Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, December 13, 2000
Help Center Report

The Stanford Help Center is an employee assistance program that provides brief professional counseling, referral, consultation and educational services for the faculty and staff of Stanford University, Stanford Medical School, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Menlo Medical Clinic and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. The Help Center is a free and confidential benefit that is also available to immediate family members. By providing an easily accessible channel for resolving work-related and personal problems, the Help Center assists clients in returning to improved levels of job performance, morale, and personal and professional well-being. This annual report will describe the Help Center's staff, activities and statistics for the 1999-2000 year.


The Help Center's central offices are located on campus at 100 Encina Commons. Satellite offices also exist at the Medical Center, SLAC and in San Jose.


The Help Center staff includes a full-time director and administrative associate, nine part-time counselors (3.5 FTE) and two psychology doctoral interns. The counseling staff has a broad range of expertise, and comes from the disciplines of psychology, social work, and marriage and family therapy. Additional information about the staff is also available online at .

Director: David Rasch, Ph.D.

Administrative Associate: Margaret Pinedo

Counselors: Kevin Carr, MFT; Mary Foston-English, MFT; Rosan Gomperts, MSW; Margy Lim, MFT; Sean O'Riordan, Ph.D.; John Preston, LCSW; Nan Reitz, LCSW; Carol Zimbelman, LCSW; Ximena Zurita, Ph.D.; Sheila Henderson, M.A., MBA (doctoral intern); Sam Standard, LMFT (doctoral intern).


The Help Center maintains an Advisory Board to provide guidance, feedback and support from a cross-section of faculty and staff who represent the different groups we serve. The board president is Marvin Herrington, director of public safety, and the vice president is Robert Gregg, professor of religious studies. The other members are Ann Baldwin, nurse consultant, Stanford Hospital and Clinics; Cori Bossenberry, director, Human Resources Group, Stanford Medical School; Kathy Davis, director, Human Resource Client Services; Jonathan Dunn, duty operator-SSRL, SLAC; Jim Franklin, director, Staff Recruitment and Retention; Linda Lee, associate director, Compensation; Lee Lyon, director, Human Resources; John Pearson, director, Bechtel International Center; David Spiegel, professor, Psychiatry; Ruth Shanahan, manager, Employee Health, Stanford Hospital and Clinics; David Stevenson, professor, Pediatrics; Emory Teranishi, manager, Employee Relations, Stanford Hospital and Clinics; Carl Thoresen, professor emeritus, School of Education; and Russ Whiteford, staff affairs officer, Facilities Operations.


The Help Center website
( ) includes information about the Help Center, profiles of the staff, listings of upcoming workshops and groups, an extensive bibliography, links to campus and community resources, and educational information related to a number of common personal and workplace problems. We have an average of about 400 hits per month at the site. This year we also collaborated with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Deans for Religious Life to create the Stanford Grief and Loss Web Site, where faculty, staff and students can find grief and loss resources and create online memorials for deceased loved ones, colleagues and friends
( ).


During the 1999-2000 year, 2,546 faculty and staff utilized some aspect of the Help Center's services. This represents 15.6 percent of the entire population we serve, and is a 30 percent increase over last year's total utilization. Most of this increase is attributable to a sizable increase in the number of departmental outreach services we provided.


Overall Utilization

Activities # of Faculty & Staff

Counseling Cases 879

Support Groups (6) 40

Dept. Outreach (50) 1,195

Noon Workshops (16) 432

Total 2,546


Counseling Statistics

Cases opened

99/00 Population Utilization

Campus 422 5,803 7.3%

Medical School 122 2,826 4.3

SLAC 77 1,317 5.8

Hospitals 252 6,212 4.1


Menlo Medical (MMC) 6 160 3.8

Totals 879 16,318 5.4%


Campus/Medical School/SLAC SHC/LPCH/MMC


Native American 1.1% 2.2%

Black 7.5 6.2

Hispanic 10.1 15.2

Asian 7.2 7.3

White 74.1 69.1



Male 34% 19%

Female 66 81


Job Classifications

Professional 33% 18%

Administrative Associates 28 22

Faculty 11 3

Trade/Craft 9 4

Managers/Supervisors 7 3

Research/Teaching Asst. 7 2

Allied Health Professions 3 16

Nurses 1 28

Retired 1 1

Medical Residents 0 3


Presenting Problem

Adult Relationship 38% 40%

Work Related 27 18

Child Problems 13 13

Psychiatric Crisis 5 4

Substance Abuse 5 6

Medical Problems 4 5

Grief/Loss 3 5

Elder Issues 3 3

Post-Traumatic Stress 2 6

The counseling program, which is the primary focus of the Help Center's activities, had an intake of 879 clients, which is 5.4 percent of the overall population. Most clients are self-referred and in 7 percent of our cases this year a supervisor referred the employee to us. The average number of sessions per opened case is 3.3, though 10 sessions are available. Immediate family members and domestic partners are eligible for the benefit, but in 90 percent of our sessions the faculty or staff member is present, either individually or as part of a couple or family group.

In 169 of our cases (22 percent) we made referrals for clients who would benefit from specialized or longer-term assistance.

