By Dijon Nichelle Rolle (USAG Baden-Wurttemberg)January 4, 2010
HEIDELBERG, Germany - Failing finances, marital problems, troubles with children and stress on the job - throw in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and you could easily create just the right combination to trigger an incident of work place violence.
In recent months there have been several high-profile cases of this form of violence in both civilian and military work places, and professionals on both sides agree that prevention is critical to putting a stop to it.
Most military members are somewhat familiar with the resources available to help them deal with problems at home or at work, but what about government civilians' Where can they go for help' That's where the Employee Assistance Program comes in.
EAP is a free, confidential program designed to help civilian employees cope with any personal problems they may have at home or in their workplace before they spill out of control. EAP counselors link civilians to the appropriate professional resources within their community.
"EAP is something that the Army picked up about 10 years ago," said Heather Robinson, alcohol and drug control officer for USAG Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg and EAP supervisor.
"It was initially used in large corporations because they found that by having Employee Assistance Program counselors available, they could get to problems with employees with regards to not just disgruntlement in the work environment and occupational stress," she said.
"But also any home life issues, drug and alcohol issues or finance issues that could be impacting job functioning. By doing that, they would by addressing it...be able to retain employees longer and the employers were happy in the work place, and it actually reduced insurance costs."
Bottom line, the EAP not only helps Army officials prevent workplace violence, but it also helps save money, manpower and time for both the civilian employees and their supervisors by tackling problems early on.
EAP counselors work out of the Army Substance Abuse Program, or ASAP, clinics.
"Sometimes there are identifiers, and they indicate that the employee has started using alcohol or drugs to deal with their issues, but the majority of the employees that we've gotten through the government so far, it's more been occupational stress issues," Robinson said.
EAP counselors do not conduct any actual clinical counseling, they instead listen and act as a middleman to direct referrals to the right resources to address particular problems.
"We are not clinical," said Amy Sensiba, ASAP Prevention Coordinator and Employee Assistance Program coordinator for Heidelberg and Mannheim.
"We do not do any clinical counseling; we counsel in a way that people feel comfortable to come, and sometimes we are the first ones they're able to kind of let it all out to. To say, here's my frustrations here's what I'm dealing with."
"Our biggest goal is to reduce stress and frustration so that they're productive in their job," explained Sensiba. "As we all know life presents its own difficulties and that often times affects our work. Anything we can do to help people reduce that stress works then to help them be more effective on their job."
Sensiba works with people dealing with everything from financial issues and adjusting to life in Germany, to former military members adjusting to their new lives in the civilian sector. She is also a military spouse and new to Germany herself.
"I think people get frustrated and overwhelmed because there's a lot of paperwork, there's a lot of go to, and so people often get frustrated and don't seek out those services because of that. We're able to kind of break it down for them a little.
A civilian employee can be referred to EAP through a self-referral or by his employer. Both are free, confidential and voluntary. Walk-ins are also welcome.
"The only thing the employer would know is whether or not the employee is showing up," Robinson said.
"And whether or not they're compliant with the recommendation but they are never told who the recommendations are made to."
Although this program is designed for government civilians, Robinson and her staff also want to reach out to military leaders who are trying to assist their Soldiers.
"I would like to encourage if senior leaders or platoon sergeants are already doing EAP type work with their Soldiers, which I know a lot of them are, if they are not familiar with what resources are available or the personnel within that resource to contact the EAP and describe the situation and let the EAP tell them who to contact and provide them the linkage," she said.
"We're available to advise the platoon sergeants and senior leaders when they're kinda trying to function as helping the Soldier, we get them hooked up with the right people."