During these extraordinary and painfully grievous times, the public’s need for quality psychotherapy services is at a high point. However, with the extreme economic pressures so many are facing, the cost of these services could easily be a barrier.
“Mental health system” response
It’s certainly true that local mental health agencies (and therapists like myself) are doing what they can to provide services via streaming video or phone. Many are reducing their fees to very low levels. But America’s mental health “system”, such as it is today, is not designed for the circumstances we are in for the foreseeable future.
EAPs offer possible no-cost alternative
EAP stands for Employee Assistance Program. EAPs, which are funded by employers, typically offer anywhere from 3-12 mental health appointments in a calendar year (EAPs also offer referrals to a wide range of verified community-based resources for a wide variety of problems, sometimes at discounts). As a client, you pay nothing out-of-pocket for these appointments; they have been pre-paid by the employer.
Unemployment may not be a barrier
Even if you have been laid off or furloughed, many companies allow for your EAP benefits to be available to you nonetheless. Check with your HR department! Since the benefits are pre-paid, there may be no financial reason to deny your eligibility. If you are or were a Federal employee, check with OPM.
EAP therapists are fully qualified
EAP therapists are community-based and fully state licensed. Any qualified therapist can become part of an EAP’s network, and many therapists (including ones you may have worked with in the past) include some EAP clients in their caseloads.
Assessments and referrals
The basic model of EAP practice has the professional conducting an assessment of the client’s situation, with the possibility of making a referral to another professional (MD, or a more specialized therapist are typical choices.) Many Americans prefer this shorter treatment model, as unfortunately they still believe there’s stigma attached to receiving this kind of help. In fact, many EAP professionals are skilled at short-term therapies, so referrals are not a given.
It’s not health insurance
Key to understanding this benefit is that it is not health insurance. It’s a pre-paid employee benefit, operating outside of any employer sponsored health plans.
How common are EAPs?
Pretty common. In my experience, a number of even smaller companies utilize EAPs as well. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, the leading association for HR professionals, here is a breakdown of how widespread EAP benefits are:
- Over 95 percent of companies with more than 5,000 employees have EAPs.
- 80 percent of companies with 1,001 to 5,000
- 75 percent of companies with 251 to 1,000
My own experience
I have been an EAP professional for 21 years. This part of my practice has been integrated into the work I do with insured clients, and those who privately pay, from the beginning of my private practice. During my Masters program, I had a twin concentration in Mental Health treatment, and Industrial/Occupational practice.