Feb 18, 2016 2:33 PM

EAP Utilization: Is Self-Help or Counselor-Assisted Better?

Today’s employee assistance programs provide a tremendous range of services, along with a variety of ways for employees to take advantage of those offerings. In many cases, EAP participants can get assistance over the phone, in person, online, and even on their mobile devices. This assortment of options is certainly beneficial for employees, but it can create challenges for companies who want to understand exactly what they are getting from their EAP.

When analyzing EAP usage, it’s important to make a distinction between self-help and counselor-assisted interactions. Put simply, a self-help interaction is any occasion where an employee or family member accesses an EAP website (or mobile app) and views the information provided there. A counselor-assisted interaction involves a one-to-one exchange with a counselor either online, via the phone or in person.

While both the self-help and counselor assisted form of EAP interaction have value, companies who want to get a clear picture of their EAP utilization need to understand the differences between the two, including which forms of interaction are being reported in their utilization statistics.

Before we address the question of utilization reporting, let’s take a moment to consider the benefits of each form of EAP interaction.

When is self-help a good thing?

One of the most important features of an employee assistance program is that participants can get help whenever they need it. Having access to 24/7 information and resources supports an employee’s need for quick, actionable information.

A comprehensive, well-organized EAP website or mobile app can be extremely useful for employees who are seeking information but don’t necessarily want or need to speak to a counselor. Each time an employee or family member takes advantage of these resources, a self-help EAP interaction has taken place.

In many cases, self-help interactions are enough to help employees find a solution to minor issues. Self-help materials can also prompt employees with serious issues take the first step toward getting help. Reading about a problem, and becoming familiar with the available options, can give employees the courage to take the next step and speak to a counselor.

Some employees may be unwilling to speak to a counselor because they suspect their personal information will be reported to their employer, even though EAPs explicitly state that this will not happen. In these cases, self-help materials may be the only help an employee is willing to accept.

When is counselor-assisted a better choice?

EAP counselors have extensive training, enabling them to diagnose problems, evaluate their severity, recommend solutions, and follow up to ensure that employees adhere to their treatment plans. EAP counselors are also able to provide brief therapy which is often times all that people need to address a concern in their life.

Evaluating Your Utilization Data

Given that both self-help and counselor-assisted utilization can be beneficial under the right circumstances, how should you interpret your data on these very different forms of interaction?

EAP companies who follow the standards of the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) will separate self-help usage from counselor-assisted usage in their official utilization reporting, allowing you to gain a clear view of the types of utilization your employees have initiated.

EAPA standards call for a simple calculation—program users/total headcount—when reporting utilization statistics. A program user, according to EAPA, is any participant who has had a meaningful discussion with a provider, in which the counselor assessed an issue and provided recommendations.

LifeMatters adheres to the EAPA standard for utilization reporting. On the surface, this may make our utilization numbers appear artificially smaller than some other EAPs as we depict only counselor-assisted usage in our official rate, but we believe that focusing on these interactions is the best way to analyze an EAP’s value to the company. No matter who administers your EAP, be sure that you know what data you are looking at when you assess your plan’s performance.

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