Faculty Staff Assistance Program

Hours and Contact

  • Hours
  • M - F: 8:00am - 4:00pm


The Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) is an assessment, referral, coaching, consultation and short-term counseling service available to all full and part-time employees of the University of Maryland.  Since 1988, we have worked with thousands of employees to address a variety of work-related conflicts and personal issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship and family conflicts, as well as medical, legal and financial concerns.  Though many of our services are provided in-house we can also make community referrals utilizing your health insurance. Our services are provided at no cost and are confidential. We are located in the Health Center.

Before You Visit

FSAP schedules their own appointments and will do their very best to get you in as quickly as possible. For scheduling, please contact Tom Ruggieri at (301) 314-8170 or Joan Bellsey at (301) 314-8099

Prior to your visit, please read over our Notice of Privacy Practices and complete our Consent, Assignment of Benefits and Financial Responsibility Agreement.  

Meet The FSAP Staff

Tom Ruggieri

Picture of Tom RuggieriTom became the Coordinator of the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) in 1988. This was a return home as he had graduated with a B.S. from College Park in 1980 and was raised close by in Hyattsville. Tom has been in the mental health and substance abuse fields since 1977, having worked in a variety of settings, including crisis centers, adolescent group homes, hospitals, family counseling centers, and substance abuse units. Tom received his Masters in Social Work from the University of Maryland Baltimore in 1984. Since then, he has provided employee assistance program consulting services to a variety of organizations, both nationally and internationally. Prior to his work at UMD, he was a manager for the Sheppard Pratt Employee Assistance Programs.

"People often ask me why I do this kind of work, listening to people complain and present difficult situations all day long. What they do not realize is how fulfilling it is to see people pull themselves up and out of what appears to them to be an impossible situation. It is also the only job that I can think of where people come in and are totally honest with you about some very personal aspects of their lives. I consider that to be an honor, to have people place that kind of trust in me."

Tom is married and the father of three grown children. 

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Joan Bellsey

Joan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Addictions Counselor. She joined the FSAP staff in January, 2000. Prior to coming to UMD, Joan was the Senior Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Counselor for the US Postal Service Headquarters. She has been in the field since 1990, providing EAP services to Housing and Urban Development, the Security and Exchange Commission, the Pentagon, and the Office of Patent and Trademark. Joan received her Master of Social Work from the University of Maryland at Baltimore in 1991. She has worked as a clinical social worker for the Washington Home and Hospice and has provided substance abuse supervision for the Whitman Walker Clinic. Joan has a private practice in MD and DC.

"I love the idea of providing counseling to employees and their families in a University setting. There are so many opportunities to help people cope with change in this dynamic environment. I am excited to be part of this university, using my clinical skills to help the faculty and staff ".

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About the Faculty Staff Assistance Program

About the Faculty Staff Assistance Program

The Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) has been in existence on the College Park campus since 1984. The FSAP became a full-time program in 1988 and since then we have seen over 5,000 employees (including hundreds of their family members) for a variety of problem areas, including job difficulties; alcohol and drug problems; marital and family problems; emotional distress (anxiety, depression, stress-related disorders, etc.); legal, financial and a variety of other concerns.

The FSAP is available to meet with all full and part-time employees for assessment, referral and in many instances, short-term counseling services at no cost. Employees tend to use the program for an average of three visits, although we are able to work with employees for up to 10 sessions. When referrals are made, attention is paid to the employee's ability to afford such services, the location of the provider and the provider's area of expertise. We also help employees weave their way through the maze of managed care and insurance providers, ensuring that you receive the best services available. In many cases when an employee cannot afford to seek help outside of the University, the FSAP will often provide the service here on campus.

We are aware of the sensitive nature of all communications with employees and are extremely careful about honoring every employee's right to confidentiality. We understand that no one would use the FSAP if they did not trust that the information shared with the counselors stayed in our offices and we work hard to assure employees that this trust will remain. In cases where communications need to be shared with a supervisor, they can only occur if an employee signs a consent form, specifically stating what information can be shared, with whom, and for how long a period of time.

We are also available to consult with supervisors & department heads regarding how to best handle a difficult employee or a difficult situation at work. Guidance is provided on how to best refer an employee to the FSAP, with an emphasis on early intervention and attention to the problems. Coaching is also provided to managers on how they can best work with their employees. This approach is one that usually is successful in allowing departments to hang on to valued faculty and staff. 

The FSAP's Emergency Loan Fund (FSAP-ELF) assists UMCP faculty and staff members who are experiencing a personal financial emergency and have exhausted all other avenues of support. For more information about applying for an emergency loan or contributing to the loan fund, call 314-8170 or 314-8099 or read more about it under ELF.

FSAP Counselors are also available to provide presentations on a variety of topics including Managing Stress; Supervising the Hard to Reach Employee; Negotiating Conflict; Coping with Change; Interventions for Substance Abusing Employees and Family Members; Building Boundaries and Saying No.. Counselors are also available to meet with departments for a debriefing following a death or other traumatic event.

Emergency Loan Fund

What is the Emergency Loan Fund (ELF)

The FSAP Emergency Loan Fund (ELF) is available to assist faculty and staff who are experiencing a personal financial emergency and have exhausted all other avenues of support. A loan of up to $1,500 can be provided to a legitimate creditor to pay for rent/mortgage, utilities, car repairs, funeral expenses, etc. Employees have up to six months to repay the loan.

Who Is Eligible to Receive a Loan?

