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Employee assistance programs, or EAPs, were designed help employees and their families with problems that can affect workplace productivity. These are in-house or off-site programs funded by the employer to help address such problems, including substance abuse, frequent absenteeism, depression, anxiety and relationship issues. An employee assistance coordinator is usually a licensed mental health and substance abuse professional who administers and oversees the daily operation of the program.
Most, if not all, employee assistance programs are staffed by licensed mental health professionals, including social workers, substance abuse counselors and sometimes psychologists. They usually have master's degrees in their respective fields and some have doctorates. The coordinator of an EAP generally has a master's degree or higher, management experience and in most cases holds additional EAP credentials. Such credentials may include the Substance Abuse Professional, or SAP, and the Certified Employee Assistance Professional, or CEAP, both offered by the Employee Assistance Professionals Association. To earn these credentials, you must pass an examination and submit proof of your educational credentials, completion of continuing education coursework and EAP work experience.
The work environment for an employee assistance coordinator varies based on the type of organization. Individual non-corporate EAPs tend to have a small staff. Including the coordinator, there may be an administrative professional and one or two EAP counselors. Other corporate-run national EAP services may have hundreds of staff members in addition to the coordinator and other administrative personnel. EAP coordinators usually work 40 hours a week during normal business hours, but they may need to be on-call in the evening, weekends and on holidays for emergencies.
EAP coordinators perform many responsibilities to ensure the effective operation of the program. Their duties can vary based on the needs of their hiring organization. They administer the EAP, hire and train staff, obtain new contracts, perform on-site educational seminars for employees, provide staff supervision, act as a liaison between management and labor relations professionals, and perform administrative tasks such as overseeing finances and staff schedules.
Running an employee assistance program requires excellent management skills and the ability to interact well with labor relations and management-employee relations professionals. You must be able to manage your time effectively, as you may need to perform a number of differing responsibilities on any given day. You may also be called to intervene in crisis situations, such as those involving employee accidents or deaths, disagreements and other serious issues. You must be able to remain calm and professional in such circumstances. Many times, you may need to drive to meet clients, especially if your program is located off-site.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.
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