Did you know you probably have a benefit through work that would provide you with free counseling? Seriously. Who doesn’t like free? An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a benefit separate from health insurance that pays for 3-8 counseling sessions at no cost to the employee.  

EAPs started around the same time as Alcoholics Anonymous as a way for employers to support employees whose alcohol use was affecting their work performance. EAP services have grown and expanded, so they can now be accessed for any type of mental health or relationship concern. Unlike mental health benefits accessed through your insurance, you do not need to receive a formal diagnosis in order to receive services. EAP benefits can also be used for marriage counseling or counseling for your child. I have seen clients use their EAP benefit to process job or family stress, talk about decision making, trauma, anxiety, or grief and loss. I have personally used EAP benefits to deal with work stress at a former job and for pre-marital counseling with my fiance.   

Typically, employers place a poster about EAP benefits in the break room with a phone number or provide the information in the employee handbook. You may have seen the poster asking if you have a substance abuse issue or are depressed and may have completely overlooked it, thinking it wasn’t for you. The toll free number to call is connected to the company who provides the EAP services. All services are completely confidential, so no one from your work will know you are utilizing the benefits.

There are a few important things to remember when using EAP benefits. All EAP services need to be pre-authorized by calling the EAP company. This is a relatively quick process where they will obtain information from you over the phone, give you an authorization number, and provide you with a list of local providers. They will want to get a general idea of what you are dealing with to connect you with an appropriate provider, but you do not have to go into extensive detail. You can say, “I’m dealing with anxiety” or “I worry a lot.” You may also let the EAP company know if you would like to see a Christian provider. When you call the counselor, you will let them know that you are using EAP benefits and provide the counselor with the authorization number for billing. Since these benefits are separate from your health insurance benefits, if you are looking to continue with your counselor after the EAP benefits are complete, you will want to check with your counselor about whether or not they take your regular health insurance.

I find that many people do not realize they can receive counseling services for free from their employer. If you find yourself needing to speak with someone, don’t hesitate to reach out and utilize this great benefit! 

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