Factors affecting self-referral to counselling services in the workplace: A qualitative study

Chrysostomos Athanasiades, Allan Winthrop, Brendan Gough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The benefits of psychological support in the workplace (also known as workplace counselling) are well documented. Most large organisations in the UK have staff counselling schemes. However, it is unclear what, if any, factors affect employee decisions to use such schemes. This study has used a qualitative methodology to explore the reasons that make employees use workplace counselling. Eleven employees of a university in the north of England who had used the staff counselling service of their employer took part in the study. The employer had two schemes available: an internal staff counselling service and an external Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). A semi-structured interview was used with each participant and grounded theory techniques were used to analyse the interviews. The analysis resulted in the construction of a model of psychological help-seeking in the workplace. The main findings indicate that most participants were motivated to use their employer's counselling service by their prior positive experiences of similar or other type of mental health services. Other encouraging factors were: recommendation of service by others, a supportive environment and trust in the confidential ethos of the service. Conversely, negative preconceptions of psychological help-seeking and a perception of the employing environment as unsafe were shown to have been discouraging factors. The study concludes with suggestions for practice and for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-276
JournalBritish Journal of Guidance and Counselling
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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