Type of Referral % of Total Referrals

Outpatient Psychotherapy 36%

Community or Campus Resource 25

Psychiatrist 14

Substance Abuse Treatment/

12 Step 14

Physician 10

Emergency Room/

Psych Hospitalization 1



The past year brought many significant organizational changes in the university and the hospitals. There are new people in several top leadership positions, and typically such transitions are accompanied by temporary increases in workplace stress. The number of clients reporting "work related" problems has risen somewhat from last year's figures. In the university it has gone up 8 percent, and in the hospital there has been a 3 percent increase. Pressure from the local economy has made hiring and retention critical topics to address. Faculty and staff in departments with unfilled positions experience an increased workload and the additional demands of the recruiting and interviewing process. For some, salaries that used to feel adequate now seem insufficient to keep up with the escalating cost of living in the Bay Area.

Individuals and families are feeling the pinch, and more and more clients are discussing these issues in counseling sessions. Housing costs are a frequent concern and have forced some employees to leave jobs at Stanford to move somewhere where they can buy a house. Clients going through divorce are finding the process especially challenging in that housing costs are prohibitive enough to make it impossible for many divorced parents to afford two homes in the local area. This issue can force unwanted job and geographic changes that make co-parenting much more difficult.

Seven percent of our clients are referred to the Help Center by their supervisors. For the most part, these are situations in which a supervisor notices an employee struggling with a personal issue, and recommends using our services for support. Occasionally there is the additional element of performance concerns that stem from that issue. Clients may arrive who are going through a probation or disciplinary action, with an understanding that the identified workplace problem needs to be remedied. The problem may be chemical dependence, anger outbursts, disrespectful interpersonal interaction, poor attendance or excessive conflict with coworkers. Participation in counseling is always voluntary, and quite often the confidential support and guidance is useful in helping these clients to better manage their stress, behavior and relationships. The Help Center also averages two phone calls per week from supervisors, human resource professionals and faculty leaders seeking consultation about challenging, confusing, worrisome or troubled individuals in their work environment. These consultations may result in referrals to the center or, in rare cases, other plans of action such as emergency interventions for threats of violence or suicide, psychotic episodes and domestic violence crises. In the past year we opened seven cases that involved issues related to potential violence at work and three that involved sexual harassment.


University and hospital employees who have health benefits also have coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment. The Help Center often assists people with understanding and accessing their mental health insurance. All university faculty and staff with benefits have United Behavioral Health (UBH) for mental health coverage in addition to coverage offered by their medical plan. The UBH coverage has been improved this year and now provides better options at lower cost than previously. SHC, LPCH and MMC employees have the mental health benefits that are included in the medical benefits plan they selected.


Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Menlo Medical Clinic have all experienced substantial organizational changes during the past year. The demise of the merger with UCSF and a lengthy, difficult nursing strike were the latest in a series of significant transitions for these organizations over the past several years. The resulting impact on the Help Center was an increase in the number of requests for interventions with employee groups. Help Center counselors presented a series of trainings on workplace communication topics, and also facilitated 30 of the re-entry groups for the 1,700 nurses who were returning to work following their strike. These re-entry groups were an innovative, collaborative project using facilitators from the Help Center, the Social Services departments of the hospitals and the Department of Psychiatry. The intent was to create a safe opportunity for small groups of nurses to discuss and process the numerous personal and professional issues and feelings related to this heated and lengthy strike. While this effort was not a panacea for healing the wounds left from the strike, most returning nurses actively participated in the meetings and expressed appreciation for the discussions.

It is interesting to note that under "Problem Categories" for hospital clients, job stress has increased somewhat as a presenting problem but is not as frequently reported as it is by the university clients. This is especially perplexing given the considerable organizational issues the hospitals have been dealing with this year. It may be the case that current hospital employees have developed good coping skills with regard to workplace stresses because medical institutions have been dealing with profound changes for the past several years. By far the most common concerns for hospital clients are relationship issues. We are developing ideas for providing additional programs to address these issues by offering noontime programs or classes that focus on adult relationships. We are expanding our office hours in the hospital and are seeking avenues to increase awareness of our services within the medical community.


Six small groups or classes were offered during the past year. These groups were attended by 40 faculty and staff and addressed workplace communication skills, writing productivity, cross-cultural communication (two groups), anger management and stress management. The groups ran from six to 10 sessions and usually incorporated an educational component as well as the opportunity for discussion with others who share similar concerns.


The Help Center responds to requests from departments to facilitate group discussion of staff problems or to present educational training on topics such as managing job stress during organizational change, communications skills on the job, dealing with anger, respect in the workplace and issues related to alcohol and drug addictions. For the first time we offered communication skills programs to postdoc groups in the Medical School, a population that can feel marginalized in the academic community. Requests also came in for programs focused on increasing cultural sensitivity among departmental groups. We also facilitated discussions with department groups where an employee had died. These sessions were very useful for helping individuals and groups with the adjustment and grief that follows such a loss. This year we provided outreach services to a total of 50 departmental groups at the university (24) and SHC/LPCH (26).


During the past year the Help Center sponsored 16 noon-hour workshops presented on campus, at SLAC and at the Medical Center, featuring invited speakers and members of the Help Center staff. Margy Lim and Kevin Carr coordinated this program and a total of 432 faculty and staff attended the talks, which addressed a broad range of work-related, psychological, family, health and social topics.

Whether the causes are workplace issues or personal problems, emotional and interpersonal struggles are inevitable for all of us. During difficult times, these stresses may emerge on the job in a number of ways. By providing confidential, professional counseling assistance, the Help Center offers a setting where Stanford faculty and staff can take time to focus attention on themselves and their professional and personal relationships. We appreciate the support we have received from many sources, and look forward to continuing to serve the Stanford community in the years ahead.