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Employee assistance programs

If you’re struggling with emotional problems, family or job problems, or substance abuse, your employee assistance program (EAP) can help.

An employee assistance program provides free counseling services to employees. Professional counselors provide short-term counseling to employees and family members who want help dealing with life changes or work, family or personal problems.

Many larger companies and government agencies provide an EAP for its employees. To find out if your company has one, contact your human resources or personnel office.

If your difficulties are beyond the scope of their services, such as severe depression, the counselor will refer you to other professional services for further assistance. EAP counselors do not provide prescriptions or medication.

Companies and government agencies benefit from EAPs because the services they provide help improve job performance, reduce absenteeism and turnover and keep health care costs down.

What kind of help can I get from my EAP?
EAP counseling is available for problems that can be resolved in a short period of time. Services may include help with:

  • Family or marital relationships
  • Communication issues
  • Alcohol or drug problems
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety

Counselors can help employees living with psychiatric disorders deal with workplace misunderstandings and stigma.

One EAP client was returning to work after being hospitalized with a psychiatric disorder. His coworkers and supervisor cared, but weren’t sure what to expect or what to say when he returned to work. “We educated and coached them, which made his return more comfortable for everyone,” said Sue Hastings-Guerrero, a Denver case manager for Mines and Associates, a national provider of employee assistance programs.

Many EAPs hold educational workshops and offer handouts and online articles on health and lifestyle topics.

EAP counselors are generally licensed masters or PhD level psychologists, social workers or professional counselors who have special training in employee assistance.

Will my employer know that I am seeing an EAP counselor?
You will contact your EAP directly; no referral is required. Information about the services you receive is kept strictly confidential. It is not documented in your personnel files. Your supervisor will not know unless you choose to tell him/her.

The only exceptions are those situations which are required by law to be reported, such as suspected child abuse or when a client commits, or threatens to commit, a crime that would harm someone else.

An employee may choose to sign a release of information, for example, if he/she is seeking accommodation for a physical or emotional problem. An employee facing a potential disciplinary situation may decide to release information to their employer to demonstrate that he/she is seeking assistance with the problem.

EAPs can help employees help themselves
“When people are dealing with depression, marital problems or substance abuse, it’s hard to perform on the job,” said Judy Braun, a vice president with Mines and Associates.

Managers want to see their employees get help, she said. One grateful manager spoke about the help his employee received from his EAP counselor with his substance abuse problem. “He’s working on recovery now. He’s a valuable employee and I want to be able to keep him.”

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