Over the years CPS has implemented a variety of EAP program designs. We've found some work and others don't. We are not willing to provide the "others" that don't work. We know that EAPs provide a tool that is very effective in helping companies and civic organizations manage costs and improve productivity. They also help employees manage their personal lives, and managers manage their employees better. If we offer an EAP that isn't effective, employees get frustrated, managers get suspicious and we may become detached from the programs we administer. Life is too short.

For a program to be effective, it must be used.

Utilization rates (or penetration rates) reflect the percentage of employee family problems the EAP has actually addressed. Such percentages do not rightfully include phone contacts or the counting of different family members separately (unless these family members are coming to the EAP separately and for separate problems). We've also seen situations where companies have counted each session as a new contact. Although utilization rates vary and are affected by such things as periods of turmoil in a company, nevertheless guidelines show what a company can realistically expect in terms of utilization figures.

For a program to be effective, the treatment itself must be effective.

Indicators of whether employees are getting the tools they need to resolve their problems include:
  1. A highly experienced staff. Staff members get the support necessary to provide the most effective level of help possible to employees and their family members.

  2. A strong measure of client satisfaction and program impact. Not only a way to assess how effective a program is, a well-designed assessment tool also provides information about necessary program shifts and design changes.

  3. A low referral-out rate. CPS's referral-out rate hovers around 25% or lower. A good EAP takes the majority of its referrals from the beginning to the end of its treatment process.

  4. Enough leeway in the number of sessions available to employees to be beneficial. If an EAP contract doesn't support an employee being seen for at least eight sessions, then a conscientious therapist may refer a high percentage (eg., 50%) of the employee participants, creating dissatisfaction in the program.Ideally, employees should have the option of seeing the EAP for even as many as twenty sessions.

  5. Face to face contact is a must. If a program provider attempts to pass off phone contacts as equivalent to in-person contacts, make sure a built-in effective feedback system allows program participants to be about their opinion on the effectiveness of their service.

For a program to be maximally effective, it must be free-standing.

EAPs should have neither financial nor organizational ties with outside treatment providers. Whether intentional or not, these relationships inevitably influence treatment decisions. A program should be designed to help its clients get the most effective treatment and not unencumber its therapists with the possibility that additional and questionable treatment at an allied organization might be mutually beneficial. Similarly, therapists should be separated from considerations of benefit to a related organization when deciding the best quality referral available for a client's needs. Therapists, unfettered by other considerations, should be able to freely consider which treatment modalities would be the most fitting for a client. In short, an independent EAP guards against weak, unnecessary, and inappropriate referrals.

Further precautions should include a referral list, the same for each EAP staff member, based on a clean and rigorous referral evaluation procedure.

For a program to be effective, there should be an effective feedback loop from participants.

Any program that doesn't have a comprehensive, valid feedback system should be approached with caution. If such a program is instituted, the client organization should, at the very least, develop its own feedback survey system. This provides valid information about employee satisfaction and other measures of effectiveness.

CPS recommends the feedback system:

  1. be given to clients a few months (eg., three months) after their last treatment session so that they have time to gain perspective on how helpful treatment was.

  2. be based on a five point Likert-type scale (eg., "very satisfied" to "very unsatisfied"). Simple "Yes" / "No" questions bias surveys toward the positive because most people are reluctant to be negative.

  3. be given to all participants, not just those chosen by the therapists who have seen them.

  4. include feedback associated with a particular therapist so when problems arise, there is an opportunity to correct them.

  5. address issues such as comfort with the therapist, ease of getting an appointment, effectiveness of the help received and the effect of therapy on work-related factors such as productivity, manager evaluations, etc.

  6. not jeopardize the confidential nature of EAP participation

For a program to be effective, it must be designed to fit the culture of the organization that it serves.

We think a particular team of therapists should be assigned to a particular organization, so they can familiarize themselves with the culture of that organization. There are three major reasons why an EAP functions best when it has established an interactive and on-going relationship with the culture of the organization that it serves:
  1. This allows the therapist to do a better job. A therapist who is well-informed about employee resources, organizational management style, how much upward mobility an organization offers, the present changes an organization is going through and so on, is in a much better position to help an employee whose work is affected by his/her problem, or who seeks advice on workplace issues. A therapist's understanding of organizational culture is also very helpful, sometimes crucial in helping an employee.

  2. Different organizations speak to different programmatic needs. A large manufacturing company with three different shifts have employee problems that are different than those of a conventional law firm. These represent very different problems than those of a governmental organization, etc. Some organizations require more frequent critical incident interventions (eg. law enforcement organizations), while others might require emphasis on strategies to deal with substance abuse. Still others might emphasize certain kinds of training (eg., on-the-job stress reduction for highly stressful jobs). In growing organizations, the EAP might offer seminars on how growth affects employees. Companies which are downsizing might want seminars for employees on "revitalizing" the workplace.

  3. It builds trust in the program. As EAP staff becomes more a part of an organization's culture, then employees in turn become more familiar with and more trusting of the EAP staff member. This can be a strong factor in the degree of acceptance an EAP experiences in a given organization. When having personal problems, it is much more difficult to seek out a total stranger than to approach a familiar face. Also, the more familiar an organization's people are with a program, the more likely they are to use the wide range of services offered.
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