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Employee Assistance Programs: An Often Overlooked Resource


Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are a potentially valuable resource for employees, yet they are often overlooked. EAPs offer employees and family members assistance with a variety of issues, including mental health concerns, whether they are workplace related or not.

Employee assistance programs have been around for decades and many companies provide them for their employees and families at no cost. An estimated 97 percent of companies with more than 5,000 employees have an EAP; 80 percent of companies with 1,001 – 5,000 employees have one; and 75 percent of companies with 251 – 1,000 employees have one.

Yet no more than 5 percent of people with access to EAPs use them. Up to 40 percent of workers are unaware of whether their workplace provides EAP and what services are available. In addition to not knowing about EAP services, reasons people donít use them include the stigma associated with mental health and substance use services and concerns about privacy and confidentiality.

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About Mental Health Works

Mental Health Works — produced by the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health — is a free monthly publication focused on mental health in the workplace.

EAPs offer a Range of Services

Employee assistance programs provide a range of services and resources to help with personal problems that can affect a personís well-being and work performance. Help is usually available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Services and resources can include:

  • Assessment and services to help individuals with mental health and substance use issues; and referrals to additional services if appropriate.
  • Services for addressing personal problems and concerns, such as interpersonal relationships, legal problems, and financial difficulties or planning.
  • Information and help with family and work/life issues, such as parenting, child care or caregiving for elderly family members.
  • Assistance with health promotion and wellness, such as smoking cessation and weight loss.
  • Mediation and conflict resolution services.
  • EAPs may also provide training and/or consultation to managers and supervisors (e.g., on wellness programs, business retention, disaster planning).

EAPs offer short-term, confidential, behavioral counseling in person or by telephone. They offer an alternative to working through issues or difficulties without incurring insurance costs. The number of free counseling sessions can vary, usually between three and 12 sessions. EAPs can also provide help in a crisis, a personal/family crisis or something that affects the workplace.

EAPs staffed by a variety of professionals including social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and psychiatric nurses. An EAP is typically just one piece of a companyís overall health and wellness strategy. Services may be coordinated with other benefits, such as health insurance and health and wellness programs.

EAPs provide significant benefits for employers decrease in absenteeism and turnover, decrease in time spent by management on personal issues, decrease in work-related accidents, gains in productivity, reduction in use of mental health benefits, and an increase in likelihood workers will receive appropriate treatment for mental health and substance use issues.

Adapting to a Changing Workforce

Employee assistance programs are evolving and adapting to changing technology and to the needs and perspectives of younger workers. EAP services are being made more accessible, for example online interactive assessment of drug and alcohol use, stress levels, and depression; webinars or other online information for employees; online training for supervisors; and use of text messaging and emails to facilitate communication and provide support. Many EAPs are getting more involved in promoting work/life programs like telework and flexible schedules.

If you or a family member is facing a difficult problem or are in need of assistance, consider contacting your EAP. To find out if your organization has an EAP and what services are available, contact your HR department.



Patients and Families


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