Asking for Time off Work to Attend a Counselling Session

Asking for Time off Work to Attend a Counselling Session

Self-care is an important component in keeping good health. We, as a society, often emphasize taking care of our physical health. We eat organic. We go to the gym. We call up our doctor when we’re feeling ill. But what about our mental health? When using a holistic approach to our well-being, we can see that taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health. Our mental health is an important component in our overall wellness and should be incorporated into our practice of self-care.

So, why is our mental health so important and why should it be incorporated into our self-care regimen?

Keeping care of our mood means increasing our quality of life, it strengthens our ability to develop healthy relationships, make good life choices, discover and grow our potential and it improves our performance at work; “Mental health is associated with higher productivity, better performance, more consistent work attendance, and fewer workplace accidents” (Rhode Island Psychological Association, 2014). Simply put, we work most efficiently when we’re feeling at our best – physically and mentally!  Self-care for our mental health may include taking time to work in our gardens, writing in a journal, attending a yoga class or missing an hour of work to attend a weekly counselling session. While we can often find time to miss work for a medical doctor’s appointment, there is often anxiety around asking a supervisor for time off to attend a counselling session.

Here are some tips to make the conversation a little easier:

1. Talk to your EAP or Union.

This should be the first step in the process of seeking time off work as an EAP or Union Rep. can be a liaison between you and your supervisor. Advocating for your well-being is their job!  Having support in your counselling journey, financial and otherwise, can be an important component to limiting anxiety around taking time off. However, not all employees are covere under a Union, and a number of companies may not provide an EAP. In this case, try using the tips below to make the conversation with your supervisor a little easer.

2. Address your request as if it were an appointment made for your physical health.

If we take caring for ourselves seriously, then our mental health should be a priority. Treat your mental health like your physical health. Plus, keeping mentally healthy could even improve our physical health!

3. Don’t be specific.

Your mental health is your business. Don’t feel inclined to share the details of your counselling sessions. Your supervisor shouldn’t ask the details of your visits, but if they do, use broad strokes to explain your reasons for attending. Help your supervisor to understand that maintaining your mental health is an important component to your well-being and attending your sessions is a necessary step to keeping healthy. If you feel uncomfortable revealing the nature of your appointment, simply explain that you have a personal appointment and leave it at that – that is all the information that your supervisor needs to know.

4. Make your appointments routine.

If you’re visiting a counsellor regularly, try to book your appointments for the same time every week. This simplifies the scheduling process and rules out the anxiety of having to ask for different hours off every week, every other week, or whenever you decide to attend a counselling session.

5. Be polite, but be assertive.

Always use a respectful tone, but maintain your position on the importance of taking this time off to care for your health. Depending on your workplace, you can usually start by e-mailing your request electronically. This allows you to take the time to word you request in a way that you feel comfortable with.  It’s okay to ask for time off work to attend a counselling session. Our mental health may depend on it, and because it affects our quality of life as well as our quality of work, it’s okay to make these appointments priority!

Rhode Island Psychological Association. (2014).Importance of Mental Health. Retrieved from

Need help navigating requests to see a counsellor, please contact me and we can work together to develop a plan.