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New initiatives in the EAP field

April 1, 2006
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Employee assistance professionals can take advantage of new collaborative and educational opportunities

These are challenging—but exciting—times in the EAP field. Although challenges such as disease management are facing the field, some exciting initiatives are under way. Below I touch on two: the establishment of the new Center for Employee Assistance Quality Advancement and Northeastern University's Online EAP Institute.

New EAP Group

In 1999, Ron Manderscheid, PhD, then chief of the Survey and Analysis Branch in SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services, asked me to convene a group of the major private- and public-sector leaders in the EAP field and to act as a consultant to the group. Dr. Manderscheid believed that the EAP field did not have a voice in Washington, that data were lacking on the size and extent of the EAP field, and that the EAP field needed to join the mental health and substance abuse professions in developing performance guidelines and outcome measures. Meeting semiannually, the group developed performance guidelines, and members have testified before the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health and the committee that drafted the recent Institute of Medicine report.

The group recently voted to become the Center for Employee Assistance Quality Advancement, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit comprising only EAP organizations. The organization has several goals, one of which is to develop a major EAP database. Following Hurricane Katrina, SAMHSA initially had difficulty locating the various EAPs operating in the devastated area. That highlighted the need for a central registry in the event of another disaster.

Another goal is to develop performance guidelines and outcome measurements and become part of Decision Support 2000+, an integrated set of mental health data standards and an information infrastructure to help stakeholders answer key questions and make critical decisions to improve quality of care.

The new group or its representatives will testify in Washington when appropriate, but they will not lobby. There also will be a special relationship with the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) and the Employee Assistance Society of North America. Most importantly, SAMHSA officials have voiced interest in the group as a resource and partner for them (federal representatives are no longer a part of the group).

Bylaws have been drawn up, and joining costs $500 annually until May 1 ($1,000 annually thereafter). Organizations interested in joining should contact Terry Cowan at or me at

Online EAP Institute

Having taught employee assistance in graduate schools of social work (at Boston College and the University of Maryland), I continually have been concerned about the lack of EAP education. With EAPA changing from a membership organization to a professional organization, the need for such training has become more critical. Through the years I have been called by people wanting EAP education. Yet I could not expect everyone to come to a university and earn a master's degree in social work. The business school at the University of Maryland and EAP Digest did cosponsor a highly successful one-week residential program for ten years, and while participants did come from other countries, the program was expensive and could not handle more than 35 students.

SAMHSA did work with me to develop a satellite two-day program in EAP education. We reached several hundred people, including some from other countries but, again, it was an expensive and time-limited endeavor. I realized the way to bring EAP education to everyone interested was through online education.

Boston's Northeastern University has decided to cosponsor with me (and has appointed me academic director of) such an online institute. The first classes began in January. The institute offers individual courses, as well as a certificate program, and an internship in most countries. The internship provides an intercultural EAP educational opportunity for students choosing to intern in countries other than their own.

The Online EAP Institute has a prestigious advisory board, including:

  • Katie Borkowski, Director, Professional Services, EAPA

  • Judy Campbell, Director, Alliance Development, Pfizer

  • Ron Manderscheid, Director, Mental Health/Substance Use Programs, Constella Health Services

  • Michael Reddy, Chairman of the Board, ICAS

  • Karen Seward, Vice-President, Business Development/Marketing, WarrenShepell

  • Timothy Stockert, MBA, MSW, Director, EAP Accreditation Programs, Council on Accreditation (COA)

Along with myself, faculty include:

  • Jay Avella, PhD, Professor, Capella University

  • Patricia Herlihy, PhD, CEO of Rocky Mountain Research

  • Christina Kominoth, MSW, Work/Life Program Manager, U.S. Office of Personnel Management

  • Robin Masi, Researcher, Masi Research Consultants, Inc., EdM Candidate, Harvard University

  • Bernard McCann, former Policy Analyst, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

  • Naama Neeman, MS, Quality Analyst, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

  • Timothy Stockert, MBA, MSW, Director, EAP Accreditation Programs, COA

Online courses adapt to students’ time-zone differences. There are no educational requirements, and all courses are pass-fail. PDHs and CEUs for social workers are offered, and Northeastern is pursuing other CEU (e.g., psychology) and SHRM credits. The following courses are being offered:

  • Introduction to Employee Assistance Programs

  • Clinical Components of Employee Assistance Program Service Delivery