What Role Do Counselors Play in Employee Assistance Programs?

| Staff Writers

When choosing the right career for you within the field of counseling, you have many options. Careers in counseling are numerous and varied. Different professions within the field are distinguished by what education paths aspiring counselors pursue, what job titles they hold, what patients they work with and where counselors work. Though many aspiring counselors take for granted opportunities in hospitals, private practices and mental health or addiction treatment facilities, fewer know about Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These programs offer help for employees and job opportunities for counselors.

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Popularity of Employee Assistance Programs

An employee assistance program is a benefit which provides usually short-term counseling for problems that employees may be facing in their personal lives but that can affect their on-the-job performance, such as addictions, financial problems and emotional issues. If long-term counseling is necessary, EAPs offer referral services.

EAPs are more common than many people think. In 1997, about 58 percent of full-time employees had access to an EAP, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The programs have grown in popularity. In 2009, many companies were expanding the use of EAPs to provide additional benefits, like access to more counseling sessions per employee, The Wall Street Journal said. Now EAPs are extremely popular in large companies. The Employee Assistance Professionals Association reports that 97 percent of corporations with more than 5,000 employees, 80 percent of those with between 1,001 and 5,000 employees and 75 percent of those with between 251 and 1,000 employees have such a program in place.

Why are employers adding to benefits like EAPs when the trend for recent years has been decreasing benefits to better withstand a tough economy? EAPs are not only helpful for employees to choose to use them, but they also have a high return on investment rate for employers. Each dollar put into establishing and maintaining an EAP saves as much as $5 to $16 in terms of absenteeism, accidents, and increased costs in the form of medical benefits and workers’ compensation claims, according to Monster.

Counseling Opportunities in EAPs

As a mental health service, an Employee Assistance Program requires the services of counseling and psychology professionals. The BLS specifically states that substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists can frequently find employment opportunities with EAPs. It’s also possible for counselors involved in a private practice to work in conjunction with an EAP, though the Employee Assistance Professionals Association recommends that counselors interested in doing so look into special training and continuing education programs.

Working as a counselor for an Employee Assistance Program can be rewarding in many ways. For one, the position provides increased job opportunities. For private practitioners, working with an EAP can raise the number of patients the counselor sees. The position also allows counselors to help people who might not otherwise seek counseling but who need help in their personal lives and who may be struggling.

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