Thousands of social workers have signed up to provide mental health counseling, drug addiction prevention and other services for company employees through the National Association of Social Workers Assurance Services’ employee assistance network, and that number is forecast to grow as more members learn about the opportunity.
“A little more than 3,000 NASW members have signed up,” Assurance Services Executive Vice President Tony Benedetto said. “We expect it to go to 5,000 to 7,000 when it matures.”
Employee Assistance Programs offer employees resources to help them deal with personal problems that could harm their work performance or health. Many of the people who staff EAPs are clinical social workers, NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark said.
NASW and its wholly owned subsidiary Assurance Services did research and focus groups to find out how to get more association members active in EAP programs, Clark said. They discovered that many companies are scrambling to find a professional who is close enough to quickly assist an employee in crisis.
To solve this dilemma, NASW Assurance Services established EAPrefer, a network where companies can find social workers by ZIP code and immediately determine what expertise the social worker has and their proof of insurance.
NASW Assurance Services piloted the program in a few states first. By December of 2011 — a year after it was launched — the network was available to companies in every state, Benedetto said.
NASW Assurance Services invites companies to apply to the network if they agree to certain reimbursement levels, Benedetto said. About a dozen companies have joined the network but that number is expected to grow as it expands to more states, he said.
Clark said the network is a good opportunity for NASW members to expand business.
“We are always looking for creative ways to assist our members,” she said. “It’s a timely idea and I think it’s a benefit our members will like.”
Social workers who want to participate in the Employee Assistance Program network need special training to do so, Clark said.
NASW member Dale Masi agrees.
Masi, a resident scholar at Catholic University and president and CEO of Masi Research Consultants, was an early proponent of EAP programs and is a sought-after expert in the field. She has written 14 books and more than 70 articles dealing with EAPs, evaluation and various mental health issues.
“Many social workers think they can do this type of practice but they need additional training,” Masi said. “When you deal with the workplace it’s not just about labor. There are also liability issues that otherwise social workers may not be aware of.”
Social workers who decide to offer services through EAPs must be ready to deal with a wide range of issues, including stress, domestic violence and drugs in the workplace. And the environment of each workplace differs, so issues that crop up in one office may not occur in others, she said.
However, opportunities for working in the EAP field are growing because more companies of all sizes are adopting such programs. They are now being offered in countries around the world, including Germany, Greece, Hong Kong and Portugal, Masi said.
Get more information on EAPrefer.