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.