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Thursday, January 2, 2014

What is an EAP?

Employee Benefits Counseling
So, what is an EAP?  Well, to start, I am talking about an Employee Assistance Program.  Most employers have one but many employees have no idea what it is or that they have access to it.

Each EAP varies from plan to plan but usually, as part of your corporate benefits, you are given 6 free counseling sessions for each issue you have for you and your household members.  Available 24/7 and completely confidential, the EAP is a great resource if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.  As I mentioned, the 6 free counseling sessions are for each issue that you have, so you could technically have 6 counseling sessions for you and your spouse, 6 counseling sessions for you and your children, and 6 counseling sessions for you individually for, let's say, work-related stress.  It is also for your household members, so not necessarily just your legal dependents.  You could use the sessions to mediate relations between you and your roommate if you wanted.  Again, please check with your individual EAP for plan details, as each one will vary.  Human Resources would be an excellent place to start for more information.

I would also like to highlight that the EAP is more than just counseling.  Here are some other areas they provide assistance:
  1. Well-Being - Including but not limited to information on alcohol and drugs, smoking, weight management, and more.
  2. Family Life - These resources can help you with everything from family planning, childcare, elder care, finding support groups (for cancer, stroke, etc), planning a funeral and many other things in-between.
  3. Career - Learn how to thrive during change at work, plan your career path, and prepare successfully for your retirement.
  4. Education - Whether for you individually or for your children, your EAP can help you do your homework so you can find out what you need to know.
  5. Legal and Financial - Includes setting up a trust, a living will, buying a home, managing debt, understanding social security, and more.
As I mentioned, the first 6 counseling sessions are free with your benefits.  Many of the other services, like the Legal and Financial, will incur a cost if you actually engage and book services, but the initial call is usually free, and most of the time, an additional discount is given as an EAP referral.  There is really nothing to lose by exploring these services.

I have personally taken advantage of my EAP's counseling sessions on 2 separate occasions and would highly recommend it.  I know there can sometimes be a stigma attached to "seeing a therapist," but for all intents and purposes, everyone needs help at one point or another.  Everyone can benefit from getting an outside perspective.  I personally came out of therapy a much stronger and well-rounded individual.  I learned a lot of great skills that I employ today at work and at home.  I am much happier and healthier because of it.  

Think of your EAP as a life-help program.  It is a free resource that most employers include with your benefits.  Do not be afraid to take advantage of it.



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