kaha Mind

Workplace therapy services are any organisation's ally — they help employees bring their best selves to work. They equip teams with tools to cope in the present, prevent future issues, and help employees understand their internal engines better.

Apart from therapy, platforms like Kaha Mind also offer group sessions, workshops and listening circles. These are great ways of learning more about mental health issues—including burnout—and recovery. Seeking mental health support can feel like a solo battle, but the truth is that there are so many people within one's closest circles who are going through similar struggles — and a sense of belonging can never go amiss.

How do workplace therapy services compare to wellness apps?

Many organisations supplement their employee's wellness through corporate subscriptions to wellness apps. On the surface, it might be hard to choose between the two. However, there are differences to account for which will help you make a more informed choice.

According to Meghana, wellness apps and therapy services serve two important but different functions in mental health. "Therapy is a safe space for deep and meaningful exploration of one’s emotions and experiences," they say. Together with your therapist, you can dive deep, get meaningful insights, or resolve long-term concerns.

On the other hand, they say, wellness apps make for useful support tools alongside therapy. They often have templatised DIY exercises, trackers, and customised insights that prove helpful in times of stress.

Wellness apps are geared towards support, while therapy services are geared towards support and resolution.

— Meghana Davotta, Kaha Mind

What should organisations consider when choosing a partner for workplace therapy services?

That's a tricky question. When options abound, how do you make the right choice for your teams' wellbeing and your organisation's culture?

The first lodestone, Meghana says, is to see if the therapy service is ethical in their practice.

  • Do they use evidence-based therapies?

  • Do they prioritise client safety through informed consent and a clearly stated confidentiality policy?

  • Are they queer-affirmative, gender-affirming and accepting of all cultural identities?

The answer to all of these questions, at the very least, need to be an irrefutable 'yes'.

It doesn't help that counselling and therapy are unregulated professions in India, making it easy for anyone to identify as a mental health professional without relevant education or formal training.

Meghana suggests that the minimum qualification to practice as a counsellor or a therapist is a Masters degree in Psychology—preferably with applied, counselling, clinical specialisations—or Social Work (in mental health). They add that clinical psychologists need to have an RCI-recognised MPhil in Clinical Psychology. So look out for that when you're choosing a service!

Therapist competencies, continuous training and supervised practice are more important determinants of care than years of experience.

— Meghana Davotta, Kaha Mind

What are some workplace prerequisites to help therapy services work the way they should?

The starting line is different for each person in the realm of mental health — and the same is true of organisations planning to introduce workplace therapy services.

But the four essentials to have, according to Meghana, are:

  1. Openness to learning more about mental health in the workplace

  2. Commitment to the fact that emotional well-being is crucial to employee health, happiness and performance (and a mindset flip from "nice to have" to "essential to have")

  3. Acknowledgement of the organisation's role in employee mental health and the correct perception of mental health as systemic, not an individual responsibility

  4. Psychological safety, so that poor reception of mental health conversations and existing stigma don't prematurely end a positive change process

If my small business doesn't have the budget for therapy services, what are some positive alternatives?

We understand that businesses just starting can be hard to pay for therapy services from the get-go for companies just starting. That said, it isn't an excuse to forgo mental health support entirely!

Meghana says that, to build a positive workplace:

"Employees need to feel that they are being heard and taken seriously by their company. Setting up feedback mechanisms where inputs on work or culture are regularly sought—and is further acted upon—is one way of doing this."

It also helps to involve employees in decisions that directly or indirectly impact them. Transparency and a spirit of openness go a long way in creating a sense of control, belonging and safety.

Psychological safety is also non-negotiable in any organisation. Meghana suggests asking yourself or your higher-ups:

"Is this a safe environment for people to voice what they want without worrying excessively about perception, judgement or retaliation?"

The final word

It's worth noting that all of these "alternatives" are also prerequisites for emotional wellness and employee happiness.

When unhappiness and secrecy thrive, there's no room for positive growth.

But when there's already a culture of openness and empathy, workplace therapy services add to it and help employees bloom!

Continue reading