Employee Assistance Programs: A Free Counseling Resource

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Did you know that many employers offer programs for counseling as part of the benefits to their employees? Employee Assistance Programs or “EAPs” provide temporary, brief counseling services that are meant to help employees manage problems that might interfere with job performance. EAP counseling services are usually provided at no cost to employees and oftentimes include other members of the household as well.

EAP providers can address many common problems employees have that are personal or work-related such as depression, anxiety, conflict with coworkers, difficulty performing job duties, substance use, and relationship problems. In some instances, such as when job performance is suffering, employees may be mandated or strongly encouraged by their employer to attend EAP services.

The following are some examples of companies providing EAP services:

  1. Magellan
  2. First Choice Health
  3. ComPsych
  4. Aetna
  5. Life Services

If you’re unsure whether your company offers EAP benefits you can check with coworkers, your employer, your human resources department, your company benefits package or policy manual. Many organizations have brochures, posters, or fliers around with the EAP phone number you can call.

Once you contact the EAP you will be provided a name or list of names for mental health, behavioral health, or chemical dependency providers in your area who help with the specific concern you have. Depending on the EAP, you will either contact the mental health counselor yourself or the EAP representative will call the provider, authorize services, and connect the provider with you. The number of sessions typically authorized is between 3-8. The services you receive are confidential. In instances where you’ve been mandated to attend EAP services, your employer may be informed of whether or not you participated as requested and informed of the status of your progress by the EAP representative. Confidentiality is also limited if you threaten to harm yourself or someone else.

You may wish to continue services beyond the authorized number of EAP sessions, in which case you can choose to use your health insurance coverage or pay for ongoing services yourself. Check with your counselor and insurance company to determine whether the counselor is a provider with your insurance if you want to continue meeting using your health coverage. Not all counselors accept insurance and some only accept specific ones. Another option is to pay for the services out of pocket and then ask your counselor to provide you with a document that you give to your insurance company for reimbursement.

EAP services can be a helpful way to address personal or occupational problems in a short amount of time. A common barrier to receiving the service is that many employees are unaware that the benefit is available. Services are generally brief, solution-focused, and can help you maintain your work-life balance.

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