Often, employers list out having an EAP as a benefit to working with them. But what is an EAP and how might it be helpful for you as you experience stress, a mental health condition, or issues with a coworker? We’ve collected all the information about EAPs that you need to know to make it straightforward to understand.
What is an EAP?
EAP stands for Employee Assistance Program. EAPs come in many shapes and sizes, however at large, they are counseling services available to employees and their families free of charge through an employer.
Some EAPs provide employees with referrals, legal assistance, or nursing advice. Others draw from a collective of therapists and counselors to assist with issues such as work stress, issues with a manager or a coworker, family stressors such as abuse or chronic conflict, relationship issues, substance abuse issues, depression, anxiety, and many more mental health conditions. So, you can see an EAP therapist for work-related issues or non-work-related issues – which makes it a great resource!
These sessions are free to you as an employee, though they are often seen as short-term. Your sessions with an EAP therapist are confidential so your manager or employer will not know what you discuss.
What are the benefits to accessing an EAP?
There are many reasons why engaging an EAP could be beneficial. Here are a few:
- Company culture. If you are having issues related to your work, engaging an EAP therapist who knows the company might be helpful as this therapist might be able to give more specific support.
- No costs. Unlike the majority of therapy sessions, EAP therapy is free and provided as a benefit to you. This makes it very budget friendly!
- Referrals. Even if you decide not to see the EAP therapist, this person can still give you a referral to a therapist in your area. This gives you a good diving board to begin your search.
What are the downsides to accessing an EAP?
While EAPs might be helpful for some, they might not be the best support for others for the following reasons:
- Short term. If you seek longer term therapy, speaking with an EAP therapist might not be completely beneficial for you in the case that you find another therapist and have to begin again.
- Part of work. While these services are confidential, if you would like your mental health care to be completely separate from the workplace, finding an outside provider might be a better move.
- Moving jobs. If you plan on switching jobs at some point, you will no longer be able to access your previous EAP. This is also the case if you are laid off or out of work.
- Stigma. Depending on company culture, there may be a stigma placed on those who access mental health care from an EAP.
How can I connect with an EAP?
If your company offers EAP as a benefit, reach out to your Human Resources contact to see what the process is for connecting with the EAP. There may be a brief waitlist depending on the need of the employees. Of note, often employers will contract with an EAP company - this means that your EAP therapist might not be an employee of the same company as you, rather a subcontractor who sees employees from various companies. Either way, your Human Resources contact will be able to point you in the right direction for accessing this benefit.