Tags: Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), benefits, employee wellbeing

What is Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)?

Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is provided by organisations in both the private and public sector to improve the mental wellbeing of their employees. It provides them with support to cope with life’s challenges, manage their emotions, or work on their personal or professional relationships. The issues that employees seek support for may be either work-related or personal in nature. 

At Talk Your Heart Out (TYHO), our Employee Assistance Programme includes one-on-one counselling for employees. We also deliver webinars, focused discussions, workshops and training. They cover topics relating to personal development (eg effective presentation skills, public speaking); professional development (eg assertiveness at work, managing interpersonal conflict at work); and mental wellness (eg introduction to mindfulness, dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress from work). 

You can read more about our services here.

What are the benefits of EAPs for employees?

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) benefits employees in many ways. At the beginning, it provides employees with professional support to work through their immediate concerns. Over time, it can also help them develop other skillsets that would benefit their mental wellbeing. Some noteworthy benefits of Employee Assistance Programmes are as follows:

Access to Support for Both Work and Life Stressors

Even the most dedicated and proficient employees struggle with drawing clear boundaries between work and personal matters. Work-life balance often seems like a mirage. 

One key benefit of Employee Assistance Programmes is access to trained professionals. Employees can tap on these experts to overcome challenges in different areas of their lives.

Many think that EAP is only for those facing immense stress at work. EAPs, however, go beyond this. They can also assist employees who struggle with personal issues such as: mental health struggles, parental or caregiver burnout, relationship issues, or separation and loss. 

Moreover, the EAP’s confidentiality also ensures that employees can go for counselling sessions without reservations or fear of disclosure. This is especially reassuring for individuals who are trying out counselling for the first time.

Increase in Concentration and Productivity

The productivity of troubled employees often takes a hit as they tend to be less focused at work. Prolonged periods of stress may even lead to mental and physical health problems.

Absenteeism and presenteeism are also bound to occur more frequently. Absenteeism refers to habitual absence from work. Meanwhile, presenteeism refers to occasions whereby employees are physically present but aren’t effectively performing their duties. This may be because they are unwell, exhausted, or distracted. In fact, presenteeism can be a costlier problem for an organisation than absenteeism as the former isn’t always apparent.

Receiving support from EAP counselling services can help curb absenteeism and presenteeism issues. With professionals guiding employees through their different life stressors, employees can regain lost motivation and work with a clearer mind.

Employee Assistance Programmes help employees cope with their issues and increase their work productivity.

For employees who seek help early, EAP services prevent the issue from escalating into something that severely hinders their productivity. For others who decide to try counselling after grappling with a recurring problem, the therapist could help them look at the problem with fresh eyes and work through it progressively.

Increase Societal Awareness on the Importance of Mental Health

For an employee accessing an EAP, it may be the first time they are exploring their mental wellbeing. During the counselling sessions, they will learn to reflect and gain deeper insights into the importance of mental health. Such exposure not only advances their own understanding, but will also prompt them to display empathy and respect for others at the workplace and at home.

Some employees may also be able to identify co-workers who may be in need of professional mental health support. They can also bring their experience with EAP to their personal lives. They can similarly identify and refer family and friends to counselling services.

Improved Job Morale and Satisfaction

Besides boosting employees’ productivity and output, EAP also has the potential to improve their morale and rekindle their passion at work.

With EAP services helping employees manage their emotions or interpersonal issues, they will be able to focus on their work and deliver results. Gradually, these achievements allow them to develop confidence and find satisfaction in their job. It is this sense of purpose that helps employees stay driven and committed to the work that they do.

In addition, the positive attitudes of motivated employees tend to uplift the mood of others at the workplace. They are also more likely to be proactive in lending support to others. These in turn results in a stronger bond between co-workers and a more harmonious working environment.

Final Word From Us

All in all, apart from extending trusted sources of support to employees, an Employee Assistance Programme also helps reduce stigma surrounding mental health. Looking at the significant benefits of Employee Assistance Programmes discussed above, we believe that EAPs are becoming indispensable. 

They help organisations develop a conducive working environment and a supportive culture. One where everyone’s mental health and wellbeing is prioritised. 

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Tags: online counselling; benefits; advantages; mental health 

What Is Online Counselling

Online counselling, also called teletherapy or cyber counselling is a form of counselling where a client talks to a mental health professional via the internet. A session is typically conducted through audio/video conferencing, or a text-based live chat session (instant messaging).

The Growing Popularity of Online Counselling

Online counselling has become popular in the last few years due to an increase in demand for accessible therapy services. This has been enabled by technological advances such as increased broadband speeds, clearer cameras, and better videoconferencing software. There is now a general trend of more businesses providing their services online, including online counselling platforms.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns, online counselling has become more pertinent. The pandemic has also caused stress and anxiety levels to hit new highs, as social distancing measures have resulted in self-isolation. Many have also lost loved ones  leading to unimaginable grief and loss. 

One study reported a 124% increase in “online counselling” searches during the various lockdowns. It has since been hailed as the future of therapy and a new way for psychologists and counsellors to interact with their clients. 

The Many Benefits of Online Counselling

This section delves into the benefits of online counselling. If you are keen to try online counselling or are considering a switch from your in-person sessions, consider these factors. You can then assess and decide if online counselling is suitable for you.


One of the main benefits of online counselling is better accessibility to mental health services. For persons with physical disabilities or care-giving responsibilities (eg parents), or those residing in areas that are remote or under-served, travelling to seek help can be a challenge. Online counselling helps overcome the physical constraints of seeking in-person support. Couples based in different locations may also find it easier to access counselling online. If not, they would have to book sessions only when they are in the same city or country. 

Based on a person’s individual requirements, they can select a therapist from a wider group through an online counselling platform as proximity is no longer an issue. They can then attend the sessions from the comfort of their own homes or any other location that is convenient for them. This could include the office, their car, or the neighbourhood community centre.

