The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is offered by employers to give employees and importantly an employee’s immediate family, access to confidential mental health support 24/7/365. Common providers in Canada are Homewood Health, Morneau Shepell (who not too long ago acquired LifeWorks and Ceridian's EAP) Aspiria, Optima Global Health, Aetna and more.
EAP’s offer short term mental health support that focuses on a specific issue. Most often you can choose to receive this support online, over the phone, or in person. EAP’s can also offer access to advisors on work and life issues including life coaching services, online resources, financial support, legal and retirement matters.
What should an employee or family member expect if they reach out to the EAP provider for support?
Whether you call or reach out by secure message or by text there are two things every EAP provider will do right away. First make sure that you are not in immediate danger of hurting yourself or others and second, verify your eligibility to the program with your employer information.
From there, the individual at the EAP will ask questions about the reason for reaching out and determine the next steps. Depending on the needs of the caller, next steps could be speaking to someone over the phone right away or booking an appointment either over the phone or in person with someone in the caller’s area. Only mental health support is provided in person, and the program could have limitations on the number of sessions and length of session with calling for legal, financial or life coaching support.
Mental Health support is fluid and adaptable to the callers needs. For example, if the caller starts with mental health support over the phone but feels their needs would be better served in person, that can be arranged.
Mental health support and support for one’s work and life issues require effort on the users end. Just like with a visit to the physiotherapist, callers may be given “homework” such as cognitive behavioural therapy exercises, or they may need to practice using the tools provided to them.
Employees and their families should know that these services are confidential. Their employer will not know that the service was used. I encourage everyone who has access to an EAP to at a minimum check out your provider’s online tools via the app or website. It is an excellent source of information and resources. Remember, no issue is to small. The hardest step for most of us is the first step, asking for help. But help is available.