Selecting the right Employee Assistance Program

You’re investing in the mental health and well-being of your employees. But do you have the right plan, and how do you know if you should switch?

One in five people struggle with mental health at some point in their life. The average length of time people suffer with depression before getting help is 10 years. 

The consequences of not addressing mental health can be costly for employers: people struggling with mental health are less engaged, less productive, and less present at work.  Because of this, more employers are recognizing the value of investing in mental health resources for their workers. 

“Just like we all have physical health and there is that continuum of healthy and unhealthy, the same is true of mental health,” says Jen Encinger, director of Fairview’s Employee Assistance Program. “If we ignore mental health, we are ignoring a whole side of a person.”

But there are many styles and models of programs from which to choose. What EAP will bring the most value to your employees — your organization’s most valuable asset? Here are six things to think about as you select your next EAP.

1) What services are included?

EAP programs can vary greatly in their offerings, ranging from limited telephone support to services that extend beyond traditional counseling, like financial and legal services. You’ll want to consider the type of services your employees are most likely to need and use. 

Fairview’s EAP — developed for our own organization before we started offering it to other employers — includes both individual support and organizational support. Employees and their family members get short-term, confidential counseling for a wide range of situations. The organization, specific teams, or departments can also get customized support to work through a challenging dynamic or difficult situation. 

2) Who are the counselors?

Consider the education, training, and licenses of the counselors who will be providing support to your employees. Not all EAPs offer the same level of expertise. 

Fairview’s EAP counselors hold master’s degrees in professional disciplines. They are licensed social workers, licensed clinical counselors, and licensed alcohol and drug counselors. Fairview has a long history of addressing mental and emotional health needs in Minnesota — our behavioral health program dates to 1956. 

3) How do employees access support?

Some EAPs are purely telephone based, while others offer in-person sessions. When services are telephone based, it’s not always guaranteed that a client will speak to the same counselor from session to session. 

Fairview’s EAP counselors meet clients in person at nine Twin Cities locations. We can offer telephone sessions if that option is more accessible or palatable for someone. But the majority of individuals we serve choose in-person sessions, which enhances their relationship with their counselor.

Employees who live and work outside the metro area or out-of-state have access to our national network of EAP counselors.

4) How long is support offered?

The typical range of sessions offered by EAPs is three to six sessions per person, either per year or per concern. 

With Fairview’s EAP, the number of sessions offered can be customized based on organizational need. We offer our own employees up to six sessions per concern, which allows us to provide a more robust level of service.  We want to reduce any barriers to seeking care and support.  So, if an employee who has already used EAP in a given year faces a new challenge, we offer another set of EAP sessions.

5) Where are referrals sent?

An EAP counselor may detect that your employee has a longer-term need or should see a doctor. When individuals do need more help than what an EAP can offer, ask where they are sent. Are all referrals sent to the same clinic, or are individual circumstances considered? Will your employees be sent somewhere that’s in network for their health plan?  

Fairview’s EAP counselors can offer guidance on options for outpatient counseling but also respect where a client might want to go. Our EAP does not have referral contracts with any health care system, and our counselors will refer clients to additional care only if they believe it’s truly needed. 

6) How does your EAP help manage costs?

EAPs can be a great way to manage costs, for both employers and individuals. Without using their insurance or paying out of pocket for counseling, employees can get help with concerns that could affect their health and well-being. Asking for support can be a step in preventing a larger concern, or even a diagnosable illness, that can be more serious and expensive to treat.

Especially if your current EAP is embedded in a health insurance plan, it’s smart to understand if you are incurring additional costs to use and access the services. You may see one base price, only to find that there are additional charges for planning, traveling, cancelations, or more. Extra costs can become barriers to using your EAP services. 

As part of Fairview’s EAP, you and your employees will never pay additional fees for using our services. It’s all included. We want to help your employees feel their best, so they can help your organization be its best. 

To learn more about Fairview’s Employee Assistance Program and how we can partner with your organization, request a consultation.

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