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Career Column: Is Employee Counseling for You?" (Or... The Path to EAP)

For some people, work is therapy. For some, it is a labor of love. Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychiatry, said the ability to balance work and love is a sign of maturity. But for some, the world of work keeps them off-balance, underperforming. Love has nothing to do with it and maturity is not the issue. Is that you? If so, what to do? Perhaps you could use the benefits of an EAP (Employee Assistance Program).

The interview to follow was conducted with Donna Coles, a licensed mental health therapist and EAP counselor based in Cleveland, Ohio. She will shed some light on some of the common concerns that negatively affect employees and how/when individuals might benefit from an EAP. Whether or not your employer offers an EAP, information from the interview will help you decide whether you can benefit from any type of employee counseling in order to increase your job satisfaction, job performance or life balance.

Interviewer: Donna, in its simplest form, what is an EAP?
Donna: An EAP is a benefit provided by employers for employees at no cost to the employee. This benefit is offered because most employers realize that operation and productivity are a direct function of the health, happiness, and overall well-being of its employees.

Interviewer: Suppose I'm having a problem with harassment at work. Could I benefit from an EAP?
Donna: Definitely. This is a behavioral conflict that can benefit through counseling. Potential benefits include enhanced moral and well-being, and reduced absenteeism. The service can also provide assertiveness-response training, information and referral as needed.

Interviewer: What specific services can an EAP provide to an individual?
Donna: EAPs provide short term counseling for individuals and groups. They also provide referrals for problems. For example, an employee with a drug addiction may be referred for an inpatient treatment program if needed. It can take the form of telephone counseling, tests to diagnose problems/tendencies, or crisis intervention at the job site.

Interviewer: Why would an employer offer such a service at no cost to the employee?
Donna: There is increasing awareness by employers of the financial losses attributed to such factors as turnover, burnout, stress, law suits, depression, substance abuse, workplace violence, or other problems. Some employers are able to assist employees with these issues. An EAP offers assistance by reducing unnecessary use of insurance plans.

Interviewer: How would an individual make a decision to get started in an EAP?
Donna: To participate in the EAP service is an employee's private decision. The EAP provider will protect his/her privacy. If the employee has been informed by the Human Resources department that an EAP is available, it's easy to access the services by calling the phone number provided.

Interviewer: Having started my career as a psychotherapist, I know people are often afraid to make that first call to get help. Do you agree that individuals should call a counselor anyway if they need help or support?
Donna: Yes, I agree. Address the issues and concerns before they become a crisis, if possible. Make the call. If your job does not have an EAP, there are community-based programs. Help is only a phone call away.

On a final note, if your work is not adding therapy to your life, perhaps you can add therapy to your work by looking into an EAP or some other form of employee counseling. Maybe it's just what you need to find more creative ways to reduce some frustration, pressure, and conflict in your life. The path to greater job satisfaction, better job performance and increased life balance is within reach.

Debi Carter-Ford is a professor of psychology and consultant to management in the areas of applied psychology and employee training. Questions and comments may be sent to careers@dunsonandassociates.com.

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