Should you be fortunate enough to work for a company that has an employee assistance program (EAP), you have an important resource at your disposal. If your company does not have an EAP, suggest to your Human Resources (HR) Department that they consider getting one. Refer them to previous blogs on this website that discuss the value of an employee assistance program, the various types of programs and what to look for. If you are not sure your employer offers an EAP, ask your supervisor or HR. They should be able to provide you with a telephone number and a brochure or other materials explaining the services available to employees and their eligible family members at no cost to them.
If you have never contacted an EAP or a counselor before, it is normal to feel apprehensive. Who is this person I am calling? I am not comfortable talking with a stranger about my personal issues. How do I know the EAP can help? Will my conversation really be kept confidential? These are some of the thoughts racing through the minds of many people contemplating a call to their employee assistance program. Consider this, EAP counselors are trained and licensed professionals who adhere to rigorous standards and a code of ethics. They work with thousands of people just like you. Counselors go into this profession because they want to help.
Once you make contact either by telephone or online, the procedure will vary among employee assistance programs. Typically, you would communicate with a trained EAP member services specialist who would greet you and ask questions to determine your eligibility for EAP services such as your name, the name of the company you work for or for whom your family member works, if the EAP is part of his or her benefit package. The specialist will outline the services available and at no cost to you. In some EAP’s, you may speak directly with a counselor who will ask these questions.
Next, the member services specialist or counselor will conduct an “intake” asking questions regarding the nature of your concern and your level of urgency. This is so the EAP representative can match you with an appropriate counselor and/or refer you to suitable resources. The role of the EAP is to provide short term counseling. In some employee assistance programs, if the EAP representative determines your concern to require counseling sessions or services beyond those available in your EAP benefit, you may be referred to a provider outside of the EAP. In this case, fees would apply and coverage would fall under your health insurance.
Some employee assistance programs will provide you with the EAP sessions included in your benefit at no cost to you and then will refer you to outside providers for continued services, if needed, under your health insurance. Still other programs will allow you to continue counseling with the same EAP provider under your health plan once your allotted EAP sessions have been used.
At this point, you will schedule a day and time for a counseling session. If you are looking for information and resources on a mental health or wellness issue, you may be referred to an online database and/or possibly to community agencies who can assist.
Through an EAP, you are not labeled with a diagnosis. No information is provided to your employer or your family unless you authorize it in writing. The parent or guardian of a minor child will have access to information. Again, there is no cost to the employee or family member for services included in the EAP.
Why People Call the EAP
You may be thinking, “I am not mentally ill. Why would I call a mental health counselor?” People contact their employee assistance programs for just about anything that is causing stress or distress in their lives. These include matters like relationship difficulties, marital/family/parenting issues, ongoing conflict, job or workplace problems, substance use; financial concerns, caregiving challenges, grief, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and a host of other reasons. Often when we are amid turmoil, it is not easy to see the options open to us. A counselor can help us look at our situation in a different light or perhaps find strategies and solutions we had not considered.
“I don’t really have any serious concerns, so why would I need counseling?” you say. Well, one can also consult an EAP for guidance on how to deal with a loved one’s problem. Perhaps you have a close friend or family member who has a serious issue but refuses to seek help or follow a clinician’s instructions. His problem is affecting your life and your relationship with him. A counselor can guide you in sorting out your feelings and help you to frame your response toward your loved one. Sometimes, we may just need a sounding board for our ideas or frustrations. Life gets busy and moves so fast that there may be times we need to reevaluate. A trained counselor can assist with this process.
Spread the Word
You may not feel the need for the EAP right now but surely you have a co-worker or an eligible family member who could benefit from some assistance. Encourage them to contact the EAP. It costs them nothing and it could be a lifeline!