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I recently started a co-op job through my university. My boss is the only one I report to and I don't work with anyone else. In the next few weeks I'm going to have to take some time off. I don't know how to put this but I've got to go see a psychologist (post trauma related). I've been trying to see one for months and it's unfortunate it happens now when I just started working. I've never seen a psychologist before but I think I'll be seeing them more than once and on a weekly or biweekly schedule.

I've told the receptionist at the clinic that I work Mon-Fri 9-5 and she said she'll try her best to accommodate that but my first appointment is at 3 on a Thursday and I think it's inevitable that it will interfere with work.

My boss is a strange man. He's asked (point blank) questions like if I have friends in this city, how long my parents have been married or if I "have trouble communicating". I don't feel comfortable telling him about this but I'm not sure what to do. I was thinking of being as vague as possible about the medical reason and if he demands specifics say physio therapy for my shoulder (as that would be something you'd have to go in on a periodic basis for and shoulder injuries would be hard to notice e.g. no limp).

Of course I'd prefer to be honest. Any advice on what I should say to my boss, ask or request of the psychologist clinic?

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    "I need to see the doctor to attend to an old injury. It's getting better, but it will take a few treatments." Factual, yet no detail :) – Jane S May 21 '15 at 20:59
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First, there is absolutely nothing wrong or weird about seeing a psychologist. It's nothing to be embarrassed about, especially here in an anonymous forum.

And the second absolute: it is absolutely none of your employer's business. This is medical care, and in most countries you have the legal and moral right to privacy & protection from intrusion.

Plus, in the United States and the Western democracies, your employer is legally obligated to "reasonably accommodate" your medical needs. You don't need to tell them what your medical issue is. Only that you must go to doctor appointments on a schedule, and that it won't interfere with getting your job done.

If your boss asks about the details, then politely and firmly reject all questions: "It's a private thing. I'm sorry, but I'd rather not discuss it. I'll be fine."

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    That addition remark I'll be fine is a good addition. As long as you think (since you want to be honest) that the issue will not influence your work it's good to tell that to your boss one way or the other. It may remove concerns (other than the time you are absent) he could have about your productivity. – Jan Doggen May 21 '15 at 8:28
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    Exactly. All you have to say is "I have regular doctor's appointments" and leave it at that. – David K May 21 '15 at 12:23
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    I'm not sure your second absolute is so absolute. If you are going to invoke reasonable accommodation, then you will have to provide some justification for same. You don't have to give all of the details, but you do have to demonstrate that you have the right to invoke. This should be between you and HR (some companies outsource for more privacy) and not your boss, but you must provide some real information. – cdkMoose May 21 '15 at 13:16
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    @cdkMoose -- yes, but this can be a non-specific doctor's note confirming the need for the time off without saying why. The psychologist could even talk to the primary care doctor and have them write the note, to protect privacy. – LindaJeanne May 21 '15 at 13:23
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    @cdkMoose -- yes, the employer can insist on documentation (though they won't always). But even then, anything beyond a general "yes, there is a medical reason for the needed schedule adjustment" is, in fact, "absolutely none of your employer's business." – LindaJeanne May 21 '15 at 13:40
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To add to @senior-dev's excellent answer, the way in which you can inform your employer that you need to see a doctor regularly without disclosure could be done something like this:

I need to see the doctor to attend to an old injury. It's getting better, but it will take a few treatments. I kind of don't really want to talk about details, but I will be fine.

Factual, yet no detail that you do not wish to give away.

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I have been in your position when on joining a new job, i had to take frequent time off to attend personal matters. As such i do not believe it is an Employer's business to fiddle around your personal matters.

My approach to the situation was by offering to put in additional hours after working hours to compensate for the time off. Your boss could take you up on it, but i believe at least you would have an agreement on it which would address the awkwardness you feel. I do acknowledge that depending on the type of industry you work in, such a solution may not always be practical / realistic.

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If the issue is missing work hours, and if you use timesheets to log/account for your time, then assuming you are accumulating sick leave, you should probably use those sick leave hours for absences during regular business work hours as it is defined at your workplace (typically 8-5 or 9-5). That's perfectly valid and legal way of taking time off during regular workweek for medical reasons.

Alternatively, if the rules are less formal, then making up hours as suggested below is a good approach.

If the issue is boss's curiosity, then "I have regular doctor's appointments" is all you have to say. Try to be polite and courteous but at the same time firm in your response. You never know if you might need additional accommodation in the future, so being on good terms and reaching understanding with your boss on these issues is important.

Sometimes the boss just wants to have a certain level of understanding of the situation to be able to better adjust for such changes in employees' schedules and plan work effectively. Try to see the situation from your boss's position and think about what you would want to know, then come up with an answer (as those suggested in other responses here) that meets that need for information without crossing the privacy line for you.

On a side note, I believe you are doing the right thing getting regular professional treatment for whatever issue you are working through. Not all people have the guts to directly address their issues in a proactive manner. Suppression only works in the short term but might end up having a net negative impact over time. Your approach is proactive and driven by a motivation to get better. Whatever social stereotypes might exist about receiving mental health services, do not worry about it and continue on your treatment plan. Your health is the #1 priority, so I encourage you to continue seeking and obtaining the care you need to get well. Good luck!

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    If this is the U.S., most people don't get enough sick-time to cover weekly or biweekly appointments. A better arrangement would be to put in some extra time other days, or working from home in the evening, if the boss deems it necessary. – LindaJeanne May 21 '15 at 13:27

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