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The Internet:

A Boon for EAP Services

EA professionals might feel reluctant to incorporate online services into their EAP, unsure what this industry trend could mean for the future of their job. However, editors of Employee Assistance Program Management Letter spoke with three industry experts who see the Internet as an excellent asset to the EAP, although they were careful to stress its benefit as a complement to traditional methods rather than a replacement.

"ItÍs [the Internet] the greatest thing that ever happened to EAPs," said Ben Lo Casto, manager of Employee Advisory Services for MetLife and a member of Employee Assistance Program Management LetterÍs editorial advisory board. "The Internet is a boon for any work/life service and makes total sense for EAPs."

"The Internet offers an opportunity to reach a new segment " a strata which otherwise would receive no help," commented Rick Dielman of Workers Assistance Program Inc.

External EAPs could really benefit from opportunities the Internet poses by making them seem more accessible to their clients, Lo Casto explained.

The 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week availability of the Internet is a very appealing option for employees looking for some initial EAP services, Lo Casto said.

"If employees could gain access to EAP services through a click on their desktop, they might be more apt to check it out and see what itÍs about," he continued.

"The Internet is a tremendous tool and can be used for locating resources and educating oneself," according to Dana L. Mosher, regional EAP coordinator for Champion International Corporation, and another editorial advisory board member.

Problem-solving software designed by therapists, which currently is available, could be very effective for self-assessment quizzes. For instance, reading about the warning signs of alcoholism could indicate a problem employees were not completely aware existed.

Things of this nature as well as resource information could be found easily online.

"Regardless of the Internet or not, many people have security concerns regarding the confidentiality of EAPs, but these concerns are often dramatic and overblown," Lo Casto commented. "As it stands, someone possibly could break into my office and get into my files."

Although Mosher initially said he has "a lot of concerns about online EAP services," like Lo Casto and Dielman, his main concern was about therapy taking place online. All three agree " the face-to-face aspect of EAPs cannot be replaced.

"The most powerful part of the EAPsÍ effectiveness are the fundamental relationships; they are what make EAPs work," Mosher stressed. "Society is so computer-driven, the risk for healthcare and for EA is it becomes increasingly less personal and therefore less effective."

"EA is a face-to-face business, ever increasing in demand. The bottom line is meeting the needs of clients in a clinically sound way," Dielman explained. "As long as EAPs are still directing people in trouble to a face-to-face encounter, the Internet has the potential to do good things. This is not to say there arenÍt some potential hazards as well."

Although the experts agree therapy is for the office, Lo Casto said he believes the future could change that as well once technology allows for confidential, face-to-face meetings online.

"Once technology becomes more advanced we could be heading in the direction of online psychotherapy," he said.

Source: Employee Assistance Management Letter

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