Employeeassistance Programs

EAPs have become the key component of model workplace policies (Masi, 1984). Although drug testing has provided the major turning point in the evolution of workplace antidrug programs, the EAPs have expanded, grown more sophisticated, and become a vital part of the antidrug initiative. EAP programs were developed in the 1970s to focus on ALCOHOL abuse and to assist employees in dealing with the stresses of employment and personal life. Typically EAP programs provide short-term counseling and serve as a referral source for those employees who need treatment or long-term counseling. So-called broad-brush EAP programs provide a variety of services, in addition to crisis intervention, including management training and health workshops and seminars (e.g., SMOKING Cessation, weight reduction).

As managers began to develop antidrug policies, the question was raised: What will we do if we find an employee using drugs? Generally, corporate lawyers and security officers would suggest termination, while corporate medical and EAP staff would recommend treatment. The issue proved difficult to resolve for many corporations when the cost of treatment and the uncertainty of success weighed heavily on the minds of financial officers responsible for making a profit in a bad economy. Fortunately, most corporations have EAP resources to implement the ''helping-hand'' approach that management sought.

The involvement of the EAP program in the antidrug effort was also not without problems. Initially some EAP providers had difficulty expanding their programs to deal with illegal drug users, a different type of client from ones with whom they had previously worked. The illegal aspect of drug behavior was troublesome in a field where confidentiality is the cornerstone of the therapeutic relationship. Also the advent of drug testing created an ethical dilemma for the EAP provider who was accustomed to being an ombudsman between management and labor. A good percentage of EAP referrals were coming from the drug-testing program in a last-chance situation in which the pressure was on the EAP to ''cure'' the problem—or management would fire the employee. In the past, many employees using EAP services had sought assistance on their own, and management was never aware of the employee's initiative.

Despite these problems, the EAP field has expanded its efforts to treat substance abuse and has proven to be integral to the entire program. Employers have recognized that EAP programs not only help employees but are cost-effective. New materials, training programs in substance abuse, and certification programs have developed that have made the EAP provider more skilled in dealing with the drug-using employee.

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