How Do I Talk to My Employer About Starting Treatment?

How Do I Talk to My Employer About Starting Treatment?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Mental health or substance abuse treatment can be a difficult, vulnerable subject to discuss with others. The recovery process, especially when taking time away for treatment, can greatly impact one’s work life. When starting treatment, though, clients need to communicate with their employer intentionally. One goal would be to reduce the overwhelming feelings that can arise when transitioning back into one’s usual work routine. There are ways to develop a comfortable and safe connection with one’s employer, and creating this connection can maximize success in recovery.

At First Steps Recovery, clients are encouraged to form healthy relationships and develop their communication skills. This is done through group sessions and individual talk therapy. Through consistent practice, people can enhance their ability to be direct with others, set boundaries, and bravely disclose their truths in appropriate ways. During this time of opening up, First Steps Recovery also helps clients develop stronger relationships with their employers.

Talk Therapies to Use When Starting Treatment and Looking To Improve Communication Skills

First Steps Recovery has different kinds of talk therapy for clients looking to improve their communication skills and strengthen their relationships with others. Individual and group therapy are environments where clients can develop and strengthen these skills. Both of these venues provide a safe, secure environment for clients to develop increased comfort. They become comfortable with their therapist as well as with their peers. In both kinds of sessions, clients learn how to express themselves and their experiences in recovery in a concrete way.

Individual therapy gives clients time with their therapist one-on-one. During these sessions, clients work through underlying issues contributing to their addiction or mental health disorder. These sessions occur on a regular basis, providing clients with deeper insight into themselves. Individual therapy also helps clients learn how to express what they are feeling and to communicate those feelings and thoughts clearly.

Group therapy helps clients build community with others while also learning how to communicate with others about their recovery experience. At First Steps Recovery, community-based treatment is a priority. These sessions allow clients to discuss their recovery with others and give and receive feedback or advice from different perspectives. Being able to openly discuss things with people other than their therapist is important for the recovery journey inside and outside of treatment. This is a skill that can be translated into the workplace and promote community.

How Can I Improve Communication With My Employer?

Using these communication tools from individual and group therapy, clients can begin to communicate with their employers about their recovery process. It is important to keep an employer or co-workers aware of the situation and share progress with them as well. This not only promotes a supportive work environment but can help clients as they transition out of treatment and back into their regular routines.

Free-flowing communication can help clients feel safer and more supported in the workplace. Employers can help reduce stigmas and encourage the recovery process when they are aware that their employee is starting treatment. Rather than feeling like the workplace is an environment where one needs to hide, having that weight off of one’s shoulder helps alleviate stress and anxiety at work.

Sometimes the workplace is an environment that promotes drinking or drug use. Drinking is a common social activity for employees and co-workers. However, communicating with employers about starting treatment can encourage them to start hosting sober-friendly activities. This not only helps those in recovery stay on track but helps everyone in the workplace develop deeper bonds with one another.

How Do I Tell My Employer I Am Starting Treatment?

It can be overwhelming and stressful to discuss one’s mental health or addiction with employers or others in the workplace. However, keeping these people aware of one’s situation is important. Keeping employers in the know helps them be aware of certain accommodations the client might need early in the treatment process. Also, keeping the workplace informed means a client can enlist the workplace’s help in determining how they can take time off of work (if necessary or if they are even able to). Free-flowing communication, even if the conversation is surface-level, shows employers that they are also trusted and respected.

However, there are steps one can take before discussing this matter with employers to reduce stress. One important piece of this conversation to remember is that when a client is first informing their employer about starting treatment, the employer does not need to know all of the details.

Clients can express as little or as much as they feel comfortable with while still providing their employer with a full picture. This might include the duration of treatment, the times that services are being offered (if in an intensive outpatient program/IOP), and what communication with work will look like throughout treatment. Clients may want to share what support they might need during this time and how they might need to be supported when transitioning into and out of treatment.

Community and support are two major elements of recovery. Here at First Steps Recovery, we understand that community and support cannot be solely developed at the facility during treatment. Clients must create a supportive community in their own lives. The workplace is an environment that can be used to one’s advantage. However, many people feel overwhelmed or too vulnerable to share information about addiction or mental health treatment with their co-workers or employers. Yet, having open communication that is in the client’s range of comfort can help employers fully grasp the situation, make accommodations accordingly, and promote support in the workplace. Individual and group therapy are two places clients can develop their communication skills. For more information, call (844) 489-0836.

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