In the current pandemic, the accessibility of online counselling has become all the more important. Individuals are able to continue receiving professional guidance despite movement restrictions that prevent in-person visits to a counsellor or psychologist.

Convenience and Comfort

Busy schedules and endless life admin are often reasons for us to deprioritise, reschedule or even cancel our therapy sessions. With services offered online, we save travel time and have the convenience to speak with our therapist from wherever we are based. This makes it easier for us to incorporate a session into our day and stay committed to improving our wellbeing.

Online counselling is not only convenient, but also more comfortable. We can speak to our therapist from a place that is familiar, sit on our favourite spot and feel safe. 

Doing therapy online also facilitates disclosure. When we are in an environment where we feel safe, connecting with our innermost thoughts and sharing them becomes easier.


Online counselling booked through a platform is generally less expensive than in-person counselling. In-person fees are typically higher because of the additional costs of renting a physical space. Since most sessions take place in one’s home, individuals also save on travelling expenses. 

These savings make it a viable source of support for individuals, especially if they would like to have regular sessions. 


Online counselling helps tackle the stigma surrounding mental health issues in many countries. For instance, one need not fear being recognised by someone they know when heading for therapy. This is because there is no need to travel to the office of a psychologist or counsellor. 

In time, the widespread availability of counselling services and programmes online will help normalise mental health issues and struggles. Online counselling also sends a strong signal that help is always within reach, whenever we are ready to accept it.

Some people fear being recognised when they visit their therapist in-person.

When Online Counselling May Not be Suitable

While there are many benefits of online counselling, there are also times where it may not be a suitable option. For instance, if one requires in-person interactions to develop trust in their therapist. It would also not be appropriate if one is in crisis or dealing with severe psychological distress.

Preference for an In-Person Connection

Some individuals find in-person interactions paramount during therapy. Speaking with a therapist who is in front of them physically helps them to open up about their vulnerabilities.

While live chat or email may allow relative anonymity (as one is neither seen nor heard by their therapist), nuances and intricacies of emotions may be lost. This information loss impedes a therapist from understanding you accurately, and establishing trust.

Crisis or Severe Psychological Issues

Online counselling is less suitable for individuals in crisis or grappling with severe psychological disorders or trauma.

In cases of an emergency, therapists are unable to respond immediately to their clients. Furthermore, when clients with complex mental health conditions reach out for help, they may require in-person psychological assessments and evaluations. 

In these situations, it is more effective to employ online counselling as a resource that supplements in-person therapy.

Things to Consider

Here are some things to look out for as well as tips to enhance your online counselling sessions:

Data Privacy 

Online counselling often induce privacy and confidentiality concerns as information is transmitted and stored online.

If you are seeking therapy online, worrying about data security-related stressors disrupts your overall experience. As such, you may want to ensure that the websites you enter your details on bear digital security certificates. Reading up the privacy policies of the platforms used for your sessions is also useful. When in doubt, approach your therapist for clarification and discuss alternative arrangements to better accommodate your preferences.

Occasional Technical Glitches

Technical faults may occasionally arise before or during an online counselling session. These include poor internet connection, interruption of Internet services, webcam or microphone malfunction. One may also experience lags and distortions in audio or video projection.

Such issues can certainly cause frustrations during a session. You and your therapist have to repeat yourselves or spend time attempting to resolve the problem. If you happen to be talking about something sensitive and vulnerable, the experience is all the more distressing.

Though technical difficulties are generally unforeseen and unavoidable, one can take small steps to minimise such hiccups. For instance, check the internet connection and do a speed test, and test the camera and microphone prior to each session to ensure that they are working well. If either of them is faulty, find alternatives such as a mobile phone or tablet. 

A Final Word From Us

Online counselling has become mainstream today. Studies have found that they can be just as effective as in-person sessions, if not better. Despite the many benefits of online counselling, it may not be for everyone. Whether online counselling suits you depends on your needs and preferences. After all, you know what works best for you. Selecting a good counselling service solves a lot of problems. Check the counselling Singapore scene. You just have to prepare yourself for that.

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Tags: counselling issues; counselling; therapy; stress

Do I need therapy? Will therapy help me? What will I talk to my therapist about?

Have these questions crossed your mind before?

People often dismiss their issues or worry that their problems aren’t “bad enough” to sign up for therapy. For example, a common thought pattern is, “I have a roof over my head and a job in the midst of a global pandemic, I shouldn’t complain about how my boss is making my life miserable”. It may be true that there are others whom you may consider “worse off” in life. That doesn’t mean, however, that your difficulties are any less real or valid.

Each person’s life experiences are unique. If something bothers you, it bothers you. Nothing is “too minor”. There are different issues you can seek therapy for. A useful gauge to determine when you should seek therapy is asking yourself how much the issue affects you. How disruptive is it to your life?

A therapist will hear you out to learn more about what is bothering you. Subsequently, the therapist may discuss with you how you prefer to navigate the situation. Some examples include removing yourself from the stressful situation where possible, recognising the signs of anger, and challenging negative thoughts. 

You may also learn coping strategies or emotional regulation skills. Some people learn to communicate better and explore ways to seek the support of people around them. There are endless possibilities, depending on what you wish to gain.

This article covers how to know when to go for therapy, and some common issues people seek therapy for.

How to Know When to Go for Therapy

The next time you find yourself asking “Do I need therapy?” and still feel uncertain, look out for these signs. If you resonate closely with them, it may be time to seek professional support.

You experience persistently low or intense moods. 

Nobody is expected to be in control of our emotions all the time. Feeling sad, distressed, or angry from time to time is only human. However, if you have been feeling persistently overwhelmed by negative emotions and find it hard to manage them, it may be a sign to seek professional help. 

Grappling with intense emotions for an extended period of time often has adverse impacts on many other aspects of your life. For instance, you may let your anger get the better of you and exhibit hostility towards your loved ones. In such cases, going for therapy would be beneficial as a therapist is equipped with the skills and resources to help you work through your emotions and cope with them. 

