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Employee Assistance Programs

Employee assistance programs can be extremely helpful for employees and employers alike. They are able to provide care and referrals to people struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues for fairly low costs. Studies show that the return on investment for employee assistance programs can be quite high, as mentally healthy employees do a better job and are significantly more productive.

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Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Program

Employee assistance programs are free and voluntary mental health and substance abuse services that many employers offer, even though they may not advertise these programs. These widely available services can provide employees with important life-saving resources that can lead to long-term treatment of mental health and substance abuse conditions. Below we will take a look at some of the services provided by employee assistance programs as well as how to find out if your employer provides these helpful programs.

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What Is An Employee Assistance Program?

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are provided for free by many government jobs as well as some private-sector employers. These programs offer assessments, counseling, and referrals for a variety of different services to employees, dependents, and other household members. The services offered include those based on financial concerns, legal issues, family problems, office conflicts, and a variety of mental health and substance abuse resources. Though EAPs began as alcohol addiction management programs in the 1930s, they have evolved to cover all aspects of an individual’s life and focus on how those issues may be affecting work performance. These programs seek to provide employees with easy services that offer quick rehabilitation and readily available resources for mental health and substance abuse conditions that may be affecting work performance.

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Services Offered Through Employee Assistance Programs

Employee assistance programs offer a wide variety of services for both employees and managerial staff. These services begin with education and extend as far as offering referral services for individuals struggling with mental illness or substance abuse. Though these services are often offered short-term, typically ranging from three to eight sessions with EAP professionals, they are critical for employees who need help and don’t know where to go. EAPs also offer managers and superiors training courses for learning how to address these issues with their employees who may require assistance of some kind.

Below is a comprehensive list of services that EAPs offer:

  • Interventions (counseling, treatment planning, short-term problem solving)
  • Problem Area Identification and Assessment
  • Referrals for Diagnosis, Treatment, and Assistance
  • Case Management and Follow-Up
  • Crisis Hotlines
  • Education (in-person events, online resources, information materials)
  • Collaboration with Treatment Facilities
  • Evaluations for Duty Fitness
  • Back-to-Work Transition Coaching
  • Coaching on Essential Leadership Skills
  • Violence Prevention and Crisis Management
  • Trauma and Crisis Incident Services
  • Group Intervention and Support Groups
  • Educational Services and Programs
  • Auxiliary Services (drug-free workplace training, disability management)
  • Mental Illness Services
  • Alcohol and Substance Abuse Intervention

EAPs can also provide services and resources for management consultation and guidance for higher standards around the workplace. This could include how to support employees and manage interpersonal issues within the workplace to more effectively promote teamwork and cooperation. Other benefits of these management programs include enhancing job performance, improve communication, and effective conflict resolution strategies.

Types of Employee Assistance Program Services

There are a number of different types of EAP service options that companies can choose between when they are enrolling in these programs. Typically, these services are dependent upon the number of employees and the return on investment provided by these services. At the end of the day, will an employee assistance program save the company money by reducing healthcare expenditures due to mental health and substance abuse conditions? Will employees utilize these services, and which services are more appealing to employees? These are things that employers have to consider when providing EAPs for their employees.

Companies can offer several different plan options with different services, including:

  • Internal Programs: These offer EAP services at the workplace. This is most often found in larger companies with a lot of employees working in a concentrated location. Employers can either hire their own professionals, or they can outsource to third-party EAP employers to provide professionals for in-house services.
  • External Programs: External programs require the company to refer employees and family members to outside services that fall under their offered EAP benefits. This is often more preferable as it maintains confidentiality for employees not wanting to visit in-house EAP offices.
  • Blended Programs: A combination of both in-house and outside services based on convenience and services needed for individual employees. These hybrid programs allow for crisis evaluation and intervention in the office with extended care and resources taking place outside of the office.
  • Management-Sponsored Programs: These programs vary depending on the company, but typically specialize in substance abuse, proactive prevention, mental health and wellness, and problem identification and referrals sponsored by management and higher-level staff.
  • Member Assistance Programs: These provide access to union-supported EAP services.
  • Peer-Based Programs: Mainly focused on prevention, education, training, and assistance through coworkers.
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Benefits of Employee Assistance Programs

There is a wide variety of benefits that individual employers and researchers have seen within the workplace when it comes to employees who seek help from employee assistance programs. These benefits can include:

  • Improved Productivity and Engagement
  • Improved Ability to Successfully Respond to Changes
  • Workplace Stress Management Skills
  • Reduced Absenteeism
  • Reduced Accidents
  • Reduced Workplace Violence and Safety Risks
  • Disaster and Emergency Preparedness
  • Provide A Safe, Timely, and Effective Return to Work
  • Reduced Healthcare Costs
  • Reduced Employee Turnover Rate and Replacement Costs

The use of EAP services with regards to mental health and substance abuse conditions has shown to increase the likelihood that employees will utilize other behavioral healthcare services for continued treatment. Because EAPs are often used in the short-term, they can be an entry point for many employees to find referrals or recommendations for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs that provide longer-term care and support.

Employee Assistance Program Benefits
Information Source: The Journal of Employee Assistance – EAP Impact on Work, Relationship, and Health Outcomes
Benefits of an Employee Assistance Program
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Your Employee Assistance Program Rights

Because employee assistance programs are federally regulated, there are specific rights that each employee has when seeking assistance. Employees have the right to be treated in a respectful manner, and they have a right to seek EAP treatment voluntarily and with informed consent before receiving any services. Employees also have a right to confidentiality with regards to which services they receive as well as any details whatsoever regarding their treatment. Employees also have a right to refuse to sign a release of information regarding services received.


These rights are protected under federal law and are in place to ensure that employees feel comfortable when they seek help through EAP services. Utilization rates differ from company to company, however, about 75% of employers report that they offer EAP services but only 5% to 10% of employees actually utilize those services. This is due in large part to the fear that employers will find out about substance abuse or mental health conditions.

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Employee Assistance Program Resources

Different companies are going to offer different EAP plans and services through various providers, so contacting the HR department is the best way to find out what programs each company offers. Below is a list of different EAP resources and providers that can help employees who are seeking employee assistance.

  • U.S. Office of Personnel Management: This government site offers an easy way to find a specific company’s work-life coordinators who can get employees into contact with the specific services their company offers and how to access those services.
  • Lyra Health: A third-party provider of EAP services, specializing in mental healthcare, that offers:
    • Mental Health Coaching
    • Medication Management
    • Work-life Services
    • Manager Training
    • Evidence-based Therapies
    • Critical Incident Support
  • CuraLinc Healthcare: This organization offers mental health and substance abuse EAP services, focusing those areas on work-life balance.
  • Ulliance: They offer short-term counseling for mental health and substance abuse by providing in-person counseling and a resource portal for clients.
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