All active full-time and part-time faculty and staff are eligible provided that they:

  • are in good standing;
  • have a minimum of six months or more successful employment
  • have a personal emergency as defined by the FSAP-ELF policy guidelines;
  • can provide evidence that all other avenues of assistance have been pursued;
  • show an ability to pay back the loan;
  • are willing to consider the recommendations of an FSAP Counselor to utilize other financial resources and/or financial counseling services; and
  • have paid back all previous ELF loans for one year, and any other departmental loans.
  • loan recipients who paid off a previous loan through the State Central Collections Unit (SCCU) are not eligible for another loan.

What types of Financial Crises are Appropriate for an Emergency Loan?

The fund is designed to address unexpected financial emergencies. Examples are:

  • a death in the family where an employee must travel some distance to attend the funeral;
  • emergency health care that cannot be initiated without pre-payment;
  • emergency automobile repair when the employee has no other means to get to work; or
  • an impending eviction due to rent not being paid.

How are Loans Repaid?

Loans must be repaid directly to the Bursar every pay period. The employee has to provide a checking account and routing number so that the repayment amounts can be taken directly from their checking account every pay period. No checks or money orders have to be sent, as this will be an automatic deduction. Any delinquent payments are eventually turned over to the State Central Collections Unit and assessed an additional 17% fee. The university is allowed to garnish a paycheck to satisfy the debt, so it is important to be certain that the loan can be repaid.

How Does One Apply for a Loan?

There are several ways to do this. You can come by the Health Center to pick up an application. Or you can see the APPLICATIONJust print the form and fill in the appropriate sections. Then call either Joan Bellsey (301) 314-8099 or Tom Ruggieri (301) 314-8170 to set up an appointment to review the form. When money is available and all criteria are met, loans can usually be provided within 48 hours.

How Confidential is the Loan Application Process?

Because the check is issued by the University and repayments are collected by the Bursar's Office, it is impossible to make the entire process totally confidential, however, every effort is made to preserve an individual's confidentiality.

How Can I Contribute to the ELF?

The FSAP Emergency Loan Fund is entirely dependent on contributions from the University of Maryland campus community. Contributions are welcome and can be made through the University of Maryland Foundation (www.umcpf.org).

Contributions can be made by sending a check made out to the FSAP Emergency Loan Fund and you can put this account number in the Memo section: 21-20721.  Checks can be sent to:

Angelica I. Guizado,

Incoming Contributions Manager

Office of Gift Acceptance

4603 Calvert Road College Park, MD 20740

Phone: 301-955-1280


Any questions about donations can be addressed to Angelica Guizado at (301) 955-1280 or aguizado@umd.edu.  Another way to make a significant contribution is to support the fund by word of mouth, talking about it amongst your colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends.

Gifts in support of the University of Maryland are accepted and managed by the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, Inc., an affiliated 501(c)(30) organization authorized by the Board of Regents. Contributions to the University of Maryland are tax-deductible as allowed by law. Please see your tax advisor for details.

Confronting Substance Abuse

Use, Abuse & Dependence: How are They Different?

person sitting near large window reading a bookWhat is the difference between someone using alcohol and drugs, abusing them and being dependent on them? People throughout recorded history have always found a way to chemically escape the routine of day-to-day life, or to seek an altered state of consciousness. To expect that we will ever completely wipe out this desire is foolish. However, there are customs, traditions and laws that attempt to govern the use of substances so that a minimum of harm is brought to individuals and society. As with most individual decisions about things that can potentially bring us harm, free will is an important component of one's decision to use alcohol and drugs.

Because of the anesthetic properties of alcohol and drugs, they often become an easy target for abuse by someone who may be experiencing emotional and psychological difficulties. This does not necessarily mean that the individual is dependent on them. It could be a time limited abuse pattern that may or may not disappear whenever the difficulties are behind him/her. Abuse can often occur developmentally, i.e. as a way of fitting in during adolescence, or a means of easing some of the difficult challenges that growing up often provides. An example of this is often seen on college campuses where a style of drinking alcohol may be considered "alcoholic drinking", yet once the students are out of that setting, they find that they can give up drinking altogether, or cut down on their drinking behavior considerably without any difficulty. This would be seen as a temporary pattern of abuse. Can abuse lead to dependence? I believe so. I have seen this happen many times, even when there does not appear to be a family history of alcoholism.

Substance dependence is defined in the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual (DSM-IV) as a pattern of substance use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three or more of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12 month period:

  1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

    1. a need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect

    2. markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance

  2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

    1. the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for that particular substance (e.g. with alcohol withdrawal: sweating or pulse rate greater than 100, increased hand tremor, nausea or vomiting, anxiety, seizures, hallucinations, etc.)

    2. the same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms

  3. the substance is often taken in large amounts or over a longer period than was intended

  4. there is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use

  5. a great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance (e.g. visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances) use the substance (e.g. chain smoking), or recover from its effects

  6. important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use

  7. the substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (e.g. continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption)

Because denial is always one of the largest symptoms of substance abuse, it is almost impossible for someone who is physically dependent to self-diagnose. Most substance abusers will only get help because they have to. And the three biggest reasons are pressure from family (threat of separation or divorce), employer (threat of job loss) and/or the courts (DWI).

