By Young Hoang, Ph.D.
National Social Work Appreciation Month, celebrated in March, is the annual celebration of the social work profession. This year’s theme, chosen by the National Association of Social Workers, was “Social Workers: Generations Strong.” The theme embodied the heroic work of the more than 600,000 social workers throughout the United States who have spent more than a century making society a better place to live. The social workers employed by the Department of State’s Office of Employee Consultation Services (ECS) are living proof of this. They remain strong in the forefront, servicing domestic and foreign affairs communities in times of need.
ECS staffs full- and part-time doctoral and master’s level clinicians. These independently licensed individuals play a vital role in supporting the Department’s workforce through several specialized programs that focus on a range of issues. For example, the Employee Assistance Program offers comprehensive counseling, psychoeducation, outreach, and resources for referral services. The Deployment Stress Management Program offers information, education, referral, assessment, and counseling for difficulties related to the stress of deployment, and the Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program supports those with substance use concerns through education and consultation, providing initial assessment and treatment referrals, case management for individuals already in treatment, and making recommendations to the Medical Clearances Office. Additionally, ECS coordinates with providers who are assisting families in resolving matters related to domestic violence and child abuse and neglect. Employees needing to curtail due to psychosocial stressors are also encouraged to consult with ECS providers for compassionate action consultations.
Through the establishment of monthly support groups in the Washington, D.C. area, ECS can reach a wider pool of employees to support the workforce in addressing matters related to cancer, divorce, eldercare, mental illness, mindfulness, and families of children with special needs. Upon request, the ECS team can be deployed to posts for crisis counseling and support. Collectively, ECS service providers impact thousands of individuals and families who turn to them for support year-round.
Providing support to the Department’s workforce and families is ECS’s top priority. The ECS team assists individuals, families, and groups to navigate a wide range of stressors to maximize positive outcomes. The staff take pride in their day-to-day work and exhibit an immense passion for making a tremendous positive difference in the lives of the Department’s employees.
“I have never worked with a team of professionals who are as competent, dedicated, passionate, and hard working as our ECS team of clinicians,” said Young Hoang, director of ECS. “They definitely play a vital role in sustaining the health and readiness of our Civil and Foreign Service workforce.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ECS has remained available and ready to lend support when needed. ECS offers free, confidential counseling resources for the Department’s direct hires and eligible family members who may need support coping with stress. Employees from other federal executive agencies under chief of mission authority may also access ECS services if their agencies’ respective employee assistance programs are unavailable.
To accommodate staff at posts overseas that are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, ECS has been offering 24/7 telephonic counseling services to support personnel. Evacuees or employees who are currently in the United States are invited to utilize ECS during normal business hours. Weekly online psychoeducation briefs to assist employees in managing COVID-19 stressors are also available. Employees can find more information about these briefs by searching Department notices. To schedule an appointment or for more information regarding ECS services, email MEDECS@state.gov or call 202-634-4874.
Young Hoang, Ph.D., is the director of the Office of Employee Consultation Services.