You find it increasingly difficult to build or keep up with social relationships.

Social relationships are important for our overall wellbeing. Of course, this does not mean that you need to have a huge social circle. Having a few close friends or family that you can turn to when you are down can be helpful too. 

If you are consistently facing issues communicating with your loved ones, are often misunderstood, or find yourself isolated from others, considering therapy is a good move. Therapists can sieve out the underlying issues plaguing you from forging meaningful relationships and help you better understand your current situation. As an added benefit, you also learn to develop stronger interpersonal and communication skills.  

You feel like you have exhausted all your resources.

At times, your problems may aggravate and become too complex for you to resolve alone. On one hand, you feel that there is too much going on and you lack the mental capacity or energy to deal with the issues by yourself. On the other hand, you find it hard to confide in your family or friends or feel uncomfortable doing so.

Speaking with a therapist in such cases is wise as they can provide you with a non-judgemental, neutral listening ear and advice. Your therapist is invested in your mental health, and does not have a vested interest in the outcome of your decisions, actions or behaviour. Moreover, as what you share during sessions is confidential, you are free to speak your mind.

You have been distressed by the same issues for a long time.

When deep-seated psychological issues are left unresolved, they may fester and continuously surface in our daily lives. These issues often cause mental strain and exhaustion, and hinder your focus and mood. You may be at work or a gathering with friends, but you are not fully present as your mind is constantly worrying about something else.

The question “Do I need therapy?” is not always an easy one to answer. However, if you notice that the same few issues have been recurring and affecting how you feel or behave, it is sensible to set time aside for therapy. A therapist can guide you along in assessing your emotions and offer you new ways to think about your issues. While it is not always possible to overcome some issues immediately, you will learn how to stop letting them impact you as much.

You wish to change your unhelpful thoughts but are unsure of how to do so.

You have decided that you no longer want your intrusive or negative self-talk to impair your daily functioning. Nevertheless, you are uncertain of how or where to start. Here, going for therapy is a good call as your therapist can help you set goals for yourself and find a clearer direction moving forward.

At the beginning, you may be filled with apprehension and doubts especially if therapy is new to you. A therapist is best placed to explain how it all works, answer your questions, and provide you with support on this self-improvement journey.

There are many issues you can seek therapy for.

Issues People Seek Therapy For

This section covers some common issues people seek therapy for. While these reasons may be listed separately, in reality, many of them overlap with each other and are closely related.

At times, individuals come into therapy without a clear reason; all they know is that they are feeling overwhelmed and need to talk to someone. Conversely, others come in with one specific issue in mind, only to realise that as therapy progresses, new insights about themselves and other areas of focus come into view. 

There are even some who enter their first session having second thoughts about their decision to seek help: “Do I need therapy, or am I overreacting?”. These different scenarios are all plausible at the beginning of one’s therapeutic journey. Nonetheless, entering therapy with an open mind helps you explore new ideas, possibilities, and areas for self-growth.

In no particular order, here are some examples of issues people seek therapy for:


All of us have experienced stress at some point. There is eustress, or “good stress”, that helps us perform well. On the other hand, distress, or “bad stress”, can be overwhelming. It prevents us from functioning at our full potential. Different people will find different things stressful, to varying degrees. Common experiences include work related stress and stress from interpersonal conflict at home, work, or school.

Decision making

Making an important decision? Examples include career decisions, whether to stay in or leave a relationship, whether to relocate, and so on. Times like these can be confusing, with pressure from family and friends. Each of them has an opinion of their own. It can be helpful to discuss your thoughts with a neutral, objective therapist, who may help you identify what’s most important to you in the decision making process.

Coping with transitions in life

Most of us like staying in our comfort zones. When changes happen, whether by choice or not, adapting can be a challenge. For instance, a newly married individual might experience several changes simultaneously, such as moving into a new home, having to communicate with their partner, navigating relationships with the in-laws, and entering parenthood. Other examples of life transitions include having a pet for the first time, entering the workforce upon graduation, changing jobs or schools, relocating, retiring, and so on.

Grief and loss 

Mention this, and most of us think of someone losing a loved one. While most societies readily recognise the gravity of losing a loved one, we can grieve over many other losses as well. This is so even if they are unaware that what they are experiencing is essentially the grieving process. 

According to the Kübler-Ross model, the five stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Examples of other losses include the loss of one’s childhood home, the loss of a beloved pet, the loss of a romantic relationship or marriage, the loss of a previous lifestyle, the loss of a job, and the loss of good health.

Difficulty regulating one’s emotions

While we may not be able to control our emotions per se, changing how we respond to them can help us cope with life better. For example, an individual may feel angry during a heated disagreement with their partner. The anger itself is understandable, and normal. However, learning to regulate their emotions can make the difference between a healthy response (eg walking away calmly) and an unhealthy manner (eg yelling at their partner).

In addition, some may also think to themselves, “Do I need therapy if I am already on medication (eg antidepressants)?” The answer is simple: talk therapy and medication need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, a combination of both can possibly help you reconnect with yourself at a deeper level. While medication works to improve your mood and sleep cycles, therapy allows you to explore your thoughts and experiences more extensively.

Intrusive thoughts or overthinking 

It can be hard to fall asleep if your mind is busy running through the 1001 different possibilities of what your boss had in mind when they said, “That’s a lot of information you provided”. Was it a compliment? What if it meant that you’re a hardworking employee? Or could it mean that you were not concise enough? Worse still, perhaps that was a veiled way of insinuating that you’re not good enough. The horror! 

Reflecting about things that occurred over the course of the day is normal. However, you may want to see a therapist if you’re starting to lose sleep, your appetite changes, or the thoughts interfere with your relationships or daily tasks.

