The University Record, January 21, 2002

Assistance program reaches out

By Lesley Harding

Many people start out the New Year with the resolve to get fit, stop smoking or get a handle on personal problems. One place staff and faculty can turn to help deal with some tough issues is the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.

“This is a resource to help people with personal and emotional issues in their lives,” says Tom Waldecker, manager of the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FASAP). “Many of us, at times, have a hard time separating our personal lives from our work lives and sometimes personal issues can affect our work life. This is a program designed to assist staff and faculty and lead to a healthier University community.”

The program has existed at the U-M since the 1970s but in the last couple of years it has expanded its services to offer more problem resolution and short-term counseling.

“Many people don’t need a therapist,” says Waldecker, “just a sounding board— someone to talk to.” The Faculty and Staff Assistance Program offers one-on-one, confidential sessions. After visiting the FASAP center or meeting with a counselor, Waldecker says more than half of those using the program do not need a referral for psychotherapy or other services.

Located in the Administrative Services Building at Hoover and Greene Streets, there are five professional counselors who see an average of 600 new faculty and staff members each year. Waldecker says most people use the program to tackle relationship issues, whether with a spouse, partner, teenager or other family member, and to get help with emotional issues such as depression, stress, anxiety and grief.

“After Sept. 11, we’ve seen an increase in business,” says Waldecker. “People are coming in with a general sense of anxiety and more emotional issues than before.”

The program is free to all staff and faculty and their immediate family members. “The nice thing about the program is they don’t need to access their insurance company to get someone to talk to,” says Waldecker. It’s also completely confidential. Information is never released to a spouse, friend or supervisor, without the person’s explicit written permission of the individual. Waldecker encourages people to call and make appointments rather than dropping in the office so that confidentiality can be strictly maintained.

During the last year, FASAP surveyed those who had used the program and 97 percent said they would recommend the services to others.

If a staff or faculty member is not comfortable seeing one of the counselors at the program, Waldecker says they still can assist in locating an appropriate community counselor and help them navigate which providers are covered by each insurance plan offered by the University.

FASAP also offers departmental brown bag luncheons and other education presentations on emotional health issues. Several times a month, counselors will present free talks on stress management, creative thinking and other topics to organizations within the University.

For more information on the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program or to take a free, online, self-screening assessment test for depression, anxiety, and other emotional and mental health issues, visit its Web site at www.umich.edu/~fasap. To make an appointment, call (734) 936-8660. Counselors are available 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri. and Monday evenings at the main location in the Administrative Services Building, and by appointment in Bursley Hall on North Campus or at the Health Services Building on Fletcher Street.

Those employed at the University Hospital can contact the MWorks Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at (734) 763-5409. The MWorks EAP, which provides services similar to those in the FASAP program, now is located in the U-M Hospital.