Employee assistance programs

EAP is a company-based program for purposes of identifying and treating problems affecting job performance. EAPs began in the effort to cut health care costs and at the same time respond to the diminished productivity and increasing absenteeism resulting from chemical dependency among employees. The focus of EAPs soon expanded to include treatment for emotional difficulties, relationship problems, marital or family distress, legal or financial concerns because these too have a profound impact on productivity and attendance. An EAP program can be internal or external. Internal programs, usually limited to very large companies, hire their own clinicians. External programs refer clients to outside clinicians. Cornerstone Behavioral Health, with its mental health and substance abuse components, is designated by a number of local companies as a preferred provider organization for employee assistance.

Benefits of EAP to the employer

Any company succeeds because of its employees. Therefore, psychologically healthy employees are every company’s most important assets. Healthy employees create, cooperate, get to work on time, keep their jobs, and produce. Well functioning employees are the dream of all managers. Unfortunately, they don’t always come perfectly well functioning, and if they do, they do not always remain so. Employees who are psychologically distressed cost the company in many ways. They take up more supervisory time, have higher rates of absenteeism, they quit or get fired, they are less productive, and they have increased medical problems. It is in the company’s best interest to attend to psychologically distressed employees.

Employees do not function well for a variety of psychological reasons. A stressed employee may be having some reaction to the job situation, the demands of the work environment, or uncertainty about their ability to perform. Stress is often a function of people believing there is a very important outcome for them to achieve, but not believing that they can achieve it. Stressed employees may be unproductive because they are having a difficult time managing their own life. Such difficulties may or may not be indicative of long-term problems on the part of the individual. Psychologists are uniquely qualified to determine the difference between a stressed employee and an emotinally upset employee.

The upset employee is one who is clearly struggling with a personal problem, be it situational, family/relational, or deeply personal. In the course of everyone’s life, there are circumstances that are difficult and require personal adjustment. The upset employee may also be struggling with a personal, mental health problem. For example, it is estimated that depression costs American business forty-four billion dollars per year, a toll slightly more than heart disease. Research tells us that people with emotional problems are expensive employees. Research also tells us that psychological treatments lead to improvement in the conditions that cause employees to be expensive. Psychological treatment for these employees leads to higher productivity and earned income while reducing absenteeism, tardiness, dismissals, and disability claims.

How to access your company’s employee assistance program

Find out if your company offers this service to its employees and their families. Typically, employees can seek out EAP programs on their own, or be encouraged or advised by management. There may be an employee assistance counselor on site who can help with identifying problems and make referrals to the resource that can give appropriate service or care. Participating employees can expect to receive professional and confidential assistance in dealing with all matters of personal or job related problems. All records generated are confidential in a manner consistent with medical record keeping. Employees are assured that their jobs, future, and reputation will not be jeopardized by utilizing this service. Check your company’s benefit package for available benefits for treatment and rehabilitation.