Workplace Stress – Case Study
The presenting issue: Jane contacted Dublin City Psychotherapy because she was experiencing a lot of stress at work. At the first counselling session, she spoke mainly about her workplace, the people she worked with and her very demanding boss. She described what she felt as ‘burn-out’, severe stress and she was seriously concerned about her psychological and emotional health.
Over the course of some sessions of psychotherapy, Jane elaborated on her worries – they were not confined to the workplace but affected her relationships with her partner and her friends. She found herself becoming somewhat isolated from others, losing her appetite, increasing her alcohol intake and waking up at 3am unable to get back to sleep.
Jane’s position in the workplace reflected her place in her family. She is the eldest of four with what she describes as a distant mother and hardworking father.
The process: In counselling, what emerged over time was that Jane, when younger, filled in the gap between her parents inharmonious relationship: she did this by taking care of her younger siblings and acting as a messenger between her parents when there was one of the many silences that characterised their marriage.
Over time at counselling, Jane identified patterns repeating in her life. Examining her position in the workplace, she realized she was both the buffer zone and the messenger between her demanding boss and the other workers. Indeed, she had been selected as the trade union rep for her department.
During the process of psychotherapy, she identified stressful patterns that left her anxious, exhausted and questioning her mental health, Jane began to dis-invest her energy from the endless cycles of arguments and negotiations at work. Eventually she relinquished her trade union duties as she realized she no longer wanted to fight other people’s battles. Following this, she considered how she was living her life, her quality of life, and began to enjoy herself, pursuing interests outside work.
Through counselling, she examined her attitude to the demanding boss: on further reflection, she began to see, how he himself was over-burdened and had great difficulty delegating tasks.
Her change of attitude allowed her to interact with him in a more constructive way. She had complained of feeling guilty all the time and where she used to mind her younger siblings now she was taking care of the other workers in her department.
However as she worked through some of her difficulties in psychotherapy, she assumed responsibility for herself and her guilt diminished. She realised she had no control over others and was repeating a childhood pattern that had outlived its usefulness and was making her miserable. She could say ‘no, not for me’ and ‘no thanks’ if she wished to, to the many requests she received. This was a turning point in the psychotherapy for Jane as she almost always said ‘yes’ to requests no matter how inconvenient those requests were to her.
Psychotherapeutic effects: In her own words, letting go of the idea and behaviour that she could take care of others (who were capable of caring for themselves) allowed her the freedom to make choices based on her wishes and not based on the requests and demands of others. Jane speaks about her renewed energy that enables her to concentrate on her career as she develops her career-path further. Life at home with her partner is about doing things together as a couple and as separate individuals and about enjoying downtime to relax.