Since COVID-19 hit, organizations have been scrambling to find innovative behavioral health tools that will augment outpatient counseling. As wellbeing hubs for the workplace, top-tier Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have been leading the way in identifying, vetting and deploying innovative behavioral health solutions for employees. These full-service EAPs go well beyond counseling. They understand the corporate culture, coach managers on mental health issues, provide training, and respond to crises. Strong EAPs track each organization’s employee benefits in order to educate employees about options for care. This puts them in a position to be the hub for integrating innovative behavioral health solutions.
A Survey of Top-Tier EAPs
As a hub for wellbeing, EAPs drive 3 things - prevention of BH problems, behavioral risk reduction, and treatment. Within this context, it is a win-win when EAPs help organizations find, vet, and introduce innovative behavioral health solutions. The National Behavioral Consortium (NBC) is a think tank-type behavioral health trade association covering more than 30 million members. In April, 2021, NBC surveyed its EAP members to ask about specialty programs. Those members organizations report offering an average of 13 specialty programs to their client organizations, with an average of 4 programs added this year. Employees have the choice of self-selection or may be guided by a skilled clinician to a variety of options. Here are 15 examples of innovative solutions that are offered by leading EAPs.
Alliance Work Partners, Austin, TX
AWP recognized that when people work from home, they may not employ the best ergonomic habits. To address this, they formed a partnership with PTXTherapy to help members address muscular skeletal concerns. PTX uses AI-driven exercise and strengthening protocols for addressing pain points and posture.
Carebridge Corporation, Malvern, PA
Carebridge selected TESS, an artificial intelligence (AI) coaching support tool for employees interested in improving their emotional well-being - especially for those who are hesitant to use counseling. Employees initiate communication with TESS (a chatbot) by simply texting a designated number. TESS responds to each text, providing suggestions based on cognitive behavioral and other therapies. TESS compliments the traditional EAP offerings of counseling, informational websites and EAP apps.
Concern EAP, Mountainview, CA
Concern offers a variety of specialty mental health programs on its digital self-service platform. All EAP clients have access to eMindful, an evidence-based mindfulness program applied to everyday and chronic conditions. eMindful offers live and on-demand through an app. The program helps build the right skill in the moment, where decisions and actions are fully aligned with what matters most.
First Sun, Columbia, SC
One way to address counselor shortages is to add proven peer coaching to the offerings. First Sun partners with MAP Health Management, the leading provider of on-demand peer recovery support for employees and their families who are dealing with substance use issues. After 12 months, First Sun saw 40% engagement for employees and 52% for family members.
IBH, Costa Mesa, CA
Last year, IBH launched Dysruption, an industry first, corporate incubator designed to rapidly prototype, clinically validate and launch new innovations in mental health care. Through it, IBH has launched several new programs to improve access, outcomes and the patient experience. One of many notable innovations is Uprise, a CBT-based digital health program with online, live coaching, counseling and appointment booking.
KGA, Southborough, MA
KGA expanded its self-service platform with LifeReady and LifeResponse, two integrated programs that focus on preparing for life’s milestones and life's curveballs. Both programs bring together multiple resources, such as financial, legal and psychological experts, to comprehensively address an individual's needs. LifeReady targets preparation for milestones such as college, career, baby, marriage and retirement. LifeResponse helps with unexpected events like divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job and identity theft.
Massachusetts General Hospital EAP
Healthcare staff are among the hardest hit group of employees and managers during COVID-19. The MGH EAP added a thriving Peer Support Program for their health care providers to augment traditional counseling. The Peer Support Program is a virtual program to train health care workers to support the needs of their peers in the midst COVID-19. There are plans to continue the program after the pandemic and survey data is being gathered.
Mines & Associates, Littleton, CO
MINES and Associates created a way to remove the barriers to wellness by partnering with US Corporate Wellness. This coaching offers seamless, convenient access up to 4X/year to best-in-class, nationally board-certified health, wellness and performance coaching for employees and family member. Strictly confidential, personalized coaching sessions help members move toward the best version of themselves, from sleep and nutrition to stress, weight, smoking and even boosting professional, personal or athletic performance.
National EAP, Hauppauge, New York
National EAP’s most successful new program is Thrive, a series of live wellbeing webinars that range from “Self-Compassion” to “Creating a Life You Love.” These programs can be viewed after the live presentation on the EAP’s YouTube channel. The live COVID Support & Education series ran daily and monthly throughout 2020 had over 10,000 views.
