Work of heart

Understanding the innards of the employee assistance industry

Introduction by John Soderlund


Private mental health practitioners appear generally to have a vague sense of the world of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)—that segment of the counselling market that manages the provision of a range of well-being services to people within the context of their work lives at the behest of their employees.

But a surprisingly small proportion of psychologists—even those who do occasional work commissioned by EAP’s—appears to understand the innards of the EAP industry, what makes it tick and how they, as subcontractors, fit into the bigger scheme of third-party, industry-funded mental health care.

Since its relatively humble beginnings as a tears-and-tissues service for substance abuse management in the 60s, the EAP market has grown exponentially and the majority of top companies in the developed world now provide an EAP to their workforce.

These big corporates tend to do so not so much out of philanthropy as from a conviction that more contained, emotionally functional staff tend to deliver better bottom-line numbers for shareholders.

But for psychologists who subcontract their counselling services to EAPs, the relationships that govern this market tend to be different fromthose that pertain, for example, to their self-pay, longer-term therapy clients.

Independent Counselling and Advisory Services (ICAS) is one of the largest EAPs operating in South Africa, covering close to a million lives. New Therapist invited Andrew Davies, managing director of ICAS in Southern Africa, to unpack the dynamics of EAP work and how it relates to psychologists and counsellors.


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