In Part 1 of this two part post on In Front of the 8 ball, I talked about the misconceptions around mental health, and why people avoid seeking out help or consultation. If you’ve made it to Part 2 then congratulations, as I’ve piqued your interest, and perhaps you’re contemplating the possibility of change in your life.
“I need help now. Whom do I see? Where do I go?” These are often the first questions we ask when we have an area of our lives that needs immediate attention. We need: a home inspection, an educational consultation, a health or fitness makeover. If you work for a mid-size to large company or organization, it is very likely that you have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This is a program that your employer contracts out to another organization to provide immediate assistance to alleviate any concerns or difficulties an employee may have. Employee Assistance Programs offer counseling services, as well as legal, financial, or wellness services. The best thing about EAP programs is that all of the services are free, already prepaid via your employer, and entirely confidential (your employer will not know that you have accessed or used EAP benefits).
Often times finding/scheduling the initial appointment may be a week or 2 away, or there may be difficulty in finding a convenient time for everyone. Accessing your EAP benefits alleviates much of the scheduling concern, in that typically a rep is calling their network of counselors whose office is near your home or workplace, and the goal is typically to get you an appointment in an average 3 business days. Additionally, if your EAP company is local, it may have their own staff of counselors whom can see you quickly. Counselors/ therapists contracted with EAP companies are typically independently licensed, have been practicing in the field longer than 3-5 years, and are working in private or group practices as counselors/therapists.
EAP sessions are limited to 3-8 sessions which is determined by the EAP company. Now this may seem short, and I would agree with you. But it’s a good enough amount of time to “give it a try.” Chances are, in a short amount of time, there will be a precise focus to your time in session, and at the end there will be improvements and perhaps resolutions to some difficulties. If you’ve made a connection and feel comfortable with the counselor, it’s very likely that you’ll be able to continue with them using your health insurance. In a less than ideal situation, you wouldn’t have felt entirely comfortable with your counselor or perhaps had difficulty “connecting,” which would lead you to stop from continuing on with your sessions, or at your final session you will part ways.
As with trying anything new, sometimes it’s going to be great, and you’ll just soar, or other times you’ll need to make adjustments. Counseling/therapy is very much like a dance, you want to be paired up with a dance partner that you don’t feel awkward around, and with whom you can feel at ease. If you and your counselor through EAP does not work out, don’t give up, rather take inventory of what worked and what didn’t, or what you liked or didn’t like, which will help you in finding a counselor that will be a better fit for you.
So if you have EAP benefits, what’s stopping you from getting in front of the 8 ball?