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Why EAP Programs Don’t Work for Trust and Safety

By April 23, 2024No Comments

A recent BBC article talked about the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) investigating claims regarding the handling of calls by a major provider of workplace mental health services in the UK. Allegations include improper handling of calls from vulnerable individuals, such as advising a caller with suicidal thoughts to go on a date with his wife. The EAP provider denies these claims. 

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) aim to support employees with personal issues that may affect their work performance and wellbeing. Some counselors report feeling pressured to limit referrals for further counseling due to company targets. Internal communications suggest setting weekly targets for call duration and referral rates. In one week, it appears they were asked to keep calls below 19 minutes and to refer just 18% of callers to therapy.  

Concerns were raised about the clinical training and support of managers at the EAP, with instances where non-clinical managers hesitated to call an ambulance for callers at risk. One individual, Mikey, recounts his experience of not being referred for structured counseling until his third call, six weeks after his initial contact with the EAP provider. These and other concerns have been brought to the attention of the BACP for investigation. 

With EAP usage at about 5% (and that could be just for self-serve content, this 5% is not access therapy services) it seems difficult to understand the need to cut calls short, and block access to therapeutic services. According to research by UnMind, 42% of callers who need therapy are rejected.  

Fear of Accessing Services 

EAPs were originally developed in the 1950s to deal with alcohol abuse that was impacting productivity. They, of course, have developed and evolved over the last 75 years, but there is often a concern in accessing services. Employees may have concerns that phoning EAP services will get back to their manager, or someone in their department, and it will affect their job, their future in the company and their promotion opportunities.  

“The underutilization of EAPs could likely be correlated to the stigma surrounding them. Said stigma includes fear of lack of confidentiality/professional consequences for divulging personal information, fear of judgment from co-workers/supervisors and, ultimately, fear of reaching out for help. This stigma could prevent employees from accessing your EAP.” 

James Kinney 

Former Forbes Councils Member 

Content Moderators Need & Deserve More 

When we speak to customers who are comparing what Zevo provides with an EAP, we advise caution. EAPs are meant to deal with a small proportion of the total employee population, and for those who eventually get access to therapeutic services, most EAP vendors limit access to six 50-minute sessions. 

Deeply consider the job Content Moderators do. Imagine how their day began on October 7th 2023, when they were inundated with audio visual content taken on phones and GoPros of people being murdered in the Hamas attack on Israel. This was the first time we had a real front seat to the impact of war on people, and hours of video were removed by Content Moderators during the few days following the attack. 

The idea that you would expect an employee who is experiencing this kind of stress to try to convince the EAP, who have no Trust and Safety experience, that they need access to therapy is frightening. Imagine that after 6 sessions, their access to support is cut off – or that they need to spend time convincing their EAP provider that they need longer-term support.   

We believe Content Moderators do a very difficult job, and they need and deserve more access to people who are trained in Trust and Safety. They need service providers that understand their unique role, the very specific pressures associated with the role, and the concerns that fall outside exposure to egregious content. 

While we have no doubt that there are very capable mental health professionals working for EAP providers, the level of care needed to support Content Moderators is simply insufficient via a traditional EAP model. 

Why Zevo is different 

Our provision of wellbeing services is supported by a robust Clinical Framework which is developed in conjunction with external leaders in the space and maintained by me, as Clinical Director, with the entire clinical team. We regularly review our framework and update it as we discover new impacts of egregious content that moderators must deal with and as the field of psychology continues to improve its understanding of human behavior and mental ill health.  

Our Wellbeing Specialist’s are all clinically trained, typically to Master’s level with three or more years’ clinical experience. What this means is that we don’t just hire professionals who have gone through theory classes, we only place providers that have worked directly with clients in individual and group therapy for hundreds of hours. Throughout their training, they will have personal therapy to minimize any biases, undergone intense supervision with senior clinicians, had their therapeutic work audited by tenured professionals, and developed exceptional skills in treating mental health difficulties.  

We also provide in-depth training which is CPD accredited that upskills our Wellbeing Specialist teams to truly understand the Trust and Safety industry including the operational models, the organizational structures, the systems and processes, the language and terminology, and more.  

Despite operating a short-term, brief therapy model, we do not impose hard session limits and we have robust referral pathways for longer-term counselling or psychotherapy. We don’t need to put caps on referrals because we refer to external providers only, including community mental health, GP/Psychiatry, private practice professionals, etc. 

Our Wellbeing Specialists have no targets on handling time – a standard session is 50-minutes like traditional counselling services and can be extended longer in cases of imminent risk. In addition, we work extensively in group sessions, where we bring people together to share their experiences, develop strong working relationships to support one another, and explore how they are coping.  

While we do know that access to mental health services externally is hard to meet the demand, since we do not have hard session limits and users can return to our service with new presenting issues, this safeguards users and means that they will always have access either to ourselves or external providers that we can refer them on to. 

This is imperative for Content Moderators, who need access to therapeutic services to protect their mental health. There have been countless examples of Content Moderators taking companies to court, including the end client where the moderators were employed by a BPO, causing massive reputational damage to the BPO and the end client.  

The research tells us that Content Moderators have a very stressful job, and they can take this stress home with them, sometimes contributing to the development of delayed-onset PTSD, depression and other mental health problems. Most people agree that providing moderators with an onsite experience for therapy is more beneficial and shows the seriousness with which the organization takes the protection of their people.  

EAP providers are not sufficient for the standard level of care Content Moderators need, and when cases are taken, as we know they will be, the duty of care to the employee will be found lacking from a clinical perspective. 

If you are interested in finding out more about our services, please contact us.  

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