What Is an Employee Assistance Program?

What Is an Employee Assistance Program?An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is offered to employees of many US companies to address different workplace and personal issues. Some of the most common ways an EAP helps employees is by providing counseling for various emotional or psychological needs. Furthermore, someone who struggles with drug addiction or alcoholism can also receive help through an EAP while maintaining job security.

TN.gov states that people can seek help for through an EAP for any of the following issues:

  • Family or relationship issues
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Addiction or alcoholism
  • Legal or financial issues
  • Child and elder care
  • Difficulties and conflicts at work
  • Grief and loss
  • Work/life balance

An EAP is different with every employer, so the way yours works can vary as far as what is covered and what is not. In most cases, if an employee has insurance through the company and that company offers an EAP, then the employee has full access to all the services therein. For instance, Tennessee’s state employees, teachers and local government employees typically have access to their employers’ EAP regardless of whether or not they have insurance through the state or not. Additionally, eligible dependents of employees typically also have access to the EAP that is provided by their loved one’s employer.

RecoveryFirst.org explains some of the many ways that an EAP can help people who struggle with drug addiction or alcoholism. In most cases, an employee who utilizes one of these programs can receive treatment not only for overcoming her substance abuse, but also for issues related to the substance abuse. For example, mental health issues and other physical health issues commonly go hand in hand with substance abuse and addiction, so an EAP can help someone overcome both her addiction and the underlying physical or mental health issues that fuel drug abuse.

Many people are unaware that their employers offer an EAP; some people are aware of this service, but they are generally unlikely to utilize it for many reasons. The reasons people avoid EAPs are many, including the common misconception that, if an employee comes forward with a substance abuse problem, then he will likely be fired. However, EAPs are confidential and commonly accessed through a confidential hotline without the knowledge of the employer. Employee hotlines are provided by the majority of US companies, and its information should be posted someone near an employee information station. Furthermore, employees do not need a manager’s or Human Resources’ (HR) approval to contact the hotline about a substance abuse problem.

The purpose of an EAP is not only to help an employee in need of assistance, but also to secure the job after she overcomes her issue. In other words, an employer cannot terminate an employee who receives help through an EAP simply because she struggles with substance abuse. As long as an employee seeks help through the appropriate channels and is participating in the program, her employment is secure.

If the company does not have a hotline available for an EAP, then talk to someone in charge of the HR department to find out what to do. Once you enter an EAP, the people in charge of the program can help you get approval for the amount of time you need off work, where to go and what to bring in the event that you need inpatient care. RecoveryFirts.org explains that the program can help employees down to the last detail, including transportation to and from a detox center, counseling sessions and inpatient or outpatient rehab. Additionally, Steve Albrecht of Psychology Today explains why employees often do not utilize an EAP as provided by their employers. He gives four main reasons, including that people do not believe it is truly confidential, that reaching out for help is stigmatized as weakness, that they need permission from a boss or that they do not know the program even exists.

Among many other reasons, EAPs exist to reduce work-related stress that can lead to substance abuse, workplace violence and depression. Employees must know about and utilize EAPs to avoid these situations, but they must also feel comfortable reaching out for help. Understand that EAPs are strictly confidential, and employers are held legally responsible for sensitive material, such as which employees use an EAP. At some point, everyone deals with workplace stress and anxiety, and some people simply need help when it interferes with productivity or leads to substance abuse. Permission from a boss is unnecessary to reach out to an EAP, but, if you are unsure if your employer provides an EAP, then ask the HR department for answers. You can get and stay clean from drugs if you have the right help.

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