As the stigma associated with mental health disorders has begun to erode, more and more companies are offering employee assistance programs (EAPs) to help their workers cope with everything from minor stresses to major mental traumas. But not everyone who can benefit from an EAP uses them.
Why not? St. Elizabeth EAP Manager Dave Welscher lists three reasons:
1. The stigma of seeing a “shrink” still exists.
And to a lesser extent, people still believe that you have to be “crazy” to seek out a therapist. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, Welscher said.
“I have been doing EAP work for 20 years and I can count on one hand the number of ‘crazy’ clients I have seen,” Welscher said. “The vast majority of EAP clients are normal people going through a tough time.
“At some point, in most people’s life, there will be a depressive episode, an anxiety issue or some marital struggles, among other issues. Talking with a therapist can help make those difficult times easier.”
2. People think it’s weird or difficult to tell their problems to a stranger.
That’s just social anxiety talking, though. After all, talking to a therapist, someone from outside of your regular life, about your problems means you can trust that they’ll be objective, won’t judge you and won’t share what you’ve told them with anyone you know.
“The overwhelming majority of clients who are nervous at their first session would agree with this idea and are glad they came,” Welscher said.
3. People are afraid that what they tell their EAP therapist will get back to their employer.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It would be a violation of HIPAA laws and a breach of mental health guidelines that could cost the therapist their license,” Welscher said. “No information that could be connected to a client or employee is ever shared with anyone without their express consent.”
An EAP is a resource that can help people with all kinds of problems, big and small. People who have access to an EAP can get free access to counseling for which others would pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Some people might worry that the problem they’re coping with is too minor, but there’s no such thing as a problem too small, Welscher said.
“Your smallest pain is your greatest pain, if it’s your only pain,” Welscher said. “Someone struggling with job stress is just as deserving of compassion and assistance as someone who is struggling with grief. If you are hurting in any way and you think talking with a counselor might be helpful, that’s what we are here for.”