How Can I Talk to Someone I Supervise about His/Her Substance Abuse Problem?

older photo of the health centerWithout a doubt, this is always one of the most difficult aspects of being a supervisor, so much so, that most supervisors ignore the problem when it appears and hope that it will go away all by itself. Forget it, substance abuse problems only get worse and it is your responsibility to address them. How? First of all, don't try going it alone - it is usually too difficult. Always call the FSAP (x48170 or x48099) to get some support and input as to how to best address the problem with your employee/co-worker/family member. In the meantime, consider these points:

  • Always deal directly with the employee in a face-to-face meeting. Keep the meeting both private and confidential. This includes typing your own memos rather than allowing someone else to do it.
  • Treat the employee with respect. Most supervisors are very angry by the time they are ready to speak with the employee. Try to not allow your anger to cloud the issue or to treat the employee disrespectfully.
  • Stay relaxed and non-judgmental. Focus on job performance deterioration. Prepare ahead of time by documenting specifics. Do not talk in generalities. Be able to backup your concerns. DO NOT FOCUS ON YOUR SUSPICION OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE.
  • Avoid threats of discipline unless you are prepared to carry them out - substance abusers will always know when you are bluffing. They will not change unless they absolutely have to - and that is only when they know that you mean business.

It is rare that an employee will follow through with your recommendations to go to the FSAP the first time around.  Here are some tips for overcoming barriers that may arise when addressing an employee's performance problems:

Denial: The worker denies there's a problem, and insists that you or another employee are out to get him/her. Suggested response: Stay calm. Keep at hand documentation of the employee's job performance or conduct, remain focused on performance issues, even though they may want to talk about personal issues that are causing the performance issues.

Threats: The employee threatens to see a lawyer, make a scene at work, quit immediately. Suggested response: Remind the employee that he/she may do whatever they choose; however, your own responsibility as supervisor is to uphold the university's policy and find a solution to mutually benefit the organization and the employee. If you think you are losing objectivity or need help to resolve a conflict, ask another supervisor or manager for help.

Rationalization: The employee makes excuses in order to avoid the real issue: "If this job wasn't so stressful, I wouldn't be making so many mistakes..." Suggested response: Avoid letting the excuses distract you; stay focused on work performance, let the person know help is available by calling the FSAP.

Angry Outburst: The employee gets angry, cries, yells or screams-to scare you off and make you drop the issue. Suggested response: Don't react. Give the employee time to cool down, then continue where you left off. If necessary, reschedule the meeting.

Allow this thought to motivate you: over 85% of alcoholics get better when they are confronted by their supervisor at work and are sent to the FSAP. You will not only have a more productive employee but you may have saved a life.

What Do I Do When An Employee is Under the Influence at Work?

When a supervisor suspects that an employee is currently unfit for duty, immediate referral for medical evaluation according to the guidelines below is the appropriate action. It is always better to refer the employee when you detect the problem, rather than after he/she has returned the following day.

When an employee does not appear to be fit for duty, the supervisor should immediately inquire about his/her physical condition but should be aware that physical symptoms usually related to alcohol/drug use may apply to other health problems as well. If, in the opinion of the supervisor the employee is currently unfit-for-duty, he/she should take the following steps:

  1. If the employee appears unfit-for-duty, first call Staff Relations at (301) 405-0001.  They can advise you as to whether or not the employee should be driven to the Health Center (or to the hospital or Campus Police when the Health Center is closed) for a fitness-for-duty evaluation. If the employee refuses to go to the Health Center or the hospital, contact a family member to make arrangements for the employee to be picked up from work. DO NOT ALLOW THE EMPLOYEE TO DRIVE. Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary to call an ambulance or the police (x53333).

  2. It is helpful if you alert the Health Center before bringing the employee. You may contact either Mr. Tom Ruggieri (x48170) or the Appointments Desk at 301-314-8184.

  3. After conducting a physical examination, the Health Center physician will inform the supervisor of whether the employee is:

    1. able to return to work

    2. is being detained in the Health Center for bed-rest or some other time-consuming treatment

    3. has been referred directly from the Health Center to an outside medical facility or

    4. has been advised to go home.

  4. If the employee is being required to go home, it becomes the responsibility of the supervisor, not the Health Center, to make sure that arrangements are made for the employee to make it home. He/she should not be allowed to drive or take a bus home. Ideally, if a family member can pick him/her up, that would be preferable. If no other means of transporting him/her home is available, call the campus police. Supervisors transporting an intoxicated employee home would be the absolute last choice.

  5. When the employee has been advised to go home, the Health Center physician cannot divulge the reason why, but can only tell you that the employee is unfit for duty. When that occurs and the immediate problem of getting him/her home safely and away from others is solved, it is important to then address whatever disciplinary action and counseling needs are necessary.

  6. Whether and how an employee is disciplined for being unfit-for-duty varies from one department to another. The Staff Relations Department (x55651) will be able to advise on this matter.

  7. It is extremely important that the supervisor follow-up with the employee by talking with him/her directly about reporting to work unfit-for-duty and referring him/her to the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at x48170 or x48099.

  8. If the employee is sent home, a follow-up visit will be scheduled with the FSAP Counselor and a return-to-duty evaluation must be conducted at the Health Center before the employee is allowed to return to work.

Addressing Faculty Alcoholism

picture of a Cherry Blosson TreeIt is important to provide a working definition of alcoholism in order to understand the complex problem of what to do about it in the faculty ranks. Alcoholism can be seen as drinking that contributes to a continuing problem in any area of an individual's life and that the drinker seems unable to control through the normal exercise of will (Donovan, 1990). Employee assistance programs (EAP's) are ideally suited to address problems of alcoholism in universities with a majority of the workforce, i.e. the non-academic employees. In fact, over 500 Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) clients have been evaluated and referred for treatment for alcoholism and drug abuse since 1988. A very small minority have been faculty.

