How to explain away regular time out for long-term therapy
August 5, 2015 12:46 PM   Subscribe

How do those of you in long-term therapy explain a regularly recurring absence during the work week without disclosing that you're in therapy?

I've been in therapy under our EAP (Employee Assisted Program) and shortly am coming up on the last free session (we get 8 a year). I would like to transition to long-term therapy with the excellent therapist I've been seeing. However, how do I explain the continued and recurring absence during the work day without disclosing I'm in therapy? I would like to do once a week sessions or once every two week sessions.

My current micro-managing manager, who is part of the reason I'm in therapy, has sent me emails related to my coming in late on mornings I have therapy (I usually get in around 10 on days I have therapy because my therapist only works 9-5 on weekdays) asking me if I'm sick / ok / etc / if we need to make a long term plan for coverage. She definitely notices the absences and I don't want her to know I'm in therapy or make up any lies about being sick or something. Note: I am working on changing my work situation, so this question isn't about that.

If you have a micro-managing manager who notices every second you are or aren't in the office, or an office atmosphere where a regular absence would be noticed, how have you handled being out for regular therapy in a long-term therapy situation where your therapist only works 9-5?

I am not willing to switch to a night appointments therapist as I was seeing one before and she was not effective. My current therapist, who only works 9-5, has been a really good fit and I'd like to continue the work I've started with her.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
"A personal issue precludes me from being in the office before 10 on [day]s. I do not miss any regularly occurring meetings or tasks on those mornings. Here is how I would like to adjust my work schedule to make up for it...."
posted by Etrigan at 12:49 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have said I have a regular medical appointment. Then, once in a while, I throw in comments about how my physio says this or my RMT says that or what-have-you. I most definitely have made up the time, though.

I don't know about where you live, but, where I live, employers aren't allowed to ask about medical appointments. However, it is legal and makes sense for employers to plan for coverage. If you are just not showing up without having disclosed you have a medical appointment, your manager has a right to be concerned. Many people work out late arrivals for all sorts of reasons. I would suggest just telling your manager you have a regular medical appointment.

I had one manager who outted my therapy session in front of other staff. She said I must go to therapy. I was pretty taken aback and I probably could have done something about it. She was so toxic overall that I quit, though.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:53 PM on August 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

I tell my work that I have a standing medical appointment on my days and times of therapy, and if they need verification in writing, I can provide it. That should be enough.
posted by xingcat at 12:59 PM on August 5, 2015 [9 favorites]

Email her (so you have documentation) and say you need to arrange to come in at 10 on Xdays. If she asks why - basically pressuring you to do the think you're trying to rely on social contract to not do - you'll have to point out you do not have to disclose why.

But the path of least resistance is to say you have physical therapy. It's indefinite, it can be long-term, it can be a thing you don't want to discuss in detail, and it doesn't have to have anything to do with your job duties. As long as you don't have a physical labor job this should suffice.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:06 PM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think saying you have a regular medical appointment is both a) true and b) discloses nothing. If the manager pushes for more information, it makes them looks like a jerk and you can feel free to react as if they are prying by saying something like, "I'd really not discuss it."
posted by zem at 1:11 PM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I think the "standing medical appointment" line will work best. I like that it's factual and relatively vague - and the word "medical" is great for discouraging further questions.

FWIW, I think the example Etrigan gave would not work especially well, at least in my workplace. It sounds a little...aggressive? Defensive? Here is what I would suggest:

Hi [Boss] - I'll need to come in at 10am on Wednesdays for a recurring medical appointment. Of course, I'll also work an hour later on those days to make up for the late start. I picked Wednesdays since we don't have standing meetings on those mornings and getting in late won't interfere with the weekly ACB reports I submit. Thanks for understanding and please let me know if you have any questions/concerns about my plan.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:28 PM on August 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

If you feel the need to be more specific, "physical therapy for an old injury that's flared up again" could easily be the sort of dull lie that doesn't encourage further questions.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Totally agree with schroedingersgirl's approach. Notwithstanding your general feelings about your manager, it doesn't seem like she's being particularly aggressive here, if unexcused late absences are indeed against office policy/culture. By the "coverage" question-- assuming that you don't have time-sensitive tasks and coverage is not actually an issue-- it sounds like she might be concerned that this is going to spiral into an extended leave of absence. Clarifying that it's a regular appointment will assuage those concerns.

Also, you didn't mention it, but in case you're not, you should definitely be making up the time if that is part of office policy/culture.
posted by acidic at 1:41 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

In my workplace, "PT" appears on a lot of calendars. Sometimes it really is for physical therapy, and sometimes PT is a harmless camouflage for another therapy flavor. It's pretty rarely spelled out as "PT for my achey achey knee", and most people are not going to press too hard once your absence is clearly a medical event. So unless your manager is aggressively nosy you probably won't even have to make up a lie about what the PT is for (your soul).
posted by janell at 1:55 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

"I have an ongoing serious health issue that requires me to attend regular medical appointments at 9am on Tuesdays. I am doing okay and it shouldn't impact my work as long as I keep my appointments. I would be happy to get HR the documentation if that's needed, but in order to minimize work on your end, I'm also happy to just flex that time. Let me know what you prefer."
posted by juniperesque at 1:59 PM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

E-mail to boss.

