What Is an Employee Assistance Program?

Every company wants healthy and happy employees, but life often gets in the way. When workers need additional help managing personal issues, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) offer a variety of resources.

Origins of Employee Assistance Programs

What Is an Employee Assistance Program?

Employee Assistance Programs offer confidential help for workers struggling with a variety of personal problems

The first versions of employee assistance programs began as a way to help workers struggling with alcoholism, notes addiction researcher William White. The original programs grew out of the temperance movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and became more formal after World War II in the 1940s and 1950s. Over time, the programs grew to include other services, such as help with mental health problems and professional advice during a divorce or adoption.

Today’s EAPs are well-recognized as an important benefit for employers and employees according to research from the Employee Assistance Society of North America (EASNA). In fact, mental health problems are considered the top reason for lost productivity and workplace absences according to a survey of senior human resources executives. Unlike other areas of society, workplaces are uniquely capable at reaching out to the most people with mental health issues. They also are suited for reducing stigma associated with mental health problems and addiction by offering education and assistance that works.

Employee Assistance Programs Benefits

Employers see a business case for EAPs because they help employees manage serious issues that otherwise affect productivity according to EASNA. Recognition of the long-term value of EAP services keeps the programs in place and encourages expansion. In 1985, only 35 percent of companies offered an EAP, but by 2008, the percentage grew to 75 percent. With an EAP in place, employees get confidential help with serious problems. They also can be a valuable resource for people who don’t know where else to go for help.

EAPs provide confidential services on demand at no charge to the user. Some programs also are available to spouses and other family members. EAP professionals most often meet with employees to determine how to resolve issues in the workplace or home including conflicts with supervisors or fellow employees. They also offer ways to get help with mental health, physical health and addiction disorders as well as marital and family problems. Services may be offered on the phone, through a web-based technology or in person. EAP programs may offer any of the following services according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):

  • Assistance identifying and resolving personal problems: marital, financial or emotional as well as mental health and addiction disorders
  • Nurse advice telephone access
  • Basic legal assistance and referrals
  • Adoption assistance
  • Elder care assistance

The most comprehensive EAPs offer direct counseling and treatment instead of referrals. These programs are regulated by the federal government.

Getting Help Through an Employee Assistance Program

The majority of companies offer an EAP although they are more likely to be available at large or medium companies than at small companies. A company’s employee handbook or company web site will offer information about an EAP. An employee can also talk to his supervisor or human resources representative to find out about services. Many companies allow workers to meet with EAP representatives during work hours. A counselor will usually meet with an employee one or two times to determine what kind of services are needed.

When an employee struggles with an addiction, an EAP may either offer short-term counseling or assistance finding local addiction treatment according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Workplaces that support employees emotionally and physically promote sober living. Some workplaces may use urine testing facilities and other forms of monitoring to ensure employees are drug and alcohol free. These practices are usually in place in manufacturing and construction environments that require sober employees to ensure safety.

Need Help Finding Addiction Treatment?

It is sometimes difficult to know where to seek help for addiction. EAPs offer confidential services that connect you or a loved one with counseling and addiction treatment. A person with a less severe addiction may find help through outpatient treatment or an inpatient stay may be necessary for more severe problems. Effective treatment must meet a person’s needs at every stage of recovery and requires ongoing counseling or peer support groups. When it’s clear a family member or friend needs help, there are options for achieving and living in recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use problem, please call us today.

Our admissions coordinators are trained to offer expert advice and provide guidance about the best possible treatment options. We help individuals overcome addictions with a philosophy that addresses the whole person—mentally, physical and spiritually. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day for advice. Don’t struggle alone. Call us today.