When an employee contacts ValueOptions to access services through the EAP, he will speak with a licensed clinician who will discuss with him the reason for the call, identify what services the caller is seeking, and together, the caller and the clinician will determine what the next steps will be. Frequently, the next step is to schedule a face-to-face meeting with a counselor in the caller’s local area to further define the issues, identify both internal and environmental strengths and supports, and develop an action plan to address the participant’s concerns.
While the majority of individuals accessing care through the EAP are seeking guidance around everyday living problems, the assessment by the professional also includes evaluation of risk factors such as a person’s history of self-harm or current thoughts of suicide. The EAP is focused on early identification and early intervention with individuals before problems become overwhelming and incapacitating. Many participants are able to address their concerns through brief EAP intervention and to resolve issues without any indication of viewing suicide as the sole solution to their problems.
When an individual does disclose that he has had thoughts of suicide or has an active plan for suicide, the counselor follows ValueOptions protocols to gather history and more detailed information in order to evaluate the degree of risk. For those individuals exhibiting a current risk of self-harm, the telephone counselor will engage the caller in a discussion about alternatives and will explore factors that counter the individual’s self-destructive impulses. During the discussion, the counselor also will attempt to obtain names and phone numbers of a trusted family member or friend who may provide immediate support to the caller. If a person indicates that she is at imminent risk for suicide, rules of confidentiality are waived in an effort to preserve the caller’s life.
While the caller is on the phone with the counselor, another counselor will research resources in the caller’s local area, including identifying local hospitals and obtaining the local number for the police. The counselor will maintain telephone contact with the caller until the caller is persuaded to go directly to a local emergency room or until a family member or friend arrives, or, in extreme situations, the police arrive at the caller’s location.
While the EAP counselors are thoroughly trained in responding to these high-risk situations, they also are trained to instill hope in callers who are experiencing everyday life problems. By communicating to callers that no issue is too small to receive attention through the EAP, counselors help callers recognize that issues they may be struggling with do have solutions and that their internal strengths can be used to overcome the difficulties they may be experiencing. Whether the contact results in telephone-based counseling or face-to-face counseling with a local EAP clinician, the EAP is a key element in an organization’s suicide prevention efforts.