This is a rather common phenomenon on most campuses throughout the country. The problems of identifying and treating alcoholic professors has been well documented (Donovan,1990; Thoreson, 1983; Roman, 1980). The rate of alcoholism amongst professors appears to be no greater or no less than other populations. The difference, however, is that most alcoholic faculty are able to drink in a dependent fashion with fewer adverse social and occupational consequences. In " The Professor at Risk: Alcohol Abuse in Academe" Thoreson explains that professors "... work in an environment of low supervision, low visibility of performance, freedom from time demands, and vaguely defined and non-enforced standards of performance, a veritable Mecca for both scholarship and alcohol abuse." What makes referring an impaired faculty member for counseling different from referring anyone else is the lesser amount of leverage that most department chairs feel they have.

Paul Roman further identifies four barriers to identifying alcoholic faculty members:

  1. a paucity of success in the measurement of academic performance;

  2. guild-like protection of faculty;

  3. a limited distance between faculty and their "supervisors";

  4. minimal agreement on what constitutes good performance.

Without good performance indicators available to department chairs, the idea of confronting a colleague about a problem that most people see as "personal and none of your business" becomes unthinkable.

The irony in all of this is that more alcoholics have recovered as a result of pressure from the workplace than any other way. It has been demonstrated that most alcoholics will leave their homes and families five years before they leave their jobs.

When alcoholism has reached a point where all activities are scheduled around drinking, families often become an inconvenience. A separation or divorce also fits into an alcoholic's defensive way of perceiving all of his/her problems as attributable to his/her spouse. Losing a job, on the other hand, is a harder reality to brush away. Most alcoholics are willing to do anything to prevent that from happening. Sometimes, even getting sober.

The one rule of thumb that is most important when confronting faculty members about their drinking is to not mention your suspicions about whether or not you think they are alcoholic. You are not in a position to evaluate that. Simply put, your job is to evaluate their performance and to do whatever you can to urge them to get help. Once they have taken that step, an evaluation of their drinking can be done in a confidential setting through the FSAP, without the department chair knowing the results of that evaluation. Most people will feel more comfortable with that arrangement than having to be honest about their drinking with someone that could make life difficult for them. The referred professor is almost always encouraged by the FSAP staff to sign a consent form allowing discussion between him or her and the referring chair. In most cases, faculty will agree to do this, especially when they are aware that the chair is supportive of their recovery.

Understanding that the role of the department chair is not one of a diagnostician, there are still some performance indicators that one can look out for. Richard Thoreson, the Employee Assistance Program Director at the University of Missouri, has identified the following characteristics:

  1. A narrowing of job performance. The academic alcoholic performs as well as he or she did in previous years, only in a much narrower domain.

  2. Work task simplification. The quality of work is still relatively high, but the tasks completed are pedestrian in nature.

  3. Dependence on past learning. Remote memory for the academic alcoholic is intact, but short-term memory for current events is impaired. Thus, lectures tend to focus on problems and theories that were popular during the "early days" of the academic's career.

  4. Student Complaints. Complaints by students about teachers are legion. In the instance of alcoholism, however, student complaints will focus on the professors' arrogance, confusion and outdated lectures.

  5. Irregular or non-existent office hours. Regrettably, the tendency toward outdated lectures and irregular office hours is sometimes all too common and consequently, cannot always be seen in isolation as an indicator of alcoholism.

  6. A surprising gaffe or departure from high performance. An example of this would be a professor who blacks out and forgets to give his final examination.

  7. Increased obsession (and reduced efficiency) with work to the exclusion of all other activities. Though it is difficult to distinguish this work obsession from normal obsessive behavior of executive professional types, an accompanying lack of efficiency may help to differentiate it.

  8. Chronic, free-floating anxiety and low self-esteem seem common to virtually all such alcoholics. The external appearance of normalcy and competence is maintained at a price of internal squalor.picture of some flowers in a greenhouse

  9. A greater emphasis on telephone contact to the neglect of face-to-face conversation.

  10. Meticulous attention to dress (in the middle stages) and neglect of appearance and dress (in the later stages).

  11. Physical signs, serious accidents, injury and health problems. In the more advanced stages there will be cigarette burns on clothing, bruises, facial varices, cuts, gross tremors, serious accidents, injury and health problems.

These signs and symptoms are a general indicator of what you may see in an alcoholic faculty member. Be careful not to see any one of these in isolation as "proof." Confronting an academic alcoholic is never easy and something you should not go into alone. While there are some similarities, it is important to look at every situation differently. Calling the FSAP counselor to help you to prepare for a confrontation is advised.

Legal Considerations

There are two legal considerations that I am aware of that affect substance abusing faculty members. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (later amended as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) has always viewed alcoholism as a handicap and, as such, is entitled to a “reasonable accommodation.” In the past, a reasonable accommodation was always seen as a referral to an employee assistance program. There is some confusion over the new Americans with Disabilities Act and we may not know the status of this until a test case emerges. It would appear to be safe, however, to always err in the direction of providing help rather than ignoring the problem. Our legal department would certainly be in a better position to advise in this area.

The second legal consideration involves the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, an executive order initiated by then Governor Schaefer. Among other things, this Act requires specific actions to be taken for all employees convicted of any on or off-the-workplace alcohol driving offense:

  1. On the first conviction, the employee is to be referred to the FSAP, and in addition, is subject to any other appropriate disciplinary actions;

  2. On the second conviction, at a minimum, be suspended for at least 5 days, be referred to the FSAP, be required to participate successfully in a treatment program, and in addition, be subject to any other appropriate disciplinary actions, up to and including termination;

  3. On the third conviction, be terminated.

The number of alcohol-related convictions is counted from when the Drug-Free Workplace Act was actually implemented, i.e. 1989.

