Monday, February 25, 2008

The Muddiness of Mandatory Referrals

Remember the 1970's--there was no such thing as a "mandatory referral" back then. There was only "Self" and "Supervisory" referrals. Mandatory referrals kneaded their way into the EAP field later, and they remain controversial.No doubt you've wondered whether "mandatory referrals" can damage the perception of EAPs as safe and non-disciplinary programs of attraction. Well, it depends.Mandatory referrals (often required after a positive drug test or other infraction) can work wonderfully and help your EAP, or they can reduce your EAP's utilization by damaging its perception among employees by making you appear aligned with management. There are safeguards that need to be put in place if your EAP is going to interface with mandatory supervisor referrals. They involve training managers.
I have assembled a short flash movie-link in this article that I believe explains mandatory referrals in a way that will help EAPs educate supervisors. It was produced for's Supervisor Refresher Training series. I think you will like it.
To keep mandatory referrals from damaging the EAP's reputation, help managers not stumble over the process of making these types of referrals. Include within your supervisor training an explanation of what a mandatory referral is, what it means, and how to do it correctly—not just that they exist.
Mandatory referrals are more than a “type of referral.” And here’s the part that may seem weird to understand: They have more to do with supervisors than employees. Mandatory referrals are policy directives. They do not change the voluntary nature of EAPs.
EAPs aren’t EAPs if they aren’t voluntary, right? (Say yes.) Voluntary is part of the EAP standards. So how does this little gremlin called a mandatory referral fit into the EAP picture? By the way, voluntary help is based on a bedrock principle, present in any helping profession, called “client self-determination.”
After speaking with many EA professionals and hearing their thoughts about this subject, I put together a Flash presentation included it within the Refresher Training series from
I hope you find this interesting and that you will give feedback on what you think about it. There's always room for refining it.
TURN YOUR SPEAKERS UP...Click link below to view the Flash movie:
Go here to learn more about the Supervisor Refresher Training series

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Maybe We Should Be Talking about "EAP Theory"

The EAP Core Technology describes the elements of what constitutes an effective Employee Assistance Program. EAPs have been around long enough that they have established specific ways of operating that are almost universally accepted. That's because they work. Many of these "understandings" and "ways of doing things" are not recognized absolutes, but they are almost universally practiced by EAP core technologists (EA professionals practicing within the spirit and intent of the EAP core technology.) This is an important discussion because these ways of doing things consistently make the EAP core technology practicable. Many are passed from one EA professional to the next, without any other rationale except for "this is how it's done."

This discussion of why EAPs work and how they work in concert with the core technology is really a discusson of EAP theory. For example, the idea that a trouble employee with job performance problems can't be helped by the supervisor, and cannot help him or herself (because of illness and its consequent affect on insight and the ability of the employee to self-diagnose) dictates that a supervisor referral to the EAP will work in almost every circumstance where is properly employed. But it has to be done a specific way, or it will fail in almost every instance. This specific way is not relugated to a "Theory and Operations Manual".

In this instance, the choice of accepting a supervisor referral, or accepting appropriate and legitimate disciplinary action, almost always drives the employee--no matter what level of denial--to visit the EAP with the hope of "escaping" the less preferred alternative. It is there that the EA professional will act on behalf of the employee's well-being and that of the organization. This process only works with EAPs. No other occupation within the workplace can be, or ever has been assigned this unique role. It only first emerged in the late sixties, discovered by the late occupational alcoholism pioneer Lewis Presnall. (Who also established this mechanism very successfully within the occupatonal alcoholism program at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency which had at one time one of the highest self-referral rates of occupational alcoholism I have ever observed.)

This application of leverage and use of a helping resource, combined with skills of a helping professional obligated to the employer, that also produces a motivated employee with a severe personal problem only operates within the EAP core technology. This is "EAP Theory" in practice. Consider the definition of theory from Webster's.

"THEORY" -- the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice. A particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles."

These rules and principles are found scattered throughout the EAP literature, but there is no "book" on these principles. Old timers know them by heart. If ever such a collection of principles and practices is produced, it may--may--serve the purpose of shining a brighter light on many non-effective EAP paradigms that, in part, keep EAPs from becoming a household word they should be by now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Drive EAP Utlization Up with the Smallest Things

It sounds simple, but one of the best ways to get word-of-mouth publicity and build credibility fast for your EAP is to return phone calls to potential employee clients and supervisors quickly. Instant gratification is what people want. (Yes, it’s tough, I know.) The 21st century is the era of high-level customer service, and customers have expectations that are no less for EAPs. But how do you respond quickly when you are so busy doing more with less? Here are a few ideas from EAPs in the trenches: 1) Leave appointment times in your return messages for your callers to select. It will reduce telephone tagging. They’ll call back with a chosen time. Place a star in your appointment book to indicate the times you gave out so you don’t fill them with other clients. 2) Unless it is an emergency, develop the habit of returning voicemail messages in the order that you receive them--first in, first out. Don’t mentally categorize messages into several layers of importance. You’ll reduce your stress by having stored 40 voicemails, later having to go back and search like a madman for the one you want. 3) If you promised a client to do research on some issue, like searching for a special topic 12-step group--after a day or two, call the client to update your progress. Don’t keep a client wondering, even if you have no information yet. This is tantamount to a waitress in a restaurant walking past you because they aren't ready to serve you. It's the acknowledgement you want, not the food.