According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, all federal agencies offer their employees Employee Assistance Program services. Many private sector employers also offer their employees access to EAPs. Independent external agencies provide EAP services.
Structure and Benefits
An employer-funded benefit provided by most American employers, an EAP is a voluntary counseling program generally available to full-time employees at no charge. Managers, supervisors and family members can also recommend that you receive EAP support if you are abusing substances such as alcohol, narcotics or prescription drugs. Employees in the program can continue to work and receive their full pay. Due to ongoing needs of individuals, participating organizations offer an around-the-clock EAP crisis telephone line. All services are provided through trained independent external vendors. Key organizational benefits of EAP are increased employee productivity, less work related injuries or accidents and an overall increase on return on investment.
Handling Work and Life Issues
EAPs are generally located on-site at the business or agency. EAP counselors provide help for work productivity issues such as marital and family problems, stress and dealing with workplace violence or trauma. They also deal with psychological disorders, gambling addictions, substance abuse and financial difficulties. To help employees deal with major events like company mergers, acquisitions and large scale layoffs, employers can ask EAP counselors to provide lunch-and-learn sessions on the types of services they offer. The goal is to encourage employees to seek guidance if they have difficulties as a result of these major company events.
Provider Guiding Principles
EAP counselors should provide a private, safe and clean meeting environment and allow clients to control their care. Meeting sessions should focus on delivering effective and efficient services with clients until their condition improves. Counselors are trained professionals who treat clients with respect and dignity.
Issues that are discussed with an EAP counselor during private one-on-one meetings are kept confidential. Regardless of your rank or level at the organization where you are employed, your manager or supervisor will not see your EAP record or even know that you sought counseling unless you request in writing that they be made aware of the situation. You cannot be forced to sign a release of information. Records are required to be separately maintained from other client health and insurance files.
EAP counselors often have experience as human resources professionals, licensed psychologists, drug and alcohol therapist or social workers. According to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, most counselors have experience in the behavioral health sciences field. They should also understand EAP core technology which includes consultation, confidentiality, problem identification and assessment, constructive confrontation, motivating clients, case monitoring and the impact of employee assistance on the organizations that you provide services for. Many EAP providers employ only counselors who are certified by the EAPA.