The City of Houston’s Employee Assistance Program is the Swiss Army knife of employee resources: it is an invaluable tool that can help with almost anything.
People turn to EAP for personal problems, workplace conflict, drug or alcohol issues, where to turn to draw up a will, car buying advice . . . and the list goes on. And it is free.
You could ask any of thousands of employees about how much EAP helped them, except you’d never know who used it — such is the premium that EAP places on confidentiality. The only way to find out who used the service is if that person tells you.
Lisa Alford is one employee who shared her story about a family issue. She, her husband and his children from a previous marriage were having communication and other issues that increased stress in the household. EAP counseling sessions helped improve communications and ease the tensions. The problems did not vanish, but Alford said everyone understood each other’s perspectives better, which led to improving relationships.
Latanja Bolden of the Finance Department said she contacted EAP about workplace communications problems and tensions. The insights and improved work environment led her to share her story. (See sidebar, EAP helps bridge the generation gap on Page 10.)
WHAT CAN EAP HELP WITH:
EAP’s on-demand training program includes short five- to 10-minute training modules that include interactive features and help you build practical skills to deal with real-life challenges.
These are but two examples of why the city has EAP: to help employees and co-workers or family members solve problems that can be affecting relationships and productivity at work. EAP counselors also help with almost any other work or life problems.
“We get calls about any number of things and have mediation for conflict between employees or if someone has an impasse,” said EAP counselor Annetta Vaughn. “We will do an assessment to determine whether it’s job-related or not. Maybe it’s a problem at home.”
Among the issues EAP addresses are stress, depression, anxiety, anger and anger management, workplace conflict and conflict at home, workplace changes, drug and alcohol problems, job performance and workplace second-chance agreement matters, marital discord, grief resulting from death of a family member or loved one or a workplace fatality, major injuries or illnesses, finances, caring for aging parents, and much more.
EAP handles some of the matters internally with staff counselors. Other issues are better handled by outside experts.
“We have what we call a hybrid model. We can assign things both internally and externally,” Vaughn said. “Sometimes we might have someone with us for three or four sessions and then refer them out to an external professional to help them. We can help them look for someone. Some people will shop all over town for a dress or a suit. We’ll help you do the same for the best person to help you.
“Or people may begin with an external professional and then transition to internal counseling or advice from one of the EAP staff,” she said.
And Vaughn pointed out that EAP helps with a variety of everyday questions and concerns, not just workplace or personal crises; their staff can also help with information to help employees work through the process of obtaining longterm care for an elderly family member, buying a car or taking out a car loan, or researching college for a child about to finish high school.
Vaughn said a stigma persists with seeking help.
“We make sure they understand that you don’t have to be mentally ill to ask for help,” she said. “Everyone has problems. A lot of what we do is informational or coaching and training. For some people, it makes them more comfortable.”