When life struggles begin to interfere with your job responsibilities and productivity, taking advantage of your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help you get back on track, especially when you know you’re not working to the best of your ability. Decisions you make to grow personally may have unintended consequences, which can hinder your professional growth. How this manifests may be as small as not taking part in work activities you used to prioritize or as big as facing possible termination.  You’re just pressing on to get through the day without completely messing up!

I was never clear on what EAP is, who it can help, and how to access it. I always thought you had to ask permission from your boss and be formally referred to an EAP counselor by your supervisor, especially when your job was on the line.  I also wasn’t sure if EAP visits were confidential.  While working in a hospital setting, I was only aware of mandatory referrals for staff with drug and alcohol problem, or for staff facing disciplinary actions.  It was not until listening to a colleague in a social work class who was giving her presentation on EAPs did I learn that referrals are not always formal and mandatory.  About 80 percent of all EAP cases are self-referrals. (See EASNA report, 2015)

I used EAP counseling when I was going through a family challenge. I decided to tell my supervisors about my struggles and that I was using EAP to help me cope and focus better.  I didn’t feel I was being judged or that reaching out for help would be looked at as a sign of weakness.  They were glad that I was checking it out; because as much as I was putting great effort into my work, they could tell my productivity had been declining.  Missing deadlines, tardiness, and absenteeism were behaviors indicative of my decreased job performance.  Since I was not content with these changes in my behavior becoming a pattern, checking out EAP was my start to getting back on track, ASAP!

What is an EAP?

An EAP is a voluntary, employer-sponsored service that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.  EAPs are designed to assist employees in getting help for these problems so that they may remain on the job and be effective. EAPs address a broad and complex body of issues affecting mental and emotional well-being, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, marital and/or financial problems, and psychological disorders.  Many EAPs are active in helping organizations prevent and cope with workplace violence, trauma, and other emergency-response situations.  It is sometimes implemented with a disciplinary program that requires or strongly encourages that the employee participate in EAP.

Over the years, EAP has expanded to also incorporate health, wellness, and work/life types of concerns. Although one facet of EAP services is focused on the individual employee and their family members, another component is the services offered to the organization. This may include prevention, training, consultation, organizational development, and crisis response services.

The EAP plan at PRA allows for three, one- hour in-person counseling sessions annually, with unlimited phone-based and web-based counseling, much more.  Contact your human resources department to find out if your company provides an EAP and, if so, what it offers.  Get back on track, today!