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Employee Assistance Program (EAP): What it is and why you should care

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You may hear the term Employee Assistance Program (EAP) during your onboarding for a new job or during your employer’s benefits enrollment period. 

An EAP is a free program that employers offer to assist you with issues that affect your health, mental, and emotional well-being.  

In this guide, we’ll bring you up to speed with EAPs — what they are and why you should care. 

We’ll cover: 

  • What is an EAP?
  • How can I find out if I have an EAP and what it covers?
  • Is an EAP really free?
  • Can I use my EAP to pay for therapy?
  • Can my family use my EAP for therapy?
  • Can my employer see my EAP information?
  • Why haven’t I heard about an EAP before? 

What is an EAP?

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a benefit program that can assist employees with issues that affect their health, mental, and emotional well-being. 

This includes but is not limited to addiction, anger management, anxiety and depression, childcare, eldercare, financial counseling, grief assistance, marital problems, physical illness, workplace conflict, and more. 

How can I find out if I have an EAP and what it covers?

EAP information will usually be disclosed to you when you start a new job. Review your benefits documents to see what is covered. If you no longer have access to those documents, you can ask your HR representative for more resources.

Is an EAP really free? 

Yes. The best part about EAPs is that there's no cost to you! EAPs are entirely separate from medical and behavioral health benefits, meaning you can also use your EAP before using your other health benefits. 

Can I use my EAP to cover the cost of therapy?

Usually. Your EAP is a voluntary program that will offer you free assessments, counseling, referrals, and more. In some cases, your EAP benefits reset each year, so it’s important to look into your EAP specifically.

Can my family use my EAP for therapy?

In most cases, yes. Usually, all household members are eligible to use your EAP services, but check with your HR representative or online to make sure that’s true for your specific EAP.

Can my employer see my EAP information?

No. There is never an exchange of your personal information from your EAP provider to your employer.

Why haven’t I heard about an EAP before? 

There are several reasons you might not have heard of an EAP before. All too often, employees do not fully understand the process they need to use their EAP. Many assume they need to get approval from managers or HR to access services, which is not true. You can use your EAP whenever you’d like and do not need permission from anyone to do so.

Unfortunately, sometimes office culture may also prevent individuals from feeling like it’s appropriate to use their EAP. You might worry that your job could be in jeopardy if you use their EAP to deal with issues like addiction or anger management. This will not be the case. Your EAP must be completely confidential, and the healthcare provider you choose to work with is bound to confidentiality by law.

If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health emergency, do not use this site. Instead, call 911 or use one of these emergency resources.

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First Published:
March 21, 2022
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