While convincing a faculty member that their drinking is problematic can be extremely difficult, knowing exactly where to send that individual for help can sometimes be just as complicated. The network of referrals that the FSAP utilizes is, in many ways, the core of the program. Utilizing the referral network encompasses the “managed health” portion of the FSAP in that employees are referred to a facility or practitioner based on their clinical needs; their “readiness” to begin addressing their problem; confidentiality; and cost considerations.

When an alcoholic client decides to meet with an FSAP counselor, there are a variety of levels of denial that he/she has about his or her own drinking. If we are lucky, he or she is able to accept it as a problem and is willing to do whatever it takes to address it. This makes our range of referrals that much more varied. On the other hand, an alcoholic academic may still need to be convinced that his or her drinking is problematic, and may only be willing to participate in treatment on a very limited basis, if at all.

Second, confidentiality plays a major role in where and how an individual will accept treatment. Being able to utilize facilities outside of the immediate geographical area insures confidentiality to someone who sees that as paramount. Being away from work for a month or so is oftentimes not an option, even though the clinical need for such a treatment may be indicated. An alternative for this individual might be a treatment program that allows him or her to stay at work every day and receive treatment in the evenings, after work. The range of treatment options used by the FSAP includes: inpatient treatment; short-term intensive treatment (meet every day after work for 5 or 6 weeks); less intensive outpatient treatment (2 to 3 nights per week); participation in Alcoholics Anonymous; meeting with an individual counselor who is knowledgeable in addictions (especially for those who are not ready to participate in groups); and ongoing follow-up with the FSAP counselor. There are a variety of treatment programs for each one of the above options. Choosing the right program for each individual is dependent on many variables. The FSAP is in a position to evaluate these programs and make recommendations based on the needs of the client.

The final consideration in making referrals is cost. In most cases, we work with the health insurance program to which the client belongs.. For a complete list of mental health and substance abuse coverage for individual plans, contact the FSAP or the Human Resources Benefits Office (301-405-5654).

Once treatment has ended and the client returns to work, the FSAP counselor is available to meet with the recovering faculty member on an as-needed basis to address any on-going concerns in relation to his or her recovery. Ongoing communication with the referring department chair in reference to the professor's performance at work is always helpful.

How Do I Know if My Child is Using Alcohol and Drugs?

This is a common question that we hear at the FSAP. Every situation is different and we are glad to meet with you and your child to help provide an accurate assessment of the situation.

“Most teenagers will have some experience with alcohol and other drugs. Most will experiment and stop, or continue to use casually without significant problems. Some will use regularly, with varying degrees of physical, emotional and social problems. Some will develop a dependency and be destructive to themselves and others for many years. Some will die, and some will cause others to die.”

Some people grow out of their use of alcohol and other drugs. But since there is no certain way to predict which teenagers will develop serious problems, all use should be considered dangerous. Saying no is often part of the solution, but "just saying no” is seldom enough.

Some teenagers are more at risk than others to develop alcohol and other drug-related problems. Highest on the list are those teenagers with a family history of Substance Abuse problems. Legally available products include alcohol (over 21) and tobacco (over a certain age),prescribed medications, inhalants and over-the-counter cough, cold, sleep and diet medications. Illegal drugs include marijuana, cocaine/crack, LSD, PCP, opioids, heroin and “designer drugs.”

Those who begin to smoke or drink during their early teens are at particularly high risk. These substances (nicotine and alcohol) are the typical "gateway drugs" which lead first to marijuana, and then to other illegal drugs. Most adolescents continue using the earlier drugs as they begin using still others. Warning signs of teenage drug abuse may include:

Physical: lasting fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and dull eyes, and a steady cough.

Emotional: personality change, sudden mood changes, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, depression, and a general lack of interest.

School: drop in grades, many absences, discipline problems.

Social problems: new friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities, scrapes with the law, and changes to less conventional styles in dress and music.

Some of the warning signs listed above can also be signs of other problems. Parents may recognize signs of trouble but should not be expected to make the diagnosis. An effective way for parents to show care and concern for their teenager is to honestly discuss the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs with them.

Consulting a physician to rule out physical causes of the warning signs is a good first step. This should often be followed or accompanied by a comprehensive evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist or licensed substance abuse counselor, psychologist or social worker.

How To Be a Great Supervisor

How To Be a Great Supervisor

Consulting with deans, departments heads and supervisors is a large part of our job at FSAP.  20% of our referrals come from someone in a supervisory position who has referred a UMCP employee for personal and/or work related problems. There are some supervisory approaches that we have seen to be successful.

The following are tips, some of which were generously borrowed from Dr. Elliott Jaffa, which describe characteristics of great managers. We chose these because they make sense to us based on the kinds of situations we have seen at UMD and the effectiveness that these approaches appear to produce:

  1. Great managers understand that their first priority is maintaining productive relationships with their employees. It is only through these relationships that the second priority "getting the work out" can get accomplished.

  2. Communicate clearly by giving clear instructions. Do not assume that employees automatically know what you need.

  3. Catch the employee doing something good.This helps build up their self-confidence and self-esteem. It also goes a long way in helping to build the relationship between the two of you (see above).

