An employee assistance program (EAP) is an employee benefit program that assists employees with personal problems and/or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, mental and emotional well-being. EAPs generally offer free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services for employees and their household members.
EAPs have been traced back to the late 1930s, and were formed out of programs that dealt with occupational alcoholism. During a time when drinking on the job was the norm, people began to notice the effects it had on job performance and productivity. This became a major issue for industrial jobs and would become the main focus for correction with job-based alcoholism programs.By 1939, the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) movement had begun to spread throughout the Midwestern and North-eastern United States.People in “recovery" began to eagerly share their experiences with other workers. This would be the start of the EAP movement. Businesses also started to see the effectiveness of the programs through the rehabilitation of their workers and the rise of productivity. These improvements sparked the thought of what other types of problems this program could address.
This would cause for mental health public agencies, treatment centers, and private counseling firms to survive by partnering with industry wanting to enter the EAP field. This though would also cause the effectiveness of the programs to come into question.
In most recent years, the services provided by EAPs have changed in their direction. With events occurring nationally and around the world has caused for EAPs to rise and the need for them greater in the United States. EAPs have also been affected by technology, terrorism attacks, natural disasters, disabilities act, and workplace violence. Since the events of September 11, 2001, EAP specialists have become more involved in incident debriefing and implementing plans during emergencies. Providers began to report more on the workforce experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and an increase in stress and depression. The continued threat of terrorism, people are reporting that they are more anxious about the thought of an attack occurring again.