What is Workplace Counseling?
Speaker Series featuring Deb Daufeldt, MBA, LPC. Interviewed by Ryan Soave, MA, CTT - Clinical Director for Telehealth.
Deb Daufeldt: Hi, my name is Deb Daufeldt, I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor outside of Denver, Colorado. My desire to get into counseling stemmed from spending twenty years in the corporate world as a business professional, adding executive coaching to my credentials, and realizing after a short amount of time that my coaching clients really needed counseling.
So, I dropped out of the corporate world as a full-time employee in 2008 and attained a second master's degree in clinical mental health counseling and my licensure and everything. Now, most of my clients are corporate executives, other business professionals, doctors, lawyers, etc., who have realized that they really prefer a very solution-oriented and solution-focused counseling process in the areas of relationship and career counseling.
Ryan Soave: So, I know today you want to talk a little bit more (and I want to hear more) about workplace counseling. You were telling me a little bit about it before we started the interview. I'd love to hear more from you and maybe share with the audience. Maybe just recap what you shared with me. What is a workplace counselor, what do they do, and why?
Deb Daufeldt: Well workplace counseling is something that I came up with long before the show Billions was ever on the air. When I was back in the corporate world, I noticed that several of my colleagues had real issues they were bringing to the workplace with them. Someone in particular, I'll never forget him - he came when he was in the middle of a horrible, horrible divorce years ago. He worked on my team, and he would come in every day and talk about the latest and greatest silliness that came out of the divorce process and what was going on with him and his ex-wife through the process.
It just railed and disrupted everything that was going on in the workplace. So, everyone was being brought down by what he was going through. Had we had a resource that he could have tapped into (other than a very traditional EAP program), someone he could go to that knew him, where he didn't have to pay for that service. A service that might have been provided by the employer where he could go and vent to one person instead of venting to the entire team. His level of happiness and productivity certainly would’ve increased, as would have the culture and the happiness and productivity of the entire team. So, in coming up with this concept of a workplace counselor as a service provided by the employer, it really more than pays for itself -in terms of team happiness, a good healthy culture in the workplace, and really increasing productivity.
Ryan Soave: What are the boundaries that you have to establish or that you do establish between the person venting and, say, the rest of the team or the executive team or the people who are paying the counselor?
Deb Daufeldt: Well, because I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, I have to maintain ethics to those credentials. So, I can't even tell the boss who's paying my retainer what's going on, who I'm talking to, why I'm talking to them, and about what. So, it's a very confidential process. People have the comfort of knowing that I am not just working with one person on the team, I’m working with several people on the team. So, I understand culturally what is going on in the workplace. The whole workplace benefits. It's not just a few people there that have chosen to work with me.
Ryan Soave: Do you have an example of some outcomes you've been able to measure with a specific workplace counseling scenario?
Deb Daufeldt: Well, it is hard to measure something as qualitative as happiness in the workplace or improved communications or productivity. Those are really qualitative measurements. It's not like I can literally take an assessment, but I do here and there take assessments with some assessment tools that I created myself to try to measure those soft skills and soft places, if you will. Where people can say, “Yeah, I'm happier as a result of seeing Deb” or “Gosh, I'm much more focused and productive in my work because I don't have this trash that's constantly rolling around in my head. There's someone I can actually talk to and vent with and really get some solutions worked out.”
Ryan Soave: Have you been able to see things like less days missed, employee retention, things like that?
Deb Daufeldt: I'm really glad that you brought up employee retention because that's a huge thing that most of us know how to measure. Typically, when we talk about someone that's been in a work environment for a long period of time, the cost of turnover is generally equated to somebody's annual salary. So, if we can reduce turnover, even by a small percentage, by people being happier and coming to work and wanting to come to work, it saves an immense amount of money. When you have high turnover - that leads to the cost of their salaries, training time, disruption on the team, lack of continuity and congruence about what's going on. So, it's a huge benefit that we can certainly calculate.
Ryan Soave: How would somebody go about becoming a workplace counselor. Do you offer trainings in mentorship around that specifically, or do you plan to do that?
Deb Daufeldt: I have the very unique background of having spent 20 years of my career in the corporate world. I have two business degrees - my master's degree and my MBA in Organizational Management. I spent a lot of time doing change management work, so I worked with a lot of folks in a lot of different industries as a consultant for 20 years - in areas of change readiness, change resistance, communication skills, and strategies.
So, I parlayed that background into my executive coaching and then eventually into a lot of my counseling work with the corporate folks. So, those have been my peeps for my 30-year career. Having walked in the shoes of my counselors for so many years, I think it's a really natural and easy progression for me. There aren’t too many therapists out there that can say they’ve got an MBA and 20 years in the corporate world. So, I think it’s really having a “been there done that” experience and having walked in my client’s shoes that makes me uniquely positioned to be a workplace counselor.
Ryan Soave: What do you love most about it?
Deb Daufeldt: That’s hard to say. I love having the impact on not only one person - which is primarily why I chose to do what I'm doing. It wasn't like I was in the corporate world - impacting shareholder value in the bottom line of the company. Now I'm impacting people one at a time on a much more personal level. If I can work with the entire team or the entire organization, I can impact them on a whole different level and not just financially. I can help them emotionally; I can help them heal in so many other more personal ways.
Ryan Soave: I have one more question. If you could have an audience with all of the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies that don't currently have a workplace counselor and they were really there to hear you, what's the one thing that you would want them to walk away with?
Deb Daufeldt: So many companies these days think, “If I put in a really cool kitchen and some great snacks and an expensive coffee maker, then I'm giving my employees tremendous benefits and perks in the workplace.” What they really need is someone to hear them, someone to listen to them, and someone to emphasize with them - by having someone there that they can call on who's either on-site once a week or twice a week or once a month or whatever is needed. Also, it is available via a HIPAA-compliant video program such as Zoom. Some people don’t want to be seen walking into the office that they set me up in on-site. Some people want to see me in the evenings, in a very private setting, so no one really knows that they're being seen by a therapist.
By offering that as an employee benefit, I think they're going to realize it more than pays for my time and my retainer, reduces their turnover, and makes their employees feel like they're heard, paid attention to, and cared about. I think that's really critical and much more important than some of the more superficial benefits like ping pong tables and foosball tables that we're seeing in the workplace lately.
Ryan Soave: Thank you very much. Thank you for sharing a bit of you with us and for being here to speak with us.
Deb Daufeldt: Thank you for your time, I appreciate it.