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How to tell your boss that you need therapy during working hours

When the time came to tell a former boss that I would be going on a weekly therapy appointment, I agonized over the wording of my post. I worked in a closed office where no one was talking about feelings, but everyone was looking at each other. I didn’t want raised eyebrows during my long lunch breaks on Tuesday.

In the end, after deleting and rewriting sentences, I decided to say via a Slack message that I had a “regularly recurring doctor’s appointment.” I pointed out that I would make sure I was more available on the mornings I went to my appointment. My boss simply replied “OK” and I quickly returned to the safer ground of deadlines and deliverables.

It was a disappointing discussion. We never discussed out loud or in specific terms about my intention to go to therapy, and in fact it went well.

For more and more millennials in the workplace, revealing that you are in therapy is becoming a more open topic of conversation. The next generation of workers is growing up with singers like Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato and athletes like Kevin Love openly discussing therapy for their mental health.

“Some customers will say, ‘My boss and I go out on Thursday mornings. We both have therapy. Usually that’s a good situation, ”said Elizabeth Cohen, a Manhattan-based clinical psychologist. “I believe there shouldn’t be a stigma about mental health.”

But at work, there is often still a stigma attached to therapy. Talking with your friends about your departure can be much easier than talking with the manager who decides on your raises and promotions. And the vulnerability you create when you share that you are in therapy can be used against you.

To announce your therapy appointments to your employer, you need to anticipate your boss’s reaction and make a plan.

Recognize that going to therapy during the workday is good for you and your employer

Before you can convince your boss that you should be in therapy, you must first convince yourself. You need to recognize that your decision to go into therapy during the week is a benefit to your personal and professional life, not a decision you are ashamed of.

Some hourly workers whose physical presence is required, such as cashiers, are not able to leave during the workday for therapy. But Cohen said she heard from people who just didn’t want to do it because of the job. “They don’t value themselves,” Cohen said. “Maybe they’ll never get therapy and they’re the ones who need it because they’re so stressed out from work.”

If you feel guilty or ashamed of your own work because you are in therapy, you need to deal with those feelings first. “Really understand your own reaction to therapy and discuss it with your therapist before having this conversation,” said Melody Wilding, a registered social worker and executive coach. That way, you’re not scared into having that conversation, she said.

It helps to view your therapy appointments as a long-term investment in your future. “Not only are you investing in your mental and emotional well-being, which overall will allow you to think more clearly and perform better, but it also forces you to be more productive in the time you have available. And I think people are forgetting that, ”Wilding said.

You don’t necessarily have to disclose what you’re going to therapy for

Assess your workplace culture and personal comfort level before mentioning dates to your boss. “You absolutely don’t owe anyone your entire life story,” said Tanisha Ranger, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Nevada.

“It’s really up to the individual to assess what they’re comfortable disclosing to their boss,” Wilding said.

The reality is that some of us have bad bosses and may not feel like we can fully work. “If you’re not very comfortable with your boss, I think you can also drop the word that you need to be away from the office for a personal medical issue,” Wilding said.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you can keep your state private. Your employer is not allowed to ask medical questions unless you request “reasonable accommodation” for a medical condition. employees can get.

When you request time off for therapy, your employer may ask you to get a letter from your health care provider and ask them to describe your condition in general, so they can see what accommodations are reasonable. However, they don’t need to know the details of what you are talking about in therapy.

“If you do not want the employer to know your specific diagnosis, it may be sufficient to provide documentation describing your condition more generally (indicating, for example, that you have an ‘anxiety disorder’)”, notes guide.

It can be reassuring to know that your employer cannot legally share this confidential information, even with your co-workers.

Leave with a plan

Wilding suggests starting the conversation with a solution instead of how you’ll cover your absence. “Make it a specific and explicit request about how often you will be away, what time it could be and how will you handle your workload, or how will you make sure work gets done around it,” she declared.

When you have a plan in place, it helps answer any questions your boss may have. “You seem proactive and your boss understands that you are managing him. And it makes it much easier for them to say, “Yeah, that sounds good. I can see you’ve got it all covered, ”Wilding said.

Don’t just show up and say, “I need to take time off,” Ranger said. You want your employer to know how the work they are paying you for will be done.

“Have a plan like here’s the problem, here’s what I need, here’s what I’m going to deliver,” she said.

Use HR if your boss isn’t receptive

If you’ve tested the waters and don’t think your boss would be receptive to therapy appointments, you may also turn to human resources as another option.

“For the most part, you can trust HR,” said Ranger, who said she typically advises her clients to go to human resources first and request related documents.

“Let them know you have a medical issue that requires you to have doctor’s appointments, but you don’t necessarily want to broadcast it,” Ranger said.

Getting your request accepted in writing can help when you don’t know the dynamics of the workplace. “Even if you trust your supervisor or boss, just make sure you have these documents handy,” Ranger said. “I recommend it especially when you’re new to a workplace where you’re like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know what these people look like, I don’t know what they’re going to be. What I do know is that there won’t be any interruptions in my treatment, so I’m just going to go ahead and do this paperwork right off the bat. ‘ “

You Should See Someone is a HuffPost Life series that will teach you everything you need to know about therapy. We give you informative, BS-free stories about finding help in mental health: how to do it, what to expect, and why it matters. Because taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. Find all of our coverage here and share your stories on social media with the hashtag #DoingTherapy.

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