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An EAP Specialists’ Plea: Take Advantage of Your Employee Assistance Program Benefit!

2/20/2013 8:00:00 AM
Written By:
Colleen Nichols

As a mental health professional, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) work is what I describe to family and friends as my "professional jackpot." As an EAP Specialist, I work with clients in individual and family settings, I visit organizations on-site to provide trainings on a myriad of topics (stress, time management, working with difficult people, etc.) and I have the opportunity to respond to crisis situations within organizations.

No two days are similar, and some days I truly feel like, Hey, I'm making a difference! That said, I'm constantly shocked and disheartened to find that the majority of people don't know if they have access to EAP services, or they're unsure of how it works and how to approach it.

I commonly hear:

Isn't an EAP only for people with problems with drugs and alcohol? NO.

Isn't an EAP the "principal's office" of the corporate world? NO.

Isn't counseling for CRAZY people? (We're all a little crazy, but) NO.

The concept of Employee Assistance Programs was developed through the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, when organizations had a light bulb moment: Wow, offering help to our employees who suffer from alcoholism improves our bottom line. Since then, Employee Assistance Programs have grown to assist employees with life issues outside of alcohol. Aging parents. Teenagers. Depression. Anxiety. Infidelity. Work stress. Life stress. Stress. Stress. Stress.

Think of your Employee Assistance Program as a gift from your company to you. It's a service that's already paid for, so when you come in, you can leave your wallet and insurance card in the car.

That's right. As an employee, it's totally free.

The cherry on top of this sundae is the fact that EAP services are completely confidential. Your employer will never know that you've sought services. So even if your issue is a micromanaging boss, your EAP is a safe, confidential space to talk/vent/scream/cry about it.

The people who I work with day in and day out are just like you and me; people simply trying to make it through this crazy thing called Life.

We all experience times in life when we could benefit from the ear of an unbiased third party. I ask you, if your arm was broken, would you seek help from a professional? Absolutely. So then, if your mental health is affecting your life, why not seek help?

A few sessions (remember, they're FREE) with an EAP Specialist have the ability to make all the difference.

If you are unsure if your company offers this service, check in with your benefits administrator.

Colleen Nichols is an EAP Specialist with REACH EAP in Richmond, Virginia. Colleen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Longwood University. She is currently in the final semester of her graduate program, earning her M.Ed. in Community Counseling from George Mason University.

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