Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and Your Personal Life

By Paula Santonocito

Q.  I’m facing some significant personal problems. My company has an employee assistance program (EAP), and a friend has recommended that I use it. Are these services confidential?

A.  An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is one of the many benefits companies offer to help employees with work-life balance. The thinking behind providing this kind of program and other work-life benefits is that if people can better manage the personal aspects of their lives they will be able to focus more effectively on their jobs.

Anyone who has ever had significant personal problems–and who hasn’t–knows it can be difficult, if not impossible, to separate the personal from the professional.

The good news is that employers have figured this out. One of the best things to emerge in the workplace in recent years is a deeper understanding of the connection between personal lives and professional success. The result has been more benefits offerings that address people’s personal lives.

Employee assistance programs vary, but typically companies contract with outside providers for a range of services. These may include behavioral health counseling, child and elder care referrals, and legal and financial assistance, among other offerings. Services get delivered via the Internet, often as part of a corporate intranet portal, and by telephone.

And don’t worry: you won’t have to divulge your personal matters while at work. Counselors are available during non-work hours as well; some EAPs even provide 24/7 assistance.

Whether you choose to connect with a counselor online or by phone, be assured: Services offered by leading EAP providers are confidential. In fact, confidentiality is the cornerstone of their service offerings. They wouldn’t be in business if they blabbed about client calls.

That said, you may have heard that companies know what services get used. This is true, but only in statistical terms. For example, a company may get a report at the end of the year that shows 100 calls were made for behavioral health counseling, 50 calls were in reference to child care services, and 300 people asked about financial issues. EAP providers share this information so that companies can decide where to best spend their dollars; remember, an EAP, like all services, comes with a price tag.

Speaking of price, your company is willing to pay for an EAP because it’s aware that employees’ personal problems can have negative consequences. If you’re asking about EAP services, you also realize that your problems have the potential to take a significant toll on your work and your life.

Help is available. It’s a benefit of your job…one that can greatly benefit you.

Have a question? Email Paula here.