Employee Assistance Program Frequently Asked Questions - 3 people typing on their laptops smiling

Employee Assistance Program Frequently Asked Questions

Amelia Wilcox
August 31, 2021
October 9, 2022

What is an EAP?

An Employee Assistance Program or EAP is a workplace program that employees can participate in voluntarily. They typically offer confidential resources and counseling for everything from stress, grief, physiological disorders, addiction, and even anger management. EAPs help address issues before they impact an employee’s ability to work productively. They are there to make sure employees receive care before issues impact their job performance.

EAPs were initially created to help employees with alcohol and drug abuse issues in the late 1930s. Over time, they’ve developed to support employees experiencing a wide range of issues. In our ever-changing work environments, with COVID-19 introducing growing issues such as anxiety, relationship issues, traumatic events, and other emergency response situations, effective programs needed to grow to address a wide range of topics. Employee assistance programs now even assist with financial and legal-related issues.  

Employee Assistance Program Frequently Asked Questions

Why should an employee use the EAP?

Employee assistance program costs are typically covered by companies whether their staff is using them or not. So there’s no reason not to use an EAP! Whether you’re experiencing a true crisis or could use someone to talk to, using the services that your company provides can help.  

What kind of problems can an EAP help with?

Employee assistance programs cover a wide range of services and address all sorts of issues, from mental health to financial help.

  • substance abuse
  • occupational stress
  • emotional distress
  • grief counseling
  • life events (i.e., pandemics, births, accidents, deaths)
  • health care anxieties
  • financial
  • legal
  • family/personal relationship problems
  • work relationship issues

Companies can implement more strategies to improve employee mental health, including flexible work, encouraging employees to take PTO, and doing wellness activities together such as hiking.

How much does an EAP (employee assistance program) cost?

For the employee: EAPs are covered by the company — so they are at no cost to the employee! Companies invest in these programs for their staff because employee assistance programs are designed to help keep employees working and provide support before issues affect their ability to work.

For the company: According to the Employee Assistance Society of North America, fees charged for EAPs in the last decade have mostly been in the range of $12 to $40 cost per employee per year.

For an in-depth guide on the cost of EAPs for employers, check out this article: How Much Do EAP Programs Cost?

Are EAPs confidential?

When you need help, you may not be comfortable letting anyone you work with know that you’re having a hard time. That’s why EAPs are designed to be completely confidential. Employee counseling sessions are not reported back to their employer, making it easier for staff to feel comfortable getting the support they need.

The best EAPs don't require employees to speak to an intermediary to set an appointment. Look for an EAP that allows employees to book a session online themselves!

Who can use an EAP?

If a company has chosen to invest in an employee assistance program, that EAP is open to all employees. Many EAPs are also open to members of an employee's immediate family.

What are the EAP counselors’ credentials?

When you decide to use your company's EAP, you likely want to ensure that your counselor is well qualified! Luckily, employee assistance programs typically require a master's or doctoral degree in counseling, psychology, or social work. They also need to be fully licensed as mental health professionals in the state (or states) that they are practicing in.

Since EAPs cover a wide range of topics and types of issues, your company may offer counselors with additional certifications. Some practitioners will also be certified in substance abuse counseling, relationship therapy, yoga, meditation, and so much more!  

Is there a set number of counseling sessions per employee?

Typically, counseling for employee assistance programs lasts about three to six sessions. If an employee's issue needs long-term treatment or is more severe, most EAPs offer staff a referral network to connect employees with additional care. Employee assistance counselors are trained to identify situations where employees need additional care. They will assess the employee and determine the best way to help provide support for their problem.

Nivati's EAP offers unlimited access to mental health counseling!  

employee assistance program frequently asked questions

Can family members use the EAP?

Yes! Though every EAP has its own stipulations for what qualifies as a family member.  

Will using an EAP affect my job?

EAPs normally do not report any personal information about a specific employee’s use of the assistance program. In most cases, your employee assistance program will keep all of your information private from your employer. However, there are occasional exceptions to this. If an employee has an issue or condition that could endanger themselves, a supervisor may be notified.  

What are some problems with traditional EAPs?

While EAPs were originally designed to provide support to employees in need, they have become a business model that benefits their own bottom line more than the companies they serve. A typical EAP charges companies a set rate per employee per month. This means the EAP will be more profitable the less they are used. So there’s no benefit for these traditional EAPs to recruit employees. Many employees have no idea that their company even offers this service. And traditional EAPs want to keep it that way.

In fact, the average utilization rate for EAPs is only 4.5 percent! A program that isn’t used just isn’t that helpful. Luckily, new online options are emerging with payment structures designed to benefit the employee (NOT the EAP!).

Note: Our EAP utilization rate is about 40-60%!

Are EAP services available after business hours?

EAPs are typically available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What factors should an employer consider before buying an EAP?

When an employer is considering investing in an EAP for their staff, here are a few things to consider:

  • What types of counseling services are available?
  • How are counseling sessions arranged -- is there an easy online portal, or is the process complicated?

Note: Scheduling therapy is easy with our employee wellbeing app!

  • How are the counseling services conducted—are they in-person? Via telephone? Video conferencing calls?
  • Do they offer counseling providers in all of your business locations?
  • Are their counseling practitioners highly certified and vetted?
  • Do they offer data reporting and analytics on utilization rates?
  • Do they offer online support tools for remote teams?

For an in-depth guide on finding a great EAP for your team, check out this blog post: Your Guide to the EAP Implementation and Search Process.

How does a company track EAP utilization?

Wondering how your company tracks EAP utilization? Because of confidentiality, they won’t know if you specifically are using the employee assistance program. However, they can track how many people from their company are using the service, with utilization reports provided by their EAP. This data helps show that the program is worth the investment!  

How do you encourage employees to use an EAP?

EAP utilization among traditional EAPs is often low since they often fail to address the common barriers to mental health care. Common obstacles to receiving mental health care include:

  • Lack of therapist availability
  • The mental health stigma
  • Poor user experience
  • The need for intermediaries to set appointments for employees
  • Confidentiality concerns.

You can increase EAP utilization by addressing these barriers. For an in-depth guide on increasing EAP utilization, check out The Step-by-Step Guide to Increase EAP Utilization.

Are EAP services subject to HIPPA?

Employee assistance programs that provide medical care are subject to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). These laws are in place so that sensitive medical information cannot be disclosed without a patient's knowledge or consent. Employers that use EAPs are responsible for complying with these laws, too.  

What are EAPs' ROI?

  • Lower health care costs
  • Fewer disability claims
  • Less absenteeism
  • Higher productivity and focus
  • Improved employee morale
  • Fewer workplace accidents
  • Higher retention (saves the cost of hiring and training a replacement)

Now that you’re well informed about everything EAPs offer, you may wonder whether your workplace has a proper EAP. And if so, is that EAP really working for my team and me?

A great employee assistance program can mean lower turnover rates, higher levels of job satisfaction, decreased absenteeism, and an overall happier and healthier work environment. So if your EAP just isn’t cutting it (or you didn’t even know you had one until now!), reach out and see how Nivati works.

Stop stacking benefits. Start being well. Set a Nivati demo


By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement. Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.