What is EAP?

An EAP is an employer-sponsored service designed for personal or family problems, including mental health, substance abuse, various addictions, marital problems, parenting problems, emotional problems, or financial or legal concerns. This is typically a service provided by an employer to the employees, designed to assist employees in getting help for these problems so that they may remain on the job and effective. EAP originated with a primary drug and alcohol focus with an emphasis on rehabilitating valued employees rather than terminating them for their substance problems. It is sometimes implemented with a disciplinary program that requires or strongly encourages that the impaired employee participate in EAP. Over the years, EAP has expanded to also incorporate not only mental health and substance abuse issues but also health and wellness and work/life types of concerns. Although one facet of EAP services is focused on the individual employee and their family members, another component is the services offered to the organization. This may include prevention, training, consultation, organizational development and crisis response services.

In a special committee appointed by the National Business Group on Health, EAP was defined in the following way:

Employee Assistance Programs are the human behavior/psychological experts that provide strategic analysis, guidance, and consultation throughout the organization to [apply] the principles of human behavior to enhance organizational performance, culture and business success.

The Council on Accreditation (COA), which serves to accredit EAPs, defines the program in terms of certain core technology:

EAP Core Technology functions are consultation with training of and assistance to work organization leadership, confidential and timely problem identification, use of constructive confrontation, referral of employee clients for diagnosis, consultation to work organizations in establishing and maintaining effective relations with treatment and other service providers, consultation to work organizations to encourage availability of and employee access to employee health benefits, and identification of the effects of EAP services on the work organization and individual job performance.