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Having no emotions whatsoever at work is not helpful: Lou Lebentz

Having no emotions whatsoever at work is not helpful: Lou Lebentz

That means we cannot bring our whole selves to work and have to, in many cases, wear a mask and be devoid of feeling, therapist and EMDR clinician Lou Lebentz cautions.

HRO's Jenette Del Mundo, reaches out to Lou Lebentz, Therapist/EMDR Clinician, Trauma Thrivers, to understand why the corporate sector urgently needs trauma-informed approaches and training.

Lebentz is the Founder of ‘Trauma Thrivers’ a popular online Facebook community and podcast for both clinicians and those with a particular interest in trauma. With a particular focus on helping people understand and recover from trauma, addiction, and complex PTSD, she has been an accredited and sought-after UK psychotherapist and trauma consultant for over two decades, 10 years of which were spent at a psychiatric hospital, The Priory.

She will be speaking at the upcoming National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference 2022 (NCPC 2022) on 29-30 November 2022 on the topic 'Restart, recharge, reconnect: navigating a post-pandemic world experiencing collective trauma'.

Interview excerpts below: 

Q Why it is important for companies to prioritise mental health and wellbeing in today’s workplace environment, or risk losing out on the best talent?

More and more in our post-pandemic world, people are realising how vital it is to look after themselves and not be overly stressed.

Chronic stress is damaging to our mind and body systems so anything that supports relaxation and taking care of our health is going to be paramount in the environment we find ourselves in.

Corporations who recognise this and put in place strategies to assist an employee's wellbeing are going to be far more sought after than those who don’t. We all want to work for others who have our interests at heart and put people ahead of profit. If we don’t have the mental and physical wellbeing of our staff foremost in our minds, we are going to be far less desirable to work for in our 21st-century world.

Q How can companies take a holistic approach to promoting mental health in the workplace? What are we currently getting wrong that we need to improve upon?

We need to think of a person as a whole mind and body being. This means we cannot simply look at thinking and motivational type interventions without mentioning feelings. To come from the perspective of being an automaton at work and having no emotions whatsoever is not helpful. It means we cannot bring our whole selves to work and have to in many cases wear a mask and be devoid of feeling.

We need to bring trauma-informed approaches and training into the corporate sector. It helps to recognise that post the pandemic, many people are struggling with dysregulated nervous systems that don’t regulate through motivational approaches. They are helped through 'somatic' approaches with body-based methods to wellbeing. These include the body alongside the mind, and thinking, and this approach is what we need to take to be truly holistic, working with body integration as well as thoughts.

Q Could you share examples of high-impact mental health interventions you've experienced, and how they have made significant changes?

Mental health interventions that really help include the relational aspect of the person's journey. Significant emotional events in someone’s history often play a part in their mental health symptoms and understanding how often, many of us really need to be heard, to be seen, to be acknowledged, and to feel safe is the bedrock of any good treatment for anyone who’s struggling.

When we feel safe and deeply understood by another human being, we can begin to process what’s happened.

Symptoms are usually because of what’s happened to us in our lives and not because there is something wrong with us. When someone feels safe and like they have significance, that in itself is a powerful intervention. Then the modality of treatment on top whether it’s EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing), somatic experiencing, sensorimotor psychotherapy, or any other modality usually works far better.

Q Finally, please share with us some tips for leaders and employees to protect their mental health and wellbeing at work

Psychological safety is key to ensuring there is a healthy and happy environment in which to work.

That means being transparent and if you’re a leader ensuring that your staff can trust you and you have their best interests in mind. It means being collaborative and communicative sharing with others what’s happening and getting help and support where needed.

It’s about respecting others and yourself and having boundaries, knowing when to say no is a vital skill at work to not be overwhelmed or feel put upon.

Allowing people to speak up and feel empowered enough to share their opinions and voice is also key. To help them feel like they matter. Whatever their background, race, culture, sexual orientation, etc. - feeling like a valued member of the organisation does make a huge difference, and companies that do this will reap the rewards in terms of keeping their staff healthy and with them for longer. 

Restart, recharge, reconnect at the fourth annual National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference (NCPC 2022), a wellbeing conference dedicated to topics such as innovations in mental healthcare, mindfulness-centred practice, couples’ goals and staying connected post-pandemic, art therapy and children with special needs, and more. Find out how you can attend here.

Photo / HRO

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