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Employee Assistance Programs: Five Things to Know

Employee Assistance Programs: Five Things to Know

A growing benefit offered by employers in the United States are Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs. These programs are often advertised by employers as short-term counseling options that eligible employees can utilize to meet their needs in the event of a personal crisis. However, many EAPs offer benefits that employees may not be aware of and can serve as a wonderful resource for those in need of short-term counseling.

EAPs are confidential: Many employees learn about EAPs not through self-referral, but often at the encouragement of supervisors, co-workers, or Human Resources staff who notice a decline in their work performance. However, EAPs are not permitted to report the type or content of individual service delivered to an employee back to their employer. This means that although your employer may ask that you contact the EAP, the service you receive is as confidential as any other medical service you might receive.

EAPs typically function as a referral service: The EAP service itself isn’t a “one-stop” for counseling services – instead, employees contact their EAP provider, describe the issue at hand, and receive a list of approved service providers to contact. Although you might be restricted to participating counselors in your area, most EAPs offer several options to choose from and allow you to pick the best counselor for your needs.

There’s no “medical necessity” requirement: EAPs were designed to serve employees who experience issues such as the loss of a loved one or other personal crisis that have the potential to impact the quality of their work. This means that EAPs are an option for individuals who may otherwise be denied mental health services due to a lack of medical necessity through their health insurance.

Help for family members: One of the neatest attributes to EAPs is that many don’t limit service to the employee – for many companies, they extend EAP benefits to the employee’s immediate family members as well. This means that an employee may be able to obtain individual counseling for a spouse or child, couples counseling, or family counseling for a set number of sessions without having to justify these services to an insurance provider.

Limits of EAPs: Despite the benefits of EAPs, there are some important things to know before seeking this benefit. The first is that not all employers offer this service; check with your Human Resources department to verify if this is available to you. Also, the services offered by EAPs are time-limited and vary from one EAP to another; some may offer as little as six sessions per presenting concern or limit the number of service an employee receives in a fiscal year.

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Jennifer N.
Posted on 08/12/2017 by Jennifer N.

Jennifer is a writer for OpenCounseling. She has worked at a number of state and non-profit organizations, providing counseling, training, and policy development



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