  4. Take the time to listen.

  5. How to Be a Better Listener Using Active Listening Techniques

    1. Stop Talking This is usually much harder than you think

    2. Relax the Person Ask them to sit down, make them comfortable, exhibit inviting body language

    3. Don't interrupt - use silence

    4. Empathize by reflecting their feelings. Do not say: "I know how you feel." Do say: "It sounds like this makes you frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, etc."

    5. Paraphrase - repeat back to them what you heard them say

    6. Ask open ended questions. Prompt them to continue speaking with who, what, where, why questions. Talking is therapeutic.

  6. Great Managers are Calm, Non-reactionary and Mature remember you are supposed to be the adult, which removes your luxury of being able to react emotionally to everything!

  7. Great Managers are Confident and are able to express it and to infuse their employees with the same hope and confidence about their abilities to get the job done.

  8. Great managers can coach, teach, and evaluate A difficult and time-consuming task, but always worth the time put in up front. Not only will employees learn how to do their job better, but it also communicates your interest in them.

  9. Great managers are not afraid to delegate. The biggest mistake that new supervisors make is to think that they have to do it all themselves. This usually drives those employees you supervise crazy. Please, give them something to do!

  10. Gain an understanding of problems through active listening. See #4 above. There is no way to solve a problem unless you understand it. Make sure to get input from as many people as possible within the department, because there will be as many different views as there are people.

  11. Earn respect through honesty by not being afraid to say:

  12. "I don't know" or "I made a mistake." Your employees know when you have anyway, so why not be human and admit it?

  13. Great managers are fair. Be careful about preferential treatment. It tends to be a blind spot for many of us.

  14. Demand good work from everyone and don't tolerate lazy performance. It is a shame how many good and productive employees we lose on campus every year because they were infuriated over seeing some employees do nothing -- and be allowed to get away with it! There is no one to blame in that situation other than the supervisor.

  15. Support and back up employees to upper management. There is nothing worse than a supervisor who takes credit for the work performed by his/her employees. It is a guaranteed way to lose whatever trust you had. Look for opportunities to shine the light on them. Without always having the ability to reward financially, this is sometimes your only means of recognition.

  16. Great managers are sought out by employees and easy to talk to. Again, because of #1. They know that you are concerned about them.

Negotiating Conflict At Work

This is an area that has received a lot of attention lately due to an increase in expressed frustrations within the workplace, and the knowledge that there are effective techniques to address differences. We have seen an increase in "workplace complaints" that have come to the FSAP.  Our approach is to sit the parties down together and attempt to mediate the personal and/or work-related concerns. There are many resources on campus that offer services to supervisors for handling workplace difficulties. In addition to the FSAP, there are Ombuds Officers for Faculty (Dr. Ellin Scholnick at x51901); and Staff (Cynthia Edmunds at x50805); and Graduate Students (Dr. Mark Shayman x53132); and the Center for Leadership and Organizational Change(x55249) which can conduct retreats and work with departments on larger-scale problems.

Supervisors should not feel that they are alone in addressing any ongoing concerns. The easy way out is to ignore the problems, however, this only postpones more trouble down the road. Be proactive and address workplace concerns and conflict. Your employees will appreciate the effort.

Managing Depression

What is depression?

Depression is a "whole body" illness involving mood, thought and body. It may affect appetite, sleep, feelings about self, and thinking ability. It may also affect relationships and performance at work. Clinical depression is more than the "blues" or the normal feelings we have around loss. In depression, symptoms are more intense, disabling, and lasting. The usual coping skills don't work.

Depression is not a personal weakness. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. The good news is that more than 80% of depressed people can be treated quickly and effectively. The key is to recognize the symptoms of depression early.

General Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent sad or "empty" mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia, early-morning waking or oversleeping)
  • Eating disturbances (loss of appetite, weight gain or loss)
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Irritability
  • Excessive crying

If five or more symptoms of depression persist for more than two weeks or interfering with work or family life, a thorough diagnosis is needed. Call FSAP @ x 48170 or 48099 for more information.

A Guide for Supervisors

As a supervisor, you may notice that some employees seem less productive and reliable-they may call in sick or arrive late, have more accidents, or just seem less interested in work. These individuals may be suffering from a clinical depression. While it is not your job to diagnose depression, your understanding may help the employee get the needed treatment.

Depression can affect your employees' productivity, judgment, ability to work with others, and overall job performance. The inability to concentrate fully or make decisions may lead to costly mistakes or accidents. In addition, it has been shown that depressed individuals have high rates of absenteeism and are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.

As a supervisor, you can help your employees by making appropriate treatment available. Such efforts can contribute to a significant reduction in lost time and job-related accidents, as well as marked increases in productivity. Symptoms in the workplace may be recognized by:

  • Decreased productivity

  • Morale problems

  • Lack of cooperation

  • Safety risks

  • Absenteeism

  • Frequent statements about being tired all the time

  • Complaints of unexplained aches and pains

  • Alcohol and drug abuse.

What You Can Do To Help a Depressed Employee

  • Recognize changes in work performance

  • Do not "diagnose" depression yourself.

  • Recommend your employee seek professional consultation from a mental health professional or FSAP

  • Review University policy on persons with disabilities

  • Learn about depression and the sources of help

  • Keep information confidential

Enlightened employers are recognizing that it pays to help depressed employees. They have learned that untreated depression, and the abuse of alcohol or drugs which sometimes accompanies it, can become very expensive through lost productivity and accidents. Employers are developing programs to encourage workers to get the needed help. As a Supervisor, you are the first step.

