Gary Bailey and Chris Troxler place Elon Counseling Services in the spotlight

For whatever reason, be it their out-of-the-way location in the R.N. Ellington Health Center or the confidential nature of their work, Elon Counseling Services doesn’t often generate publicity. But two counselors - Gary Bailey and Chris Troxler - are looking to change that.

Counseling Services – which includes Director Bruce Nelson, full-time counselors Lesley McArron, Karen Morgan and Troxler, and part-time counselors Bailey and Barb Gau – play a quiet but critical role aiding student retention and employee well-being. Last semester alone, the staff served more than 280 students, along with a handful of faculty and staff.

Gary Bailey and Chris Troxler of Elon Counseling Services

Despite their heavy workloads, Bailey – who runs his own practice in addition to working at Elon – and Troxler joined forces to research, write and publish an article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health. The article, “EAP Licensure: Is it Dead or Lying Dormant,” addresses a topic pertinent to employees nationwide and offered an example of the hard, but often unheralded, work of Elon Counseling Services.

The article, published last summer, took more than a year to complete. It centers around Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), benefits companies and organizations have offered workers for more than 60 years. EAPs can serve a variety of needs, from distributing literature about Alcoholics Anonymous to full-scale psychological counseling. Yet, as Bailey and Troxler found, there is little oversight for the field. They argue that such lack of oversight may lead to problems ranging from insufficient treatment to breaches of confidentiality to fraud. They recommend the establishment of nationwide EAP standards, perhaps even licensure.

“What we’re finding is this hodgepodge of people that abuse the system,” Bailey says. “I was interested in helping to raise that profile, that this actually needs regulation.”

Says Troxler, “We saw this as an advocacy opportunity. There were issues here that were not being addressed.”

The regulation of EAPs hits home for Bailey, who owns an EAP practice, Alamance Life Works EAP, PLLC in Burlington. Before opening Alamance Life Works, he taught in Elon’s Department of Human Services for 10 years. During his teaching years at Elon, he also counseled and provided consultation for Duke University’s EAP for eight years. He began serving on North Carolina’s state licensure board for EAPs where he continues to hold an appointment under Governor Beverly Perdue, and he returned to Elon as a counselor and licensed clinical social worker in February 2007.

For this project, Bailey joined forces with Troxler, who came to Elon in 2001. Troxler not only shared Bailey’s interest in EAPs, but also had a strong background in writing and editing. Before pursuing graduate study in clinical psychology, Troxler earned a master’s degree in English from the University of California at Berkeley and taught the subject at The College of William and Mary.

“They’re not all that different,” he says of psychology and English. “Analyzing a sonnet is not too different from analyzing somebody’s family situation or a dream.”

Collaborating with one another was an easy choice for the duo, as they knew each other for more than 15 years before becoming Elon colleagues a few years ago. Finding the time to work on the article, however, was another story.

“We had to meet in the early mornings, sometimes lunchtime, and there were several late nights,” Bailey says.

Though the process of publishing the article was trying, both Bailey and Troxler are eager to work on new projects, which have ties to improving the support offered to the Elon community through Counseling Services. Troxler is mulling a project focusing on social anxiety among incoming freshmen and its relationship to alcohol consumption among young students. Bailey recently completed certification in cognitive behavioral therapy (the changing of dysfunctional thought patterns), and he hopes to use those processes to help students struggling with substance abuse and other issues.

And, they add, another collaboration isn’t completely out of the picture.

To view an abstract of Bailey and Troxler’s article, click the link to the right.

By Kristin Simonetti ’05