Wouldn’t you like to get professional coaching and counseling services at your work for free?
Do you know how to access your Employee Assistance Program?
(Note – This article is part of a series of interviews with licensed healthcare providers.)
I suspect, depending on where you work, you give precise advice to help your friends and family have the best experience at your company.
For example, some of you can tell your friends how to have a sublime dining experience. Others how to find a super-deluxe deal on a new car or computer. And still, others can help friends and family find a ritzy vacation destination on the cheap.
In fact, you know the insider secrets so well that you make sure to tell your friends and family.
So, wouldn’t it be great to have that insider expertise while YOU’RE MAKING A DECISION RELATED TO YOUR HEALTHCARE?
Wouldn’t it be helpful to have an ability to tap into a healthcare providers’ years of training, experience and specific knowledge for their area and hear them say, “If it were me, I’d do it this way.”?
This article is part of a series of interviews with the intent to offer that very experience.** And, another way to help you navigate your way to the best healthcare services when you need them.
So without further ado, the goal of this article is to teach you how to get the best value in an Employee Assistance Program.
First Things First. What is an Employee Assistant Program (EAP)?
An EAP is a confidential workplace service that is a paid benefit by the employer. An EAP helps employees deal with work-life stressors, family issues, financial concerns, relationship problems, and even drug or legal matters.
It is typically free of charge and is usually available to both employees and their families. The purpose is to help workers remain productive at work.
Today, we’re interviewing Dane Hutchins MSW, LCSW, to get a little bit of insider knowledge about an Employee Assistance Program.
Dane is sharing his expertise from 18 years in the healthcare field (13 years of counseling, with >3 years in his role as an EAP Specialist in the EAP Behavioral Department at Mercy) to give you tips and strategies to help improve YOUR Employee Assistance Program experience.
Dane, tell us a little about the most common reasons employees use your service.
“The two main reasons people access our employee assistance program services are for stress management and coaching for various workplace struggles or conflicts; sometimes with a manager and sometimes with their other coworkers.
Another big reason people access our EAP is for marital and family (children or dependent) relationship issues.
Finally, personal loss and grief is a reason people access our services. But, it’s not always due to a person passing away. It may be a child is leaving home. Or they are going through the loss of a spouse from a divorce.
And it could also be due to the stress of working with sick and dying patients (we work in a healthcare system). The co-workers have to be empathetic, and their personal or home issues take them away from being on their A-game.”
Other reasons a person can access the EAP services include:
- Mental illness
- Emotional problems
- Alcohol or substance abuse
How Can You Receive the Best Value in an Employee Assistance Program?
Dane, based on your opinion, what are 2 things you WISH YOUR CLIENTS KNEW about your service so they would experience greater value or fewer barriers?
“I wish they knew about the service in the first place!
The biggest challenge is that so many do not even know about the free services.
But, for some, even when they do, they are embarrassed to come. There is a stigma associated with accessing mental health services, but I wish everyone knew that this isn’t a full or formal assessment. We’re trained to do that, but that isn’t what we do at the Employee Assistance Program.
The model we use in the EAP is different, and it is less invasive. But, still confidential.
It’s an opportunity for the client to test the service and see how deep they want to go.
And, actually most of the time I act as a coach (and not a counselor).
I also wish people knew about the program so they could use it to solve problems when they are small – and more comfortable (for them) to resolve.
They can set up a free consultation with a professional counselor and talk about their problem before it becomes a more significant issue and affects their work performance.”
Dane, based on your opinion, what is 1 thing you WISH YOUR CLIENTS WOULD DO when using your services, so they experience the best outcome possible?
“I see clients for marital or relationship issues. Unfortunately, the typical scenario is that only one of the two come in.
But, in my experience, it is much more helpful if BOTH come in for the service.
The experience and outcome is better for the client (and the other person) if the other person attends too.”
Dane, what online resources do you provide to your Employee Assistant Program clients?
“I recommend the website Help.guide.org.
I direct our Mercy co-workers to resources on our employer’s homepage (there is an EAP link with resources and articles).”
Dane, what service or treatment do you recommend after your Employee Assistance Program services? (And how many follow through?)
“Because this is a free service, many clients will try to spread out the benefit, so they don’t need additional services. But typically, after the six free sessions, if the clients are still in need of services, they are referred to either behavioral health counseling, a psychologist, or occasionally a psychiatrist.
I don’t track follow-through, but I estimate only 3 out of 10 follow through with these appointments.”
Ok Dane, is there anything else you would like to share about the Employee Assistance Program? What’s your best insider tip?
“The idea of preventative medicine in our physical health applies to our mental health too. We all have mental health – like we all have spiritual, emotional, and physical health – however, it may not be in the right place. We have to fill the void in there to bring ourselves back to health.
If you have a minor issue, and you don’t feel like you need a counselor, but it’s starting to affect your life or health, EAP can be such an excellent service to you. We can help by coaching you through it before it becomes a more significant issue.
Left unchecked, stress and minor issues can lead to more significant mental or emotional problems. We are there to fill the gap and hopefully prevent the more prominent dilemmas from occurring.”
Thanks for the fabulous insider tips, Dane!
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**This information does not guarantee a specific outcome or experience. Also, because there is not a client or patient-provider relationship in place, it is impossible to give patient-specific advice and is not intended to be a plan of care or treatment. The information is a complement to your personal healthcare provider’s recommendations, and your own observations and research.