Communication difficulties 

This is a common reason people enter couples therapy. People often unknowingly get caught up in unhelpful patterns of communication which cause much difficulty in getting one’s point across, and in turn feeling misunderstood. A therapist helps to bring forth and highlight these communication patterns to individuals and couples and guide them to healthier ways of interacting with each other. Struggling with communication is also common among family members.


People may seek therapy for addiction to smoking, drugs, sex, eating, or even coffee. Overcoming an addiction alone can be very challenging. In fact, it often takes some time before an individual recognises and acknowledges the addiction in the first place. Therapists who work with individuals experiencing addiction often receive additional training specific to addiction. If you are seeking professional help for an addiction, look for a professional therapist or psychologist who has sufficient training and experience in working with people struggling with addiction.


There doesn’t always have to be a “problem” for someone to enter therapy. People also seek therapy to improve themselves, or to take preventive measures before things get worse. For instance, busy professionals may wish to find ways to incorporate self-care and coping strategies into their daily routine to prevent a build-up of stress. Others may wish to increase their assertiveness or boost their confidence in different aspects of life such as at work or home. 

Pretty similar to why people frequent the gym, isn’t it?

While the issues above provide a glimpse into what therapy is, it is equally important to take note of what therapy is not. Contrary to popular belief, therapy is not about a therapist giving advice to a client, a therapist making judgmental statements about what the client is doing that is “right” or “wrong”, or a therapist telling a client how to resolve their issues. 

In fact, most of the hard work that leads to progress is undertaken by the client, not the therapist. To find out more, read Signs of a Bad Therapist.


Do I need Therapy

Keep in mind that both lists above are nowhere near exhaustive. There are other signs that may suggest it’s time to seek support as well as alternative reasons for considering therapy. If you are struggling with any of the issues mentioned above, or any other issue that was not included here, talk to one of the Professional Therapists at Talk Your Heart Out (TYHO)

If the Professional Therapist feels that you may benefit from a different professional, such as a psychiatrist, or social worker, they will let you know, or make a referral. Ultimately, when faced with the question, “Do I need therapy?”, you hold the power to decide on the next course of action. 

The bottom line is, you don’t have to struggle alone.

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Tags: burnout; work related stress; stages of burnout

Are you experiencing work related stress? Wondering if what you’re going through is burnout? Unsure if it’s really that bad? Thinking about what the stages of burnout are? You’re not alone. The 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) describes burnout as exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy. These must not be caused by other disorders linked to anxiety and fear.

This article describes the 12 stages of burnout according to psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North. These stages may not occur chronologically. Some individuals only experience some stages. Others may go through multiple stages concurrently.

The Compulsion to Prove Oneself

Initially, there’s excessive ambition and the compulsion to prove oneself. This isn’t just about proving one’s worth to colleagues, but more importantly, to themselves. Hardworking employees and individuals who find it hard to say “no” may end up here too.

Working Harder

This is an escalation of the first stage. Individuals accept more tasks than they can manage. However, their excessive ambition and compulsion to prove themselves drive them to complete all their work by themselves. They don’t ask for help. Employees may also feel “irreplaceable”.

Neglecting Their Needs

As a result of all the extra effort, work takes centre stage. Other aspects of life, such as eating well, sleeping enough, and social interaction, become less important. At times, they are even unnecessary.

Displacement of Conflicts

As more mistakes occur due to the individual’s high workload and lack of rest, interpersonal conflicts ensue. Employees start to come up with excuses for their mistakes. They may even blame others. Employees recognise that something is “off”. However, they are unable to see where their problems originate. Furthermore, uncovering and addressing the root cause is viewed as an internal crisis and even threatening. At this stage, the first signs of physical symptoms, such as exhaustion, appear.

Revisiting your values from time to time allows you to find out what no longer aligns and may be causing your burnout.

Revision of Values

Here, the employee’s values start to change. Work becomes the most important aspect of life. Meanwhile, family, friends, hobbies, and interests, are seen as irrelevant and are dismissed. Consequently, the individual’s self-worth is measured solely by their work. Furthermore, employees are unaware of the impact of their behaviour on others.

Denial of Emerging Problems

Individuals start becoming intolerant of social interaction. They increasingly view others negatively. For instance, colleagues may be labelled as stupid, lazy, or demanding. The employee is still unable to see the real source of their problems. Instead, they blame their workload or tight deadlines.


At this stage, their already limited social life is reduced to a minimum. It may even be non-existent. Socially isolated, the employee may therefore turn to alcohol or drugs to relieve stress. Feelings of hopelessness increase.

Obvious Behavioural Changes

Changes in the employee’s behaviour become so apparent. Their family, friends, and colleagues are increasingly concerned. Changes are hard to ignore.


At this stage, the employee feels detached. The employee’s view of life is only that of the present moment. Life is reduced to mechanical functions. The employee does not value themselves or others.  They are unable to perceive their own needs.

Inner Emptiness

By this stage, the employee feels empty. To overcome this, the employee engages in and exaggerates other activities. These may include overeating, sex, alcohol, or drugs.


Here, the employee experiences depression. The employee is overwhelmed with feelings of indifference, hopelessness, and exhaustion. It begins to feel like life has no meaning.

Burnout Syndrome

By this point, the employee collapses physically and mentally. Suicidal thoughts may set in. Seek medical help immediately.

If you are feeling suicidal, contact your national suicide prevention hotline. In Singapore, this would be the Samaritans of Singapore. Alternatively, go to the emergency department of a hospital. 

How Counselling Helps with Work Related Stress and Burnout

Recognise any of the 12 stages of burnout? Seek help early. Don’t wait for the stress to worsen. Counselling for burnout works towards overall health and happiness. You may also with to check if your organisation has an Employee Assistance Programme

Topics discussed in burnout counselling may include these.

