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Employee Assistance Programs

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Employee assistance programs (EAPs) provide a range of different services and resources. In general, EAPs provide assessment and services for addressing a range of personal problems and concerns that interfere with employees’ well being and work performance (EASNA, 2009). EAPs may help individuals with emotional and substance use issues, interpersonal relationships, legal problems, and financial difficulties. In addition, EAPs may provide information and resources on health promotion and work/life issues. EAP professionals may also provide training and/or consultation to managers and supervisors on organizational concerns. Furthermore, EAPs may be helpful to employees experiencing serious illness and the associated challenges of staying at work or returning to work (National Business Group on Health, 2013).

EAP services are typically provided at no cost to the employee (although the number of sessions may be limited), and services may be delivered in person, by telephone, or through information technology media. Because EAP delivery models and services vary considerably, employers should carefully select the model most appropriate for their organization and be sure to distribute timely and detailed communication about its services to their employees (Jorgensen, 2005).

Delivery and Pricing Models

Several authors and organizations have provided detailed information regarding the general effectiveness of EAPs and the primary differences between delivery models (EASNA, 2009; EAPA, 2010; National Business Group on Health, 2008; Taranowski & Mahieu, 2013; Attridge, Cahill, Granberry, & Herlihy, 2013). For example, internal delivery models are those with professionals who are employed directly by the organization. External delivery models are those with EAP services provided entirely by external vendors. Blended models are typically those with internal EAP managers and external vendors providing services at multiple locations.

In addition to differences in service delivery models, employers purchase EAP services from external vendors under various pricing structures. Three common arrangements include capitated, fee-for-service, and embedded/bundled pricing. Capitated pricing is a fixed-fee based on the number of employees in the organization. In this scenario, a certain number of sessions are provided per employee per year, or per precipitating issue. Alternatively, pricing may be fee-for-service—or utilization-based—with prices based on the number of individual and group interventions provided. Programs may also be embedded, i.e., bundled in with a package of other services, such as long-term disability insurance coverage.

Profile for an “Average” Company

Based on utilization data from a study of external EAP vendors (Attridge, Cahill, Granberry, & Herlihy, 2013; Attridge, 2014), a company with 1,000 employees could be expected to have the following mix of EAP services provided over the course of a year: 45 people would receive clinical services of assessment and brief counseling (36 employees and 9 family members) for a total of 113 confidential sessions with EAP counselors. Eight of these cases would also be referred on by the EAP for further clinical care—often in the employee’s insurance benefit for mental health or addiction treatment. For the organizational-level services provided by the EAP, there would be 4 management consultations, 3 educational trainings provided at the worksite for specific topics (stress management, etc.), 2 crisis event responses or critical incident stress debriefings, 1 orientation meeting with employees about the EAP services, and 1 training for supervisors on how to effectively use the EAP. Concerning Work/Life services, there would also be a total of 16 of these cases, including 5 for child care, 3 for elder care, 2 for convenience/personal concierge (e.g., help with arranging household and auto repairs, pet care, and travel), and 6 cases for other kinds of family support services.

Utilization Profile for an "Average" Company with 1,000 Employees and External EAP Vendor

EAP Counseling Clinical Services

45 cases receive EAP counseling:

  • 36 employees and 9 spouse/family

  • 8 cases referred out from EAP for more care

113 total sessions with EAP counselors

EAP organizational services

  • 3.7 Management consultation cases

  • 2.8 topic-specific educational trainings

  • 1.6 crisis incident response events

  • 1.4 employee orientations on EAP

  • .7 supervisor training sessions

Work/Life Cases

  • 4.5 Child care

  • 3.2 Elder Care

  • 2.2 COncierge

  • 5.9 Other

Tips for Employers

  • Clearly define the scope of EAP services your organization will cover and thoroughly communicate these to managers, employees and family members

  • Be proactive in managing EAPs programs to ensure high quality and relevant services

  • Actively coordinate the roles and responsibilities of EAP with other health and productivity programs

  • Utilize EAP’s organizational services to support human resources and disability management functions

  • Discuss ways to analyze EAP performance, including validated outcomes measurement tools

  • Consider re-naming and re-branding the EAP to highlight the EAP as more than a counseling service, but rather one that can support employee and family issues and concerns objectively

  • Promote alternative counseling methods, such as telephonic, to assist employees and family members with time or transportation constraints.

  • Consider conducting periodic intake and/or case assessments to evaluate the quality of the member experience.


EAPA Standards and Professional Guidelines for Employee Assistance Programs: This document provides guidelines to help employers define and implement high quality EAP services based on their organizations’ unique needs.

EASNA EAP Purchaser’s Guide: Information on the history and effectiveness of EAPs and guidelines for selecting or strengthening an EAP program.

An Employer’s Guide to Employee Assistance Programs: Recommendations for defining, integrating and measuring EAPs.

Employer's Guide to Behavioral Health Services: A Roadmap and Recommendations for Evaluating, Designing, and Implementing Behavioral Health Services: From NBGH, strategies and recommendations for implementing a system of affordable, effective, and high-quality behavioral health services.

The National Behavioral Consortium Benchmarking Study: An industry profile of 82 external EAP providers.


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