Most people think of Employee Assistance Programs as some version of counseling in the workplace, and it’s not wrong so much as a bit too narrow. Ideally, an EAP provides employees with assistance for literally any kind of problem – big or small – that may be affecting him or her, and that isn’t always counseling. I’ve always loved doing EAP work, the biggest reason being freedom from the “disease model” - not having to formally “diagnose” someone, or provide a medical service code for reimbursement In fact, I began to develop a “coaching” style while doing EAP work, (long before I knew anything about the actual Coaching Profession) because I found it to be consistently the most effective method for helping people I really took to the “actively interactive” style that engages, gives feedback, and then moves the client forward – maybe to other professional services, but not necessarily.
The primary EAP service - its bread and butter - is direct consultation: free to the employee, rapid response, no insurance, confidential, providing professional assessment, referrals and follow-up, if necessary. Other services include: training supervisors, providing critical incident intervention, "learning" workshops, mediation and consultation regarding workplace conflict, and consultation in the area of improving workplace culture.
I've had the experience of being an "in-house" EAP professional, as well as a full-time associate in a company that provides “broad brush” external EAP services to a variety of business and non-profit clients. I thrive on workplace issues, and it's by far the favorite “subspecialty” in my clinical career.
“Coaching” as a means to provide Employee Assistance services is still in the embryonic phase. There’s an element of legal obligation and self-protection embedded in some EAP’s. Many organizations use their EAP’s as part of the disciplinary process, and some include EAP utilization explicitly in their policy manual. I’m frankly headed the other way, and I’m always looking to develop ways of providing Employee Assistance that embrace coaching as a way of truly meeting an organization’s “people” needs. Innovative, brave managers, owners, and directors – give me a call!