  • How to improve one’s communication skills.
  • How to improve personal and professional relationships.
  • Identifying and reframing negative thought patterns.
  • Exploring interests that bring joy and rejuvenation.
  • Setting boundaries at work.
  • Stress management techniques.

In conclusion, seeking help early helps you to manage your emotions and stress better. It also improves your overall wellbeing! Speak to one of our therapists today. 

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tags: how to communicate when stressed, work related stress, communication tips

Struggling with work-related stress? Poor communication is closely linked to stress. People who are stressed may find it tougher to communicate well with colleagues, friends, and family. They may become exhausted and frustrated, thus limiting their ability to express their thoughts and emotions coherently to others. They may also misinterpret the words and actions of others, causing interpersonal conflict. In this article, we cover some communication tips for managing work related stress.

Increase Your Self-Awareness

Increasing your self-awareness is a good way to start addressing your stress. When you are clear about what your needs are (both body and mind), it is easier to communicate them to others succinctly.

Know your limits. How much work is too much for you? What kind of tasks may you require more guidance or instructions on? How much time are you willing to spend at work each day or week? How comfortable are you if a supervisor or colleague contacts you about work-related matters outside of work hours?

Know your triggers. What upsets you the most at work? Examples include being overworked, vague instructions, being micromanaged, interacting with certain colleagues, perceived unfairness, and last-minute changes. What do you find upsetting about these situations? How do these triggers impact you? What else affects you?

Be aware of your body language. Notice what you are communicating nonverbally through your body language. When speaking to others in the workplace, people may choose words that help them appear confident. Negative or poor body language that occurs at the same time, however, can have the opposite effect of making them look anxious, nervous, unconfident, unapproachable, disengaged, or even hostile. This inadvertently creates mistrust and affects one’s professional relationships. Examples of negative or poor body language include fidgeting, hunching or slouching, too much or too little eye contact, crossing one’s arms, gesturing too much, or being distracted. Find out more about your body language by observing yourself the next time you are engaged in a work-related discussion. Alternatively, ask colleagues you feel closer to for feedback.

Communicate Assertively

When you experience stress related symptoms at work, do you typically communicate passively, aggressively, passive-aggressively, or assertively?

An individual who is communicating aggressively may be seen as angry, rude, or hostile. They insist on doing things their way and have no room for compromise. An example could be an employee who speaks loudly in a meeting. They instruct colleagues to do something exactly the way they want, without listening to others’ opinions.

Individuals who communicate passively, on the other hand, give in to others despite having their own needs or opinions. For instance, these individuals may find it hard to say “no” to additional tasks that come their way. This can happen even if they are aware that their workload is becoming unmanageable.

An individual who uses passive-aggressive communication “acts out” indirectly to get what they want. Such communication may take place via sarcasm, ignoring others, procrastination, and not doing what is asked. For example, when asked to help another department with some work, an individual may feel resentment but agree overtly. The individual may then intentionally delay getting the work done for as long as possible, while secretly hoping that the other department would “get the message”.

Communicating assertively, on the other hand, can help with work related stress. Being assertive means communicating in a manner that is clear, direct, confident, and respectful of others’ needs. It may include stating your viewpoint clearly and calmly, disagreeing with others’ viewpoints respectfully, and saying “no” comfortably and politely. An example could be, “I understand that you would prefer to engage Organization A, but I think Organisation B might be a better fit for us because of the following reasons…” Communicating assertively also includes being able to give and receive feedback respectfully. Of course, communicating assertively takes much practice over time, especially if you have had the habit of communicating in non-assertive ways for years.

Regulate Your Emotions

Learning to regulate your emotions can increase your capacity to manage stress related symptoms at work.

Take short breaks from time to time. Make it a habit to take breathers at work. What works for each individual will differ. Some examples include simple stretching exercises at your desk, getting a cup of your favourite tea, observing nature, or watching cute animal videos. Taking a short breather before responding to a difficult work situation may also help you respond in a more calm, objective, and professional manner. If your work situation allows, you may wish to consider saying something like “I will need X amount of time to think about that” before providing an answer. Of course, it is important that you actually respond with an answer eventually.

Be kind to yourself. People sometimes have different standards for themselves and others. For instance, an individual may be kind, patient, and supportive towards a friend who is going through a difficult time, but berate themselves instead if they found themselves in a similar situation. If a friend was facing work related stress, what would you say to them? Would this also be the same response you would tell yourself if you were the one going through work related stress? If it is not, what might be the reason for that?

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to approach others for help in the workplace.

Many people worry that asking for help in relation to their work related stress makes them appear weak, while others believe that asking for help “burdens” the people they ask. No one is perfect, however, and it is absolutely normal for all of us to need some help from time to time. In fact, asking for help when you need it actually takes great courage and strength. This is especially true if you have been used to solving things independently.

Think about the specific kind of help you would like to ask for, and from whom. For instance, you may wish to ask close colleagues for resources or advice on specific projects. If you prefer to keep your personal issues separate from work, consider online counselling. You may also ask your supervisor or the Human Resources department about what the company offers to its employees, such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which may include skills training and personal therapy.

With family members and friends, it can be helpful to be specific about how you would like them to support you. For instance, would you like reassurance or a listening ear? Maybe you’d like them to spend time with you. Would it help if they encourage you to exercise? Perhaps you’d like them to continue inviting you to family activities and social gatherings. Or maybe you’d like to hear their suggested solutions, given their knowledge of you?

However, if you are feeling suicidal, contact the Samaritans of Singapore at 1800 221 4444. Alternatively, go to the emergency department of a hospital. 

Communication Tips for Managing Work Related Stress

Communicating well can help in managing work related stress. Increasing your self-awareness is key to knowing what exactly you would like to communicate to others, while assertiveness helps you to communicate your needs to others respectfully. Concurrently, regulating your emotions may increase your tolerance in stressful situations. When you find yourself struggling to cope, it is normal to reach out for help, either from a friend, family member, close colleague, or a professional therapist.

