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Social work help available

Stresses caused by problems at home, early-retirement departures or reengineering can sometimes result in impaired job performance and a greater demand for counseling/social-work services. That help is available to any member of the MIT community and their families, even if they aren't enrolled in an MIT health plan, said Ronald Fleming, chief of social work services in the Medical Department.

As a result of the hundreds of people retiring this year from MIT, "thousands of relationships are being disrupted, people are moving around and work is changing," Mr. Fleming noted. "Even good change is stressful, and we're dealing as a community with a lot of change right now."

One of MIT's resources is the Personal Assistance Plan, a program for employees who are having difficulties in performing their jobs that are caused by a personal or family problem. Some employees are referred by their supervisor and others are self-referred, but in any case, participation in the program-which is observing its eighteenth anniversary this month-is entirely voluntary, confidential and free of charge, Mr. Fleming emphasized.

Mr. Fleming meets with the employee (coordinated with the supervisor, if necessary) to come up with a plan for resolving both personal and professional problems. "If you fix the personal problem but they lose their job, you've only partially succeeded," he said. Paradoxically, referrals often drop in times of uncertainty because "nobody wants to look vulnerable; they're hunkering down." However, all counseling services are completely confidential, he noted. Also available is group counseling to help deal with the death of a co-worker or other workplace crises.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 11, 1996.

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