Source: This information is from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Depression Websites

Effective Communication

Why Is It So Hard To Listen?

Most of us can make our point without too much difficulty. Any time FSAP counselors work with two or more people, both are usually expert at describing everything that is wrong with the other person. But it is rare to find someone who truly knows how to listen. Why is this so difficult? Most of us don't listen, especially when we are involved in an argument, because we are forming our response, waiting to pounce on the speaker the minute they take a breath. We may be waiting to display our brilliance and make our point by taking things out of context. We may also be listening for cues so that we can direct the conversation in our direction. None of these actions communicates to the listener that we are truly interested in hearing them, thereby communicating respect. People often seem shocked when the conversation ends after utilizing these "half-listening" techniques.

Another "conversation ender" is our desire to jump right in and fix the problem. This difference in communication style has been spelled out very clearly in Debra Tannen's "You Just Don't Understand" where gender differences in communication styles are described. As she points out, sometimes people want to talk just to talk. Talking is therapeutic, even when an "answer" is not forthcoming.

Listening is not easy and requires a certain set of skills. An active listener:

  • concentrates on what is being said (doesn't read, shuffle papers or otherwise non-verbally communicate a lack of interest)
  • listens to all facts and tries not to interrupt until the speaker has concluded his/her statements. When someone is talking for a long period of time, it is sometimes helpful to either take notes or ask them to stop so that you can feed back to them what you have heard.
  • listens for key words of interest on which to comment and ask questions (communicating that I am really interested and want to hear more or better understand what you are saying.)
  • is objective; hears people as they are, not the way you'd like them to be.
  • holds back personal judgments until the speaker has presented his/her ideas.

Listening requires courage because we may hear things that we'd rather not (especially about ourselves). Active listening means staying in the "here and now", focusing on the current issues and not getting sidetracked on what happened previously or the way we'd like things to be.

Where the magic starts to occur in a conversation is when you are able to let the speaker know that you are really paying attention to them. How does one do this? By acknowledging what you heard the other person say. This can be accomplished in different ways:

  • "It sounds like you are saying..."
  • "Do I understand you to mean...?"
  • "Let me make sure that I understand your point. Do you mean...?"

Acknowledging what you heard is in no way agreeing with what you heard. The reason that many of us skip this step is because we believe that if we state what we heard the person say, then we have agreed with them. Providing feedback simply communicates that I respect you and am showing that respect by trying hard to understand your point, even if I do disagree with it.

There is nothing as powerful as being understood by another person, especially when it involves something important and entails an emotional content. The above statements are ways to make that happen.

How Can I Make My Point in a More Effective Manner?

Learning how to communicate assertively allows you the freedom to know that you have a right to speak and be heard in most situations and the confidence to know that you can present yourself in such a fashion that people will want to hear you.

Assertive communication is difficult to teach in a short paragraph. There are excellent books and articles listed at the end of this section, but here are some of the main principles:

  • First and foremost, assertive speakers demonstrate attentive listening behavior. What you communicate is "I am showing you the respect by listening to you, and assume that you will show me the same courtesy."
  • Demonstrate an assuring manner, communicating caring and strength
  • To the extent possible, remain as relaxed as you can. It is physiologically impossible to be both relaxed and anxious at the same time, so focus on being relaxed and develop skills that will help in these situations
  • State clearly what it is that you want
  • State honestly how you feel about the topic

Both of the above recommendations are more effective whenever you use "I" statements, e.g. "I would like to speak with you about the fight we had last night in the restaurant. I feel very angry about the scene we made and I would like very much for us to work things out." Using "I" statement allows you to take responsibility for your behavior and your feelings. It also gets you out of the habit of blaming others, a sure recipe for defensiveness from the listener.

  • An assertive speaker also recognizes that there is someone else with whom you are having the conversation. Recognizing their side and their concerns shows respect and usually results in reciprocal behavior.
  • An assertive speaker always communicates a desire for a "win-win" outcome, again recognizing the needs of the other person
  • Your eyes should be making good contact, but not staring. Your posture should be well balanced, straight, erect and relaxed. Your voice should be firm, warm, well modulated and relaxed.

Putting all of these tips together takes practice but is worth the time and effort to improve your ability to get your point across. When employees ask us for help in addressing a colleague, we usually ask them to do two things: 1. imagine the worst thing that can happen when you speak to this person and be confident that you can handle it; and 2. practice the conversation with the FSAP counselor or some trusted individual so that you will be prepared for most contingencies.

Negotiating Conflict in a Principled Fashion

When dealing with conflicts with two or more employees or between family members, FSAP counselors attempt to teach the model demonstrated in the book "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" by Roger Fisher and William Ury. This is an excellent guide to learning how to negotiate successfully in any area of your life based on the following four principles:

  1. Always separate the people from the problem. A good negotiation should involve a desire for maintaining the relationship. This is especially true for co-workers. But the relationship should not influence the substance of the conflict. If it is strictly a relationship problem, deal with it as such.
  2. Focus on the interests, not positions. Do not get caught up in the position the person has taken. What is behind their position? Why are they offering what they are? Are there other ways to get their needs met (and yours)? Acknowledge their interests and keep up a discussion about both parties interests - this is the way to generate alternative solutions.
  3. Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do. Realize that solving their problem is also a way of solving yours. Look for ways that you will both benefit (win-win). Don't assume that there is only one single answer (theirs, or yours!
  4. Insist that results be based on some objective standard. Ideally, to assure a wise agreement, objective criteria should be not only independent of will, but also legitimate and practical. There are many objective standards that can be applied when trying to negotiate fairly. The following are only a few:
  • Market ValueWhat a court would decide
  • PrecedentMoral Standards
  • Scientific JudgmentEqual Treatment
  • Professional StandardsTradition
  • EfficiencyReciprocity

There are three basic points to remember:

  1. Frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria.
  2. Reason and be open to reason as to which standards are most appropriate and how they should be applied.
  3. Never yield to pressure, only to principle.

