Employee Benefits / Employee Health

Prominent Employee Assistance Program Reducing Counselor Workforce to Pursue Profit Over People

I received a disturbing email, passed along to me by a colleague. This colleague is a registered provider (masters level counselor) with a well-known EAP. The message was a solicitation to clinicians asking them to help expand the EAP’s coaching network. Coincidentally, the pay would be the same as for licensed clinicians as it would be for coaches. On the surface it comes across as the EAP trying to expand its network. But upon closer examination, this is very disturbing. A few questions:

  1. Would “a client who is not ready for counseling and just want some support via a coach” really be reaching out to an EAP? No. We know that national EAP utilization is between 3-8%. People don’t use their EAP counseling benefits until it’s bad.
  2. Why would an EAP be investing in expanding its coaching network when mental health clinicians are in such high demand? It’s looking for a cheap substitute. No disrespect to coaches, they are revolutionizing the addiction treatment space and have huge potential to help us address our national MH crisis. However, when a mental health emergency happens, its licensed masters level clinicians that do the work. MH involuntary holds, hospital admissions (MD signs off), referral to higher levels of care, etc.
  3. Another explanation could be that career and parenting coaches could be an appealing service included in an EAP package. That is all well and good. It’s actually a great idea and very forward thinking. The flaw is soliciting clinicians “at the same pay rate “to become coaches. They are not explicitly saying that but it’s implied. Taking more masters level clinicians away from MH service delivery to practice below their scope as a coach, ridiculous.
  4. This particular EAP’s MH benefit is known for paying its contracted clinicians less than 50% the market rate for therapy sessions. That was never OK in the first place but it seems a little tone deaf don’t you think?
  5. The truth about EAP MH benefits- they are designed for the payer and employer. The therapeutic relationship is the most important factor in a therapeutic relationship and biggest predictor of change. A narrow panel of poorly paid clinicians is fraud!
  6.  Employers- Stop buying crappy, low quality underutilized EAP benefits! Only 3-8 percent of your people actually use the benefit anyway. When they do use it they encounter a waitlist and crapshoot. Do the work! Contract directly with quality clinicians. Better yet, make an internal HSA or voucher system. You say you want to do xyz for your employees’ welfare. Ask them what they need (or think they need). You won’t be able to provide it but you will have taken the first step in building a workplace that is healthy. Learn how to be a better workplace. I have a whole company dedicated to this very thing. Ask the question and do the work. It’s a lot cheaper than using my consulting services and I would help you ask that very question anyway!

Read the email below!

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