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During these uncertain times, many organisations find it challenging to respond adequately to wellbeing concerns of their staff. Some common concerns raised are anxiety, depression, health issues (including those of loved ones), exacerbation of pre-existing mental health issues, burnout, difficult relationship issues, and exhaustion from constant change. There is also an overlay of other external factors that may add to such struggles. These include immigration issues, job losses, reports of racist incidents and social isolation.

Companies can consider changes to workload and job scopes, policies and employee benefits to enhance employee wellbeing. When employers acknowledge mental health issues, discuss them frankly and display empathy, they show employees that the organisation cares for them.

These actions encourage employees to vocalise their struggles and allow the organisation to offer them support before their problems aggravate. For instance, implementing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is one such way to extend help to employees in need.

Discussed at greater length below are some suggestions on how to improve employee wellbeing and foster a healthier work environment.

Embrace Vulnerability

To effectively respond to employees’ wellbeing concerns, creating a workplace culture that embraces openness and vulnerability is of utmost priority.

It is often difficult for us to admit our vulnerabilities, much less do so at the workplace. Talking about our weaknesses involves being honest about things that are sensitive and personal – our capabilities, limits and feelings.

Employers are equipped with the power to bring about cultural changes at the company. People in leadership positions should actively share their stories and show their human side by being open about their emotions. This allows employees to understand that they are not the only ones feeling the pressure and caught in the tide. There are many struggling just like them and others who care for them and wish to provide support.

In 2011, Johnson & Johnson carried out their series of TEDxJNJ events and had company leaders share their experiences with mental health challenges. Many employees felt connected and subsequently made use of the channel to tell their stories. The Mental Health Diplomats Employee Resource Group was also formed as a result.

It is thus visible that attention to mental health encourages more conversations around it such that it is no longer a taboo topic. These exchanges of vulnerability in turn push employers to take more concrete actions to care for employees’ wellbeing.

Normalise Taking Breaks

Have employees understand that the company does not see them as machines that operate with the same efficiency all the time. Not to mention that even machines break down and require maintenance from time to time. A huge part of optimising employee wellbeing is ensuring that employees get enough rest. Normalising short, uninterrupted breaks at work provides employees with an opportunity for a mental break and reset.

One way to do so is to encourage self-care habits at the workplace, be it a simple 10-minute coffee break or a walk outside in the sun during a mid-day slump. Encouraging such behaviour sends a clear signal to employees that their wellbeing is a priority for their employer.

At first glance, taking breaks during work hours may seem unprofessional and counterintuitive. Yet, is it in fact one of the best ways to improve productivity. Employees tend to feel rejuvenated and motivated to continue their tasks after getting away from their desks for a while. Taking timely breaks also prevents them from feeling overwhelmed and reduces instances of a stress breakdown at work.

Enforcing breaks indicate flexibility and show employees that the organisation not only appreciates the work that they put in but also trusts them to manage their own time. What more, the boost to their productivity and creativity after taking a breather ultimately benefits the organisation.

Flexible work arrangements that allow physical activity.

Accept “ No” for an Answer

In a competitive and fast-paced corporate environment, constant productivity has become the norm. Such expectations take a toll on both the mental and physical wellbeing of employees in the long run.

Hence, when employees question work-related requests (eg a deadline, extra workload, urgent report, new work arrangements), employers can attempt to hear them out and consequently accept “no” for an answer. The latter is especially crucial. Dismissing an employee’s objection invalidates their feelings and discourages them from voicing out their opinions in the future.

Communication is key here. While it is on employees to express their concerns, employers should practice sensitivity and listen intently when they speak up. Some employees may still choose to stay quiet even when they are struggling. It is therefore helpful for employers to periodically approach employees and ask how they are coping with their workload.

Make Help Available

While employers have the ability to improve workplace culture, enforce short breaks and accommodate alternative work arrangements, they may not possess the appropriate skill sets needed to extend further help (eg counselling or therapeutic support) to employees.

At every workplace, having a handbook that collates all the mental health resources available to employees is always a good idea. An example is the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), where an organisation provides subsidised counselling sessions to its employees as part of their employee benefits. External Employee Assistance Programme providers offer EAP services that are comprehensive and able to address a wide variety of issues. Hence, it is vital to ensure that employees understand what the benefits of an EAP are and how to access them. After all, the EAP is only efficiently utilised when employees actively participate in the programme.

Despite the availability of resources, the stigma surrounding mental health and the unfamiliarity with counselling still deter employees from seeking help. Hence, taking the initiative to have regular check-ins with employees and encouraging them to try out Employee Assistance Programme Counselling, and reassuring them that it is all private and confidential, can possibly give them the courage to seek help. Through such actions, employees will come to recognise that help is within reach and that they can always approach the respective EAP providers whenever they are ready.

Don’t Forget About Physical Wellbeing

Of course, don’t neglect physical health. Ensuring that employees practice healthy habits and stay active is as important as supplementing mental health support. It can be challenging for employees to maintain healthy eating habits at work. They often skip meals, snack on unhealthy food, or eat at irregular hours when they are busy with work. With remote working in place, one’s physical health is more easily overlooked as sedentary behaviour increases and movement decreases without the need to travel to work or move about in the office. The blurred boundaries between work and home life too result in a lack of clear space for one to unwind.

Offering employees a variety of online fitness classes during this period likely increases their physical activity levels. Moreover, it is relatively easy for employees to fit a short workout into their schedule since they are able to exercise within the comfort of their homes.

Employers can also attempt to make allowances for flexible work hours instead of the typical nine-to-six. This ensures that employees whose sleeping cycles are disrupted because of mandatory work-from-home measures are still able to get enough sleep and wake up refreshed the following day.

These suggestions are very much in line with the workforce measures enforced during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, further attesting that work arrangements that have once been seen as resolute and permanent can very well be adapted and changed.