New Directions Behavioral Health (NDBH) Overland Park, KS
Self-directed learning is a great way to expand EAP resources and create equitable care using evidence-based solutions. NDBH added Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and psychoeducational programs through myStrength, a strategic partner that provides individualized programs to build resiliency, manage stress, improve mood and sleep better. myStrength also provides LGBTQ resources and evidence-based content for equitable care and minority stress.
Personal Assistance Services, St. Louis, MO
One concern about fully virtual counseling platforms is the lack of clinician oversite. PAS addressed this by adding Mental Health Check-ins which is a telehealth engagement platform with PAS EAP consultants. Virtual or face-to-face options are offered to employers via QR code when there is concern about the mental wellbeing of an employee. Appointments are filled 100% of the time when offered by employers.
Perspectives, LTD, Chicago, IL
As the pandemic unfolded, Perspectives EAP developed a series of 20 free webinars for client organizations that attracted over 5,000 HR and Benefits professionals. Topics included “The Effects of Racism on Mental Health,” “The Impact of Unconscious Bias, "The COVID-19’s Women’s Recession,” and “Return to Work Issues After the Pandemic.”
UPMC/Life Solutions EAP, Pittsburg, PA
UPMC for Life launched the “Staying in Touch” program to 170,000 Medicare clients at the onset of the pandemic and later extended it other groups as well. In addition to proactive outbound calls, this program attracted 4,000-10,000 people to virtual sessions on topics such as emotional wellbeing. Out of these virtual sessions emerged “loneliness groups” and ad hoc caregiving groups for people who were concerns about elderly loved ones.
VITAL WorkLife, Minneapolis, MN
Teachers were another hard-hit group of employees during the pandemic. VITAL WorkLife offers Educator Peer Coaching as part of their EAP solution. Peer Coaching provides confidential, one-on-one, telephonic peer coaching for educators with a compassionate listener who has lived in the classroom. Their Educator Peer Coaches are PhD and master's level counselors, therapists, licensed teachers, coaches and consultants. All Educator Peer Coaches have deep experience and expertise in education and family counseling and have worked in traditional and non-traditional settings.
VetAdvisor, Falls Church, VA
To address suicide prevention and crisis intervention, a technology division of Three Wire Systems, LLC, completed a three-year accreditation program to become an approved Crisis Intervention Center through the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). VetAdvisors works with populations that are often exposed to trauma as part of their work including EMTs, police officers, firefighters, crisis care workers, and others. The award-winning VetAdvisor programs have seen up to 40,000 calls per month from Veterans and Veteran families.
Mental Health at Risk
These types of innovative behavioral health solutions become critical when a majority of the workforce report that they are experiencing significantly more anxiety and depression than before the pandemic. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 45% of Americans felt that the pandemic was harming their mental health and Pew Research Center indicated that 73 percent of Americans reported feeling anxious at least a few days per week.
EAPs as Wellbeing Hubs
As a “hub” for workplace wellbeing programs, top-tier EAPs have quickly pivoted to vetting and creating innovative solutions that provide immediate access and support for employees dealing with behavioral health issues, work life challenges and crises. It is estimated that 10,000 new mental health programs have entered the market in the last year in categories such as tele-health, on-line CBT programs, apps for self-improvement, and other psychoeducational programs.
As demand expands, organizations and their benefits brokers/consultants are all struggling to understand the new and expanded behavioral health ecosystem and the efficacy of various solutions. EAPs provide a way to combine deep knowledge of employers’ benefits, the company’s corporate culture, and integrating that into how they help employees. Increasing the variety of ways in which employees get help creates multiple pathways for immediate support and assistance.
Help for All Employees and Household Members
What’s really important in the end is that every employee who wants or needs help finds it easily and immediately. A stellar personal user experience is critical when employees are under stress because they may not know which way to turn. The telephone alone is no longer a sole entry point different generations access care in different ways. As EAPs have expanded their roles they are now providing many “doorways” to care, including seamless access via text, chat, email, app, or phone.
As the pandemic begins to wind down, experts predict that mental health struggles caused by COVID 19 and the demand for care will most likely increase before it goes down. It is critical that workplaces simplify all they have to offer by making sure that the services are well vetted and organized before demand for services increases further. A top-tier EAP is in an ideal position to serve that function.
Kathleen Greer is Founder of KGA, Inc. and a member of the National Behavioral Consortium.
John Quick was Founding CEO of New Directions Behavioral Health, a founder, member and now Executive Director for the National Behavioral Consortium
- Mental Health in the Workplace: The Coming Revolution, McKinsey & Co, Dec.,2020
- Defining the Mental Wellness Economy, Global Wellness Institute, Nov. 2020
- 9 Trends That Will Shape Work in 2021 and Beyond, Brian Kropp, Harvard Business Review, Jan. 14, 2021