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Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs

by Dale A. Masi, Ph.D.



one figure helping another over a multi-colored bridgeEmployee Assistance Programs (EAPs) were developed from two sources Occupational Social Work and Occupational Alcoholism. Although Occupational Social Work had its beginnings in the early 20th century (Masi, 1982; Maiden, 2001), it has now evolved into EAPs as a practice model. Social Work schools continue to call specializations Occupational or Industrial Social Work. The University of Maryland is the only school that changed its specialization name in 1990 to EAP. The National Institute of Mental Health established the Industrial Social Service Institute at Columbia University School of Social Work in 1979 and funded a number of social work graduate students in Occupational Social Work.

Occupational Alcoholism programs developed in the early 1940s, concentrated on helping employees with alcohol problems. In the mid l970s, the focus changed and began reaching out to employees with mental health and family problems, as well as addiction. The Employee Assistance concept was adopted to include a more comprehensive approach. Today EAPs also encompass a host of other services including Child Care, Elder Care, Critical Incident Stress Management and Legal and Financial services. Occupational Alcoholism federal training money was given to Boston College School of Social Work from 1973-1979. Graduate social work students received grants and faculty positions were funded to teach and supervise the Occupational Alcoholism specialties. The National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA) funded the program.

Federal support of EAP internships was received from the United States Department of Health and Human Services and The United States House of Representatives by the University of Maryland’s program from 1985-1995 for field work students placed with them. Several private corporations and EAP vendors have also given various amounts of stipend support for EAP field placements in their organizations. For Example, The University of Illinois, Chicago and The University of Maryland Schools of Social Work received internships from Abbott Laboratories, Amtrak, AT&T, Flight Attendants, Magellan, and US Steel as well as a number of other companies.

The United States State Department through its Fulbright Senior Specialists program has awarded four grants for EAPs to be brought to foreign countries. Dr. Paul Maiden went to Russia and South Africa and Dr. Dale Masi went to Japan and Italy.


The EAP service model is different from Occupational Social Work and Occupational Alcoholism. The EAP, besides providing counseling, trains supervisors to refer employees through an approach of meeting the employee and encouraging use of the EAP before an adverse action is to be imposed. In this way, EAPs are seen as a prevention approach. In addition, there are educational programs, 24/7 call centers available, information and referral services, telephone counseling and, in some cases, e-counseling. Since 9/11, EAPs have been called upon to provide Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) services. Most social workers who provide this have been trained by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) using the Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell model. At this time schools of social work are not training for this. Knowledge of substance abuse is considered an important expertise for Social Workers to have in EAP work. This is an additional qualification which many schools do not require (Masi, 2004).

EAP services are funded on a per capita basis by the employers and 80% delivered by outside vendors who operate as for-profit companies. The first EAP vendor company, Human Affairs, was founded in 1975 by Otto Jones, a Social Worker in Salt Lake City Utah (The second Personal Performance Consultants by two owners, one owner, Rick Hellan a social worker in St Louis, MO). In the mid 1990s, both of these companies were sold and became Magellan. Other EAP vendor companies are owned by psychiatrists (i.e., Value Options, Com Psych and United Behavioral Health). Social Workers staff the major clinical services offered by EAP vendors. As EAP services have grown, so too have the demand for Social Workers. Ninety percent of the Fortune 500 companies, most middle sized companies and small businesses, are now purchasing EAPs.

EAPs exist on almost every University campus as Faculty Staff Assistance Programs. They have traditionally been provided by staff hired by the University; however, the vendors are beginning to provide the services to universities (i.e., Harvard, Yale, Smith and NYU).

Hospitals and public school systems also have EAP services. The Federal Government requires all federal agencies to provide EAP services. Under the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act they were originally only Occupational Alcoholism Programs. These were expanded to EAPs under the Drug Free Workplace Act; Public Law 99-570, 1986.

EAPs are servicing millions of United States employees, their families and often household members. EAPs are growing internationally to a very large extent (Masi, 2006). The global picture is similar to the US in that some Social Workers and other disciplines staff the program. Regardless of the professional background the training needs are enormous (Masi, 2002).


Unfortunately there has not been a great deal of funded research in EAPs. In addition, because EAPs are multidisciplinary the research funded for EAPs and Social Work is even less. The picture is further complicated by the fact that individual social workers may have received research dollars but the institution receiving the grant may not be a social work organization.

The following is what research has been awarded to social work identified entities.

  • Department of Labor grant to University of Illinois, Chicago for Employee Assistance Consortium Development for Small Businesses. P. Maiden, Principal Investigator. 1991-1994.
  • United States Information Agency to University of Illinois for Faculty Exchange in EAP Research with University to South Africa. P. Maiden, Principal Investigator. 1994-1997.
  • United Behavioral Healthcare to University of Maryland for A Study of Managers and Human Resource Professionals’ Opinions on the Employee Assistance and Work/Life Program. D. Masi, Principal Investigator. 2002-2003.
  • Ceridian Corporation to University of Maryland for Factors that Contribute to Clients’ Utilization of Telephone Information/Consultation and Face-to-Face Information/Consultation; Outcome Measurements in the Ceridian Lifeworks Clinical OneSource Program; Motivation for the Use of On-line EAP and Work/Life Product; Outcome Measurements for the Use of On-line EAP and Work/Life Product. D. Masi, Principal Investigator. 1999-2003.

The following research has been awarded to other Social Work entities but a social worker was the Project Director.

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services grant to Development Associates for Evaluation of USDHHS Employee Counseling Services. 1985-1988. D. Masi, Project Director.
  • National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant to Northeastern University for Applying EAP Concepts to College Binge Drinking. 2006-2008. D. Masi, Project Director.


Maiden, P. (2001). Global participation of occupational social work. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
Masi, D. (1982). Human services in industry. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Masi, D. (2004). Issues in delivering mental health and substance abuse services through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Hearing before the Institute of Medicine Committee on Crossing the Quality Chasm: Adaptation to Mental Health and Addictive Disorders.
Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act of 1970, 42 U.S.C. § 4541 et seq. Retrieved January 19, 2011 from
Anti-Drug Abuse Act, Public Law 99-570, Drug Free Workplace, (1986).
Masi, D., Editor, (2006). The International Employee Assistance Compendium. Chestnut Health Systems, Bloomington, IL.
Masi, D., (2002). The Key to Developing Conceptual Thinking. EAP Association Exchange, Vol. 32, No. 3.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Masi, D.A. (2011). Employee assistance programs. Retrieved [date accessed] from /programs/employee-assistance-programs/.