In short, employees are an organisation’s greatest assets and dedicating resources to improve employee wellbeing is paramount for sustainable growth. In the long term, employers should strive beyond simply responding to employees in a timely manner. The ultimate goal is to develop a workplace culture that emphasises authenticity and openness, where help is available to employees in need and they are able to receive such help with understanding and support from those around them.

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Tags: Support a friend or family member with work related stress and burnout; burnout; stress

Work related stress refers to the detrimental emotional and physical effects that occur when an employee’s job requirements exceed their ability to cope. Left unaddressed, work related stress may contribute to burnout. The 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) describes burnout as characterised by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased cynicism for or mental distance from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy. These should not be caused by other stress disorders such as disorders associated with anxiety and fear.

This article covers how to support a friend or family member with work related stress and burnout. It can be challenging when a loved one goes through some of the 12 stages of burnout or complains of stress related to work. Perhaps you have noticed their symptoms of work related stress or suspect that they might be going through burnout, but are unsure of how best to navigate the situation without upsetting them further. 

Share Your Observations Respectfully

What is obvious to you may not be obvious to your loved one. It is often much easier for a family member or friend to notice their loved one’s symptoms of work related stress than it is for the affected individual to notice it themselves.

Pick a good time. Try not to raise your concerns about your loved one’s situation in the middle of a heated argument. Instead, pick a time when your loved one is available, calmer and more relaxed. You may also wish to ask your loved one if it is okay for you to bring up the topic of work related stress, before actually bringing it up.

Share how it is affecting you. If your loved one’s stress related to work is affecting you, let them know in a respectful way. “I statements” allow you to take ownership of your own feelings and can be helpful in avoiding coming across as blaming your loved one. An example could be “I feel upset and unimportant when you respond to work emails in the middle of our family dinner”.

Ask How You May Be of Help

Don’t assume that your loved one wants advice or a solution from you. Telling your loved one how they should address their work related stress or what they should do not just comes across as dismissive, it also undermines their autonomy in problem solving. Giving unsolicited advice may also indirectly suggest that you know better than them. In reality, however, there could be various underlying reasons for your loved one’s symptoms of work related stress, which you may not be aware of. Also, there are probably multiple considerations on your loved one’s mind, which they may not have told you about.

Ask them how you can help. Instead of assuming, ask them directly how they think you may be of help. Does your loved one need a solution? A listening ear? Advice? Resources? A hug? Moral support? A meal? Someone to exercise with? Let them tell you.

Help a friend or family member with work related stress or burnout

Encourage Them Not to Neglect Other Aspects of Life

Encourage them not to neglect their physical health. This includes eating well, having a good night’s sleep, and exercising, which affect their overall wellbeing. It can be easy for these aspects of life to fall to the wayside as your loved one becomes increasingly preoccupied with work related stress.

Encourage them to stay connected to others outside of work. Staying socially connected is important for your loved one’s wellbeing too. Encourage them to continue spending quality time with family and friends, so that work does not become viewed as the only important aspect of their life.

Be Patient and Understanding

Although you might have noticed your loved one’s symptoms of work related stress for quite some time, your loved one may be unaware and perhaps even unable to recognise their work related stress themselves at this point in time. It is also possible that your loved one might not be ready to acknowledge their work related stress. Don’t expect your loved one to change immediately just because you have pointed it out. Insisting that they make changes immediately may invite defensiveness, denial, and interpersonal conflict. Instead, be patient, understanding, and know that what they are doing is likely not personal towards you. If you wish to, you may let them know that you will be there to support them if and when they do feel like talking about it.

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Encourage Them to Seek Help

Encourage your loved one to seek help for their work related stress in ways that are appropriate for them, given their specific situation. Examples include speaking to a supervisor about their stress related symptoms at work, checking with the Human Resources department if the company has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and the services provided, seeking personal therapy (or online personal therapy) for work related stress, or, depending on their country and jurisdiction, seeking legal advice on how to prepare claim for work related stress.

However, if your loved one has talked about suicide, this needs immediate attention. You or your loved one are strongly encouraged to reach out to the Samaritans of Singapore. Alternatively, accompany your loved one to their primary healthcare provider, or to an emergency department of a hospital. 

Helping a Loved One who is Facing Burnout or Stress Related to Work

Learning how to support a friend or family member with work related stress and burnout is not easy, but it does not have to be complicated either. It can be helpful to patiently and gently help your loved one to increase their awareness of their burnout or work related stress, and encourage them to seek the appropriate help. At times, though, simply being there for them can make a huge difference. However, if you notice that your loved one is being increasingly affected by their symptoms of work related stress, do your best to encourage your loved one to seek help early, for the benefit of their physical and emotional wellbeing. Remember, asking for help is not a weakness; it is a strength.

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Tags: Bad therapist signs; what to look out for in a Therapist

Signs of a bad therapist (ie a professional counsellor or psychologist) may not be immediately noticeable. The unpleasant experience may start off as a slight feeling of discomfort. Perhaps you’ve got a nagging suspicion that something is a little “off” in your therapy sessions, but are unable to pinpoint exactly what it is. Others may be very clear about the cause of their discomfort, but wonder if it is a normal experience in therapy that they just aren’t used to.

Maybe you’re curious about what the signs of a bad therapist are, because of all the bad therapist stories you’ve heard from family, friends, or colleagues. Given that the experience in a counselling session differs from individual to individual, coupled with the confidential nature of therapy sessions, it can be hard to compare across different therapists.

There are, however, some basic do’s and don’ts in therapy that are set out by ethical guidelines and formal training programmes. These are foundational competencies that all (good) therapists are aware of and adhere to. This article highlights several red flags regarding how to spot a bad therapist, some more serious than others. Should you experience any of these in therapy, you may consider discussing it with your therapist. Alternatively, you may raise the issue to the organisation or the relevant licensing board in your country.

How to Spot Signs of a Bad Therapist

Here are some ways to spot signs of a bad therapist:

A bad therapist dismisses your experiences. 

