Security professionals may not realize the depth of support they can get from the employee assistance program (EAP) that serves to support their company’s HR department. There are many misconceptions about EAP use, which security directors and managers can help alleviate when talking to employees with behavior issues.
Typical myths about EAP use include an employee’s concerns about the cost, confidentiality, reporting back to their employer, the stigma of reaching out for help, (especially for men) and a lack of knowledge about what subjects EAP therapists can cover.
The counseling services and therapeutic interventions offered by EAPs are usually free of charge for the first three to five visits for the employee and for his or her immediate family. After those initial sessions, employees pay on a sliding scale based on what they can afford. The sessions can be done over the phone, at a therapist’s office, at a neutral location, or even at the employer’s facility, as has happened with employees who are domestic violence victims and are afraid their partners will find out if they go to a therapist. There is no report back to the employer, and all sessions are confidential unless the employee talks of harm to self or others.
Although neither HR or security departments can mandate that an employee use EAP services (unlike fitness for duty (FFD) evaluations, which the employee can be ordered to undergo), discussing the services during a confidential meeting can help remove much of the legitimate concern employees have about these services.
The International Employee Assistance Professionals Association (www.eapassn.org), which is the largest organization of EAP professionals, says this about its services: “Employee assistance is the application in the workplace of knowledge about behavior and behavioral health to improve both personal and workplace productivity and healthy functioning. That means the employee assistance profession is a unique integration of organization development, behavioral health, human resources, and business management. Most employee assistance professionals have knowledge and experience in a behavior health field such as social work or counseling, and many may be drug and alcohol counselors. In general, an EAP is a set of professional services specifically designed to improve and/or maintain the productivity and healthy functioning of the workplace and to address a work organization’s particular business needs through the application of specialized knowledge and expertise about human behavior and mental health.”
Areas of specialty include depression and other mental health issues; substance abuse concerns (which can be diagnosed by an EAP professional with a subspecialty called a or substance abuse professional (SAP)); gambling problems; marital problems and divorce; blended families and stepchildren; financial problems and bankruptcies; help with smoking cessation; stress management for on- or off-the-job issues; cancer or other health concerns; and even pet loss.
EAP professionals can also play and important role in helping HR and security or a threat assessment team assess and manage potential workplace violence threats.