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July 19, 2021 Amelia Wilcox

What is an EAP and Why is it Important?

97% of large companies with over 5,000 employees use an EAP (Employee Assistance Program). Yet, the traditional EAPs have an average utilization rate of around 5.5%.

EAPs may seem like a mysterious program that most companies have, yet most employees never use. Do they help companies and their employees? And what is an EAP, and why is it important?

Read on to learn what an EAP is, the history of EAPs, and the deal with EAP utilization.

What the Purpose of an EAP?

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) help employees cope with work and life stressors so they can perform at their best on the job. EAPs are a free benefit for employees, paid for by their employer. Typical services that EAPs provide include:

  • employee counseling
  • substance abuse support
  • financial coaching
  • life coaching
  • personal training

EAPs are confidential by law. Thus, EAP usage does not affect employee evaluation.

EAPs at their best are an excellent resource for when employees are struggling with stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

The History of EAPs

EAPs were created as addiction assistance (i.e., alcohol and drug abuse) in the late 1930s. Alcohol-impaired worker incidents multiplied during this time.

EAPs served as a way to support employees experiencing alcoholism or substance abuse.

While EAP methods have improved over the years (the original EAPs were enacted as pledges to abstain from substances), they still have the same goals: improving employee productivity and focus by supporting employee mental health.

In the 1970s, the National Council of Alcoholism (NCA) helped start the EAP conversation and spread the program nationally. Over time, EAPs now address the needs of employees’ families. EAPs have broadened to assist with relationship, emotional, legal, and financial challenges.

gray doorway with the word employees engraved over it—What is an EAP and Why is it Important

EAP Providers Today

Modern EAPs have evolved to meet the changing needs of America’s workforce. Beyond their original purpose to help with alcohol and substance abuse, they now also serve as employee mental health assistance.

With half of adults suffering from a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives, the demand for mental health support has no signs of letting up. Today, mental health care costs the American economy more than heart disease.

Related: Mental Health vs Mental Illness: What’s the Difference?

Modern EAPs include wellness apps and virtual platforms that provide quick and easy access to care. More traditional EAPs require that employees access to care through an intermediary like HR or an EAP representative.

Events such as 9/11 have skyrocketed the demand for EAPs in America. Since 9/11—and, more recently, the pandemic—more and more employees report PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

We should not face these challenges alone. Social unrest, political turmoil, and economic uncertainty add more stressors to our personal lives.

With the rise in remote work, we spend less time genuinely connecting with other human beings. None of us can live life alone. Sometimes we need someone to step in and help us process and heal.

In addition to new world events, stressors at work are constantly rising. More Americans are burnt out and extremely stressed about work than ever before. 75% of employees have felt burnt out, yet 36% think their employer does nothing to address it.

A work culture that focuses on performance, competition, and perfection leads to poor work-life balance. Some even place their identity on their work. Many employees end up overworking. As a result, employee mental health suffers.

EAPs are more critical than ever. But a typical EAP with just 5.5% utilization won’t cut it.

The Problem with Traditional EAPs

Even with widespread EAP adoption, half of employees never seek the mental health support they need.


The stigma around mental health and barriers to care. These include obstacles like:

  • Cost of mental health care
  • Transportation issues
  • Lack of therapist availability
  • The belief that therapy will not help
  • The stigma around counseling and mental illnesses

The best EAP providers tackle these issues.

Related: Pros & Cons of Employee Assistance Programs

Benefits of the Best EAPs

Employee assistance programs cover a wide range of services and address all sorts of issues. Here are some benefits the best EAP providers have:

  • Direct access to counselors, life coaches, and other practitioners
  • Counseling sessions as fast as the same day and available 24/7
  • Mental and emotional care available at no cost to the employee
  • Virtual and in-person treatment options
  • Improved productivity of employees
  • Help to maintain proper work/life balance
  • Content on meditation, yoga, mindfulness, breathing, and other coping techniques

The best modern EAPs provide utilization rates around 20-30% or more.

Related: Your Guide to the EAP Implementation and Search Process

What type of issues will an EAP counselor address?

  • Substance abuse
  • Occupational stress and anxiety
  • Emotional distress and depression
  • Major life events
  • Nutrition and health coaching and concerns
  • Financial concerns
  • Relationship issues

There you have it—the gist on what an EAP is and why EAPs matter.

Still have unanswered questions about EAPs? Check out our article on EAP FAQs.

We are Nivati. And we are—you guessed it—an EAP provider!

We started out providing corporate massage services. We provide 24/7 virtual employee mental health care, from employee counseling to virtual yoga to financial coaching.

You can start your EAP search and implementation process by booking a time with one of our Employee Wellbeing Specialists today! We can help you choose the best programs or EAP for your business. We’d love for you to join us in our mission to provide accessible, transformative mental health support for all.

Amelia Wilcox

Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement.

Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.

Recently listed as a Forty Under 40, Fast 50, Inc 5000 Twice awarded National Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Massage Therapist since 2002
Member of American Massage Therapy Association
Served on Utah Worksite Wellness Council from 2012-2015

Attended Utah College of Massage Therapy
Educated in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Utah

Massage Magazine (AMTA's publication)