Employee Assistance Program Myths Debunked

Does this sound familiar? You receive an email from your HR department reminding you of access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and without thinking twice, you hit delete. It sounds confusing, and heck, you have medical benefits so why bother?

While Employee Assistance Programs have been around since the ‘40s, they are often misunderstood. As a result, employees miss out on free benefits and guidance. Think of the modern EAP as free, short-term intervention services aimed at addressing personal or work-related problems. EAPs offer services such as assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services. The premise behind the EAP model is that employees are healthier and happier when they have support to manage issues both in and out of the office.

Let’s break down some common EAP myths so you know why this benefit is something to remember.

  1. “EAPs only offer counseling services.” Yes, the original EAP model was structured around supporting employees with alcohol or drug addiction. But today’s EAPs offer so much more! Approximately one-third of the calls EAPs receive are about legal or financial matters. And while services vary, EAPs offer support ranging from buying a house to marriage counseling to finding elder care. So, don’t think of EAPs as a one-trick pony. There are plenty of options for support outside of addiction or mental health counseling.
  2. “EAPs are not confidential.” Some employees think they need to be referred by their company to use the EAP. This may hold them back from using services because they don’t want to share personal information with their manager or colleague. Truth be told, you can reach out to your EAP without any prior approval and expect confidential services. EAPs are most often outsourced to a third party to ensure this confidentiality. Furthermore, the EAP does not report back on individual employee usage so you can speak openly without fear of retribution. The only case where confidentiality cannot be maintained is when there is an immediate threat to you or another person.
  3. “EAPs are unnecessary if you have healthcare benefits.” Wrong! This is where bargain shoppers’ ears should perk up. Some of the services offered through an EAP come with a lower price tag than your medical insurance, which means more money back in your pocket. For example, most EAP services come with a pre-determined number of counseling sessions free of charge. These services are not filed through your medical insurance (read: no co-pay).

It is worth your while to consider using your company’s EAP next time you need help. To get details on your EAP options, reach out to your Human Resources representative for more details.

Originally featured in UBA’s December 2020 HR Elements Newsletter.