Your therapist should not be making statements like “you should not be complaining about that”, “it’s not a big deal” or “there are others going through much worse than you”. Therapy is about your experiences, not the experiences of others elsewhere. Even if others are going through “worse”, your experiences and feelings are absolutely valid. If you feel angry, you feel angry. A good therapist will acknowledge your unique experience and feelings.

A bad therapist tells you what to do, by prescribing unsolicited advice or solutions. 

Contrary to popular belief, therapists do not provide advice or solutions. Rather, a therapist hears you out and works with you to identify insights and possibilities that you deem best for you given your situation. A therapist should also help you identify your strengths that could be helpful in arriving at your own resolution. You should not be hearing your therapist say, “Quit your job if it’s making you unhappy”, “Just move if you don’t like your neighbours”, or “You should try golf. If it worked for me, it will work for you”. Every situation elicits different considerations for each individual. Providing unsolicited advice or solutions not just disempowers clients and dismisses each client’s unique experience; it presumes that the therapist knows a client’s life better than the client themselves.

A bad therapist is distracted and does not listen to you. 

Your therapist should be solely focused on you, and genuinely interested in what you have to say. This is different from having a chat with a friend in a café, where multiple distractions are to be expected. Therapists using the video chat function for online counselling have a duty to ensure that they conduct the session from a location that is private and free from distractions. Your therapist should also not be texting, picking up calls, or multitasking on their laptop as you are speaking. Feeling listened to is a core foundation of therapy.

A bad therapist during an online counselling session

A bad therapist judges you by their own personal religious, spiritual, political, or cultural beliefs. 

Therapy is about you, and how you are coping in relation to your own values and beliefs. A therapist should not impose their own beliefs on you. Doing so insinuates that the therapist’s values and beliefs are superior to yours in some way. Take for instance, a therapist whose religious values state that divorce is wrong. If a client is contemplating divorce, the therapist should find out more about the client’s situation and their thoughts and beliefs regarding divorce. What a therapist should not be saying is, “Of course you shouldn’t get a divorce. Divorce is wrong!”. Neither should the therapist imply this during the counselling session.

A bad therapist breaks confidentiality without a valid reason. 

A therapist may sometimes be obligated to break confidentiality when there is risk of harm to yourself or to someone else. In some instances, certain information from counselling sessions is required for legal purposes, such as in the case of court-mandated counselling. However, a therapist should not be chatting with their friends about you over dinner, or posting about your session on social media. A red flag to watch out for is if a therapist shares personal information about other clients with you. Such information could include their names, background information, and their experiences in therapy. If your therapist does this, how can you be assured that your personal information is not being shared with other clients? 

A bad therapist demands that you book many sessions. 

A therapist’s goal is to stop seeing you eventually. While one session is often insufficient for long-term change, a therapist should not demand that you book multiple sessions with them. Even if you wish to continue with therapy, it should be a decision you arrive at on your own. Keep in mind that you always have the choice to switch therapists, or to pause therapy when you need to. You should not feel obligated to agree with what your therapist is insisting on.

A bad therapist explains concepts in an overly complicated manner. 

Therapists would have had extensive training and exposure to various therapeutic concepts and approaches. That doesn’t mean, however, that they should show off their knowledge using jargon and academic terms. The point of therapy is to help you. Any concepts that are explained by the therapist should thus be expressed in simple everyday language that is comprehensible to clients. If a therapist believes that explaining a particular concept would be beneficial for the client, it is the therapist’s duty to also check in with the client after introducing the concept, to see if they have understood it.

A bad therapist spends most of the time in a session talking about their own issues. 

While it may be beneficial for the therapist to share a little about themselves in order to genuinely build the therapeutic relationship, the bulk of the time in therapy should be about you. After all, that is why you signed up for therapy in the first place.

A bad therapist attempts to engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with you. 

This is a serious violation of ethical codes, and should be reported to the relevant licensing board or organisation. Therapists are trained to adhere to professional boundaries, so as to remain objective when working with you.

A bad therapist tries to be friends with you.

Once again, therapists have an ethical responsibility to maintain professional boundaries with clients. A therapist should not be inviting you to play golf together for leisure, joining your family for a meal, or requesting favours unrelated to therapy. Doing so would constitute a dual relationship which impacts the therapist’s ability to remain neutral during a counselling session. This is the same reason why therapists are unable to provide therapy to their family members, friends, or anyone else within their own social circle. Imagine this: a client says, “I’m really annoyed with my sibling right now”, to which the counsellor, who has met the client’s sibling in an informal setting, responds with, “No way! Your sibling is such an amazing person!”.

A bad therapist is not open to feedback. 

Therapists should make you feel comfortable enough to raise any feedback you may have, at any point in therapy. They should also be secure enough not to take things personally. Feedback is a normal part of any healthy therapeutic relationship.

A bad therapist ends the counselling session prematurely. 

If the session is scheduled for an hour, the session should last no less than an hour. Occasionally, sessions may start late when therapists are held up by crises or other sessions that run over the scheduled time. However, if your therapist is habitually late, or frequently cancels or misses appointments without a valid reason, it might be time to start looking for a new therapist.

Signs of a Bad Therapist

Before jumping to conclusions and labelling someone a bad therapist, consider this: therapists are human. Like all other human beings, therapists have emotions too and do make mistakes from time to time. Think about the difference between a therapist who yawned twice in a session due to a family emergency the day before, and a therapist who initiates a sexual relationship with a vulnerable client. It may be helpful to ask yourself what you can and cannot tolerate in a therapy session. This could even be a topic to discuss with your therapist. However, assessing the severity of any ethical violation is important. Where serious harm has been done, appropriate measures should be taken. This protects not just the client reporting the wrongdoing, but also other clients who may not have come forward for any reason. Choose a qualified professional therapist you can trust. 

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