"Hi, Boss,

I have a standing medical appointment on Wednesday mornings which does not allow me to arrive in the office before 10 on Wednesdays. I have not missed any regularly scheduled meetings due to this appointment, and I also work an hour later on Wednesdays to make up the time. If you need written confirmation of these appointments, please let me know and I will have my doctor write up a verification. If you feel it is absolutely necessary that I be here by 9 on Wednesday mornings, please let me know and I will work with my doctor to determine an appointment time that is acceptable going forward; however please know that she only sees patients during regular business hours.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused in the past.

A. Nonymous Mefite"

If your boss persists in micromanaging, and does not abide by this e-mail's (very reasonable, in my opinion) suggestions, then get HR involved.
posted by tckma at 2:04 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

When I did this, I just went into my bosses office and said that I had weekly appointments for the foreseeable future and that everything was okay. [Smile] I also arranged to just work extra every day to make up for it.

Depending on your work culture I would maybe do an in-person then email to followup. I found it easier to calm my boss by having a smile on my face and proposing the solution to the inconvenience right away in person.

Also, I would NOT say it's a serious medical issue - I think that would just cause panic or more questions or concerns. Just flat out say you have appointments that you need to keep.

And unless I'm missing something major, your bosses response to you not being there until 10 multiple times is not an overreaction. They were concerned and wanted to see if you needed to make a plan for such absences in the future which seems like total normal manager behavior.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Is it possible to change your appointment to around lunch? Just "go for a late/early lunch" that day. If anyone asks why you were gone, just smile and say "I grabbed lunch and ran an errand". If anyone tries to schedule a meeting at that time, tell them you have a doctor's appointment, but that probably won't happen often enough to chart out some sort of recurring-ness.
posted by bookdragoness at 3:44 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just want to applaud you for doing this. I got a new job while in therapy and, rather than rock the boat on this topic, stopped going to therapy. I'm hoping to pick it back up once I've been on the job for a few more months but that was not the best decision I've ever made.
posted by kat518 at 3:45 PM on August 5, 2015

From the OP:
Thanks all for these replies. To give more info: we have a shared team appointments calendar on which we put medical appointments, and I have always recorded the times I'll be out, as well as sent out a note to a group email to the team and to my manager that I will be out for a Dr's appointment at those times. I routinely work 14-16 hours a day (I work at a big company in Silicon Valley so this is par for the course) so making the time up is not really an issue.

My boss has made a lot of comments about people being out for various other appointments disparagingly as if they're wasting the time's company and money or lying to her, which is part of my concern, this is part of my issue with her but as noted I am making steps to change my work situation so that is not part of this question. I'd just like to figure out the best way to handle it in the meantime if I already have it in writing and have been very transparent with team members already that I am out for a medical appointment regularly
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:04 PM on August 5, 2015

I go to therapy one a week and I have explicitly told my team "I have a recurring mandatory medical appointment every week at [date/time]. I have blocked off this time in my calendar but will always be available any other time to make up for it."

I also have my therapy appointment scheduled to be first thing in the morning so it really just feels like I'm working a later shift rather than disappearing in the middle of the day. I work for a big tech company as well, and nobody seems to bat an eye at me coming in late since tech people tend to, uh, not be early birds anyway.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:00 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

So, you are already following everyone's advice, you just need an answer to the specific questions.

Are you sick/ok? I've got a medical issue. I'm taking care of it and everything is under control.

Do we need a long term plan for coverage? I've got these appointments once a week at x - that should take care of things. if I need anything else, I'll let you know.

What's wrong? I like to be private about my medical stuff but thanks for asking. (change subject)
posted by metahawk at 5:56 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Act like you own this. Seriously, the more casual you are the weirder people will feel for caring. I say "oh, I have an appointment on Tuesdays," in the same casual tone of voice as "oh, my car's parked over there." And this sounds weird, but if your boss questions you or your schedule, reply as though she was offering to contact HR and your team for you: "Oh, it's fine, I cleared it with HR and my schedule's fine. The team knows so we're good. Thanks!" Same tone of voice as "Oh, the mailman just needed me to sign a package."

Also, at my old job, once I had a regular standing appointment I put it in my calendar and stopped emailing everyone weekly. I may as well have made the subject of email TIME FOR THERAPY SEE YOU SOON.
posted by good lorneing at 7:19 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Is it possible for you to do one of the following: (a) change the time you go to the appointment, or (b) do phone appointments at least some of the time? I do phone appointments during my lunch hour (and take lunch at 11) to get away with it at work. (I'm not at all sure how well it would go to claim it's a medical issue or if I'd use up a lot of sick/vacation time to do this, so it's "lunch" for me.) Once in a while I have an in person appointment and end up being out of the office longer, but so far I haven't gotten busted for that yet.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:48 PM on August 5, 2015

If you're getting services through your company's EAP program, your therapist (or the program administrator) may know what a good response to your boss may be. There may be policies in place that indicate that it's appropriate use of your time, that do not give away that you're receiving a particular service (or any EAP service.)
posted by vitabellosi at 12:32 PM on August 6, 2015

if you ever need another plausible excuse such as physical therapy - allergy shots are also something that require continual visits.
posted by threesquare at 3:42 PM on August 6, 2015

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