1 June 2008

Employee Assistance Programs: Taking the Fear out of Asking for Help

Employee Assistance Programs are a benefit offered by many employers to give employees and their family members easy access to professional counselling services. The primary purpose of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is to help employees solve problems that might be interfering with their work and personal lives.

EAPs have received the thumbs up by unions, management and business owners who recognize that helping employees at work and at home is of mutual benefit to their organizations.

I was first introduced to the EAP program when I came back to the workforce after taking some time off to raise my daughter. A co-worker told me that she was getting help for her son. Employers offer EAP to family members as well as employees as they are recognizing that when things are not right at home our performance at work can be affected.

It wasn’t until many years later that I felt the need to ask for assistance. It was a stressful time in my life and I just needed someone to help me put things in perspective. The call was a hard one to make. I think we all have a hard time asking for help, but the person who took the call handled it with professionalism and compassion. I never felt uncomfortable and they were able to quickly assess and direct my enquiry to the appropriate counsellor.

I think sometimes in our busy lives we don’t feel we even have the time to make the effort to get help. I was in that position and couldn’t see how I would be able to fit the appointments into my busy schedule. I was told that I could have the counselling sessions over the telephone at the convenience of the counsellor and myself. That was such a help to me because I don’t own a vehicle and getting places, especially in the evening, could be a stress in itself.

I was also given the option to request a male or female counsellor or someone of my ethnic background if that was a concern for me. If I wanted to speak to someone of my faith background, they would make every effort to accommodate me in this area as well.

Initially I felt uneasy about talking on the phone with a counsellor that I couldn’t even see, but she was able to put me at ease right from the start. She encouraged me to talk to her and offered suggestions and evaluated what she thought might help me. The duration of the session was up to me and my counsellor. If I decided I did not need further assistance, I was not pressured to continue, but was offered a toll free number to call if I needed follow up.

EAP and Work

Our EAP provider sends us monthly newsletters with helpful tips for family and job-related issues. They are available to give on-site lunch ‘n learn sessions to interested employees on a variety of topics including: Difficult Working Relationships, Coping with Grief, Eldercare and many other topics that are relevant to today’s employees.

Your EAP is just a phone call away. Be assured that everything you say is held in the strictest confidence. Not even your employer will know you called. If you are feeling stressed due to work or home, investigate what help is available to you through your EAP or consult with your family physician.

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