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Distinction between Organizational Counseling Interventions and Organizational Development

What follows is intended to clarify the mutual distinctions and complementarity of traditional Organizational Development (OD) services, such as those provided by UCSF’s Development & Training unit, and Organizational Counseling Interventions (OCI) that are offered by Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.

-The expansion of EAP Core Technology over the past 50 years reflects and parallels a development within Psychology as a discipline, from exclusive focus on the individual to the embrace of a systems view of human groups (families, nations, sub-cultures, commercial and academic organizations, etc.). This expanded scope of services is practiced by EAPs throughout the UC and CSU systems, as well as by other major universities such as Harvard, Stanford and Johns Hopkins

-Within the systems perspective, the individual is understood to exist within a larger network of relationships; in fact, every individual exists within multiple, interlocking systems of relationship.

-From the systems perspective, while some problems may be dealt with more or less successfully by working with individual, a greater majority of problems exist within a context of relationships and thus cannot be resolved apart from the larger whole within which the individual lives and works.

-Organizational Development (OD) and Organizational Counseling Interventions (OCI) are two natural extensions of systems thinking within the larger discipline of Psychology.

-Given the fact that OD and OCI technologies have a common origin within Psychology as a discipline, and the development of the systems perspective in particular, it is necessary to identify the core distinctions between these two approaches to serving the organization:

-Group > Individuals vs. Individuals > Group Interventions:  In general, OD interventions address and work with the group (department, staff, faculty, etc.) as a whole, within which individual employees function in various capacities; their focus is on how the larger whole can be altered, restructured, or otherwise improved. In contrast, OCI interventions address individuals and employee groups who may be suffering from a variety of intrapsychic or interpersonal problems, and behaviors, which in turn affect the larger group or department within which they work.OCI interventions are generally brought about because a manager, supervisor, faculty chair, etc., perceives a problem with one or more individuals within their group or department. Both OCI and OD interventions are designed to improve overall organizational health and effectiveness, which in turn improve the working conditions of individual employees.

-(Psychological) Functionality vs. Dysfunctionality:  In general, OD interventions are made in response to organizational units experiencing change, needing to resolve problems in productivity, or where there are performance issues related to workplace climate, employee morale, skill level, use of technology, etc., but where what is at issue is the normal functionality of the department, not the (psychological) dysfunctionality of the individuals within it.  On the other hand, OCI interventions assume, and are appropriate in cases where the presenting problem is abnormal behavior, psychiatric symptoms, or stress-induced dysfunctionality of whatever kind.  These problems may be primarily personal (such as a substance abuse problem or depression), or primarily interpersonal (such as personality conflicts, aggression and chronic incivilatizity, or antagoiziom habitual disrespect). Either way, they also have an adverse impact on the functionality of the group as a whole.

Some of the typical areas of focus and expertise where OD and OCI differ are listed below, and these may be used as decision-making criteria when it comes to deciding whether a management request for intervention should be referred to D&T or to FSAP.

Organizational DevelopmentOrganizational Counseling
Leadership developmentPersonality dysfunction (substance abuse, psychiatric symptoms, etc.)
Departmental (re)organizationStress/Change Management
Poor MoraleGrief reaction to loss or death
Group retreatsCritical Incident Stress Management
Skills development and technology usageEmployee/patient safety issues
Team - buildingCommunication breakdown within teams
Workplace climateEntrenched interpersonal conflict
Promoting improved/increased organizational performancePromoting organizational wellness