Negotiating Conflict at Work

When attempting to address workplace conflicts, it is helpful to be aware that there are a variety of resources on campus to address problems in an attempt to settle differences and prevent grievances. In addition to the FSAP, there are also the following offices:

Ombuds Office: Can act as a mediator prior to and/or in place of the grievance process. There is an Ombuds Officer for Faculty (405-1901) and for Staff (405-5795).

Staff Relations: They can be helpful in spelling out your formal and informal options and can guide you through the grievance process, but be aware that in a formal grievance, they represent the university. Also can provide information on policies and procedures. 405-5651.

Center for Leadership and Organizational Change : Provides training and facilitation services on a larger scale, working with quality teams to address a variety of department wide and campus wide issues. OOE an offer training on group effectiveness, consultation on strategic planning, will facilitate departmental retreats, and provide individual and leadership coaching. 405-0724

Additional Resources

Assertiveness - Analysis and Development 


Alberti, Robert E. and Michael L. Emmons. Your Perfect Right - A guide to Assertive Living. 1970. Impact Publishers. 
Bolton, Robert, Ph.D. People Skills. 1979. Simon and Schuster. 
Giblin, Les. How to Have Confidence and Power In Dealing With People. 1986. Reward Books. 
Smith, Manuel J. When I Say No I Feel Guilty. 1975. Bantam Books. 
Tannen, Deborah, Ph.D. You Just Don't Understand - Women and Men in Conversation. 1990. Ballantine.

Healthy Families

Healthy Families

A large percentage of employees who come to the FSAP do so to seek guidance for family issues. As you can imagine, the concerns are varied, from attempting to find good child care, to struggling with an adolescent, to trying to find effective ways of coping with the demands of an aging parent, just to name a few. When we set up the FSAP we felt that it was important to extend our counseling services to family members and have provided our service to many siblings and spouses of faculty and staff. A family member is defined as someone who lives in the same household as the employee, although exceptions have been made.

It is always interesting to meet with so many different families. It helps us to learn about what works and what doesn't. We came across a survey that was conducted by Curran in 1983 who interviewed 551 professionals who work with families to try and determine the factors that they felt make up a "Healthy Family". The 15 most frequently identified traits were the following:

  1. Communicates and listens. (Click here for more information on effective communication)
  2. Affirms and supports one another.
  3. Teaches respect for others.
  4. Develops a sense of trust.
  5. Has a sense of play and humor.
  6. Exhibits a sense of shared responsibility.
  7. Teaches a sense of right and wrong.
  8. Has a strong sense of family in which rituals and traditions abound.
  9. Has a balance of interaction among members.
  10. Has a shared religious core.
  11. Respects the privacy of one another.
  12. Values service to others.
  13. Fosters family table time and conversation.
  14. Shares leisure time.
  15. Admits to and seeks help with problems.

If you are interested in finding ways to improve the health of your family contact us through e-mail or call us. For other hot links with useful family information, check out the Family Planet.

Client Feedback

Client Feedback

“Great!!! don't go anywhere i have much more work to do, and you guys know better than anybody...stuff happens!!!”

“Talking with the FSAP counselor was invaluable.  I couldn't resolve the situation or decide what to do before I went to talk with him - I just worried instead.  He helped me make sense of it, take better care of myself, sleep better, and so, perform better here.”

“I've literally thanked God for Maryland's Faculty Staff Assistance Program.  It was so convenient to be able to get help right on campus.  I'm not sure if I would have reached out to an off-campus program or counselor, but I definitely needed someone to talk to and to help me learn how to deal with and improve my situation.”

“The FSAP counselor was outstanding - knowledgeable, professional, courteous, funny, and focused. I would recommend him any time to a colleague in need of support.”

“As a manager, employee relationships are one of my most difficult tasks.  I’d rather work on an old rusted piece of equipment than wrangle with a difficult employee problem.  Your resource is very valuable to us all.”

“The FSAP counselor is a wonderful counselor and resource.  I truly owe my life and my career to her help.  About 10 years after my initial problem, she continues to be available and a great help when needed.  Thank you so much for this program.   Please encourage the higher-ups to maintain this service to employees of the university -it is extremely important.”

“My experience with the FSAP has been outstanding.  They have assisted me in my addiction to alcohol. Without the FSAP program I would most likely have lost my job at UMCP and would still be battling the "insanity" that my life had become.  Without hesitation I have recommended the FSAP to several co-workers struggling with work & personal problems and the office has always been receptive in a timely manner.  This is one program at UMCP that should never be denied or have a reduction in funding or staffing.  Thank you for everything you do.”

“Thank you so much for providing this excellent service to faculty and staff.  It really makes a difference to have a place to go for help or a clear perspective when life sometimes becomes overwhelming and you're not sure who to turn to that you can trust.  Each time I have used this service through the years I have found support, good factual information, nonjudgmental clarity, and a lifeline when I have needed it.  I have referred colleagues going through difficult times in their work or personal lives and everyone has been grateful for the tip.  Thank you!   It makes a huge difference to know that this helping hand is there.”

Managing Stress and Anger

Learn More