Back in 2002, when I began in my most recent EAP position, I had only a rudimentary notion of what Coaching was. What I did know was that, as a practical matter, I was very unhappy with my available EAP referral options. Even when I began my EAP work way back in 1987, I’d always chafed under the expectation that most of my referrals would be to psychotherapists and substance abuse counselors.
Those reservations were exacerbated by the size of the client pool. Our service contract included all State government employees as well as all of the employees of the State’s largest electric utility, plus other large and medium sized businesses in the Capital area. Now I was facing a drastic shortage of insurance reimbursable clinicians and counselors, psychiatrists to prescribe meds, and, frankly, solid professionals of any stripe who would serve my clients and respond in a timely fashion to follow-ups from me. It’s not that there weren’t ANY quality providers. There were, of course, but they were the ones who tended to be booked solid.
Fortunately for me, the model I worked under allowed State employees as many as six visits to the EAP, and over time I found my style evolving away from psychotherapy to short-term counseling and consulting – active (rather than non-directive,) two-way dialogue, case management – as the best adaptation to client needs, especially in today’s postmodern cultural environment. It had always been a bit of a tug on me to largely be recommending further counseling (of the mental health variety) to clients who might really be needing something else. What made EAP work a good fit for me as a provider was the ability to move away from the disease model unless I truly thought it fit the particular case.
That’s the link for me, because it’s actually what Coaching is all about. Yes, there are probably sound reasons why EAP’s hire people with clinical credentials like mine. They have obligations regarding that initial assessment, particularly its ability to detect chemical dependency or mental illness. Liability and workplace policies sometimes trump optimal outcomes, because a referral to a credentialed mental health provider is a safer, more defendable action. I’ve been there. My point simply is that, now more than ever, a portion of today’s EAP clients would be better served if referred to Professional Coaches rather than therapists.
The other strand that points to utilizing Coaching is the special perspective EAP’s have regarding cases arriving for assessment that are not personal problems, but have their roots in the workplace – poor communication, conflict, performance issues, inept supervision, downsizing, layoffs, critical incidents, etc. In the business world “coaching” – as in managers coaching their direct reports and facilitating teamwork – is a huge industry. I’ve done a lot of coaching that we simply called “consultation” to supervisors struggling with managing some of their employees (and, above all, themselves) in a highly charged workplace environment. Managers often need coaching to learn to “coach” their employees.
I’d anticipated needing to pioneer the merits of Professional Coaching as a valuable service option for EAP’s. But as I surf the net I can see that many have already gone before me – advocating, serving clients, proving their value to everyone’s satisfaction. Many EAP’s now actually highlight their coaching services as an added value to their services offered. Which is great. Coaching fits everywhere with EAPS: direct services to individual clients, coaching managers on workplace issues, consulting to the workplace itself to improve the culture, helping supervisors “coach” their employees, case consultation if an EAP counselor needs resources, etc
In fact, it’s a natural fit.