FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- When the mounting demands of our daily lives leave us feeling frazzled and stressed, it's important to know where to turn for help.

The Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, is a worksite-based program that was established to help employees and their families identify problems which may hinder their performance at work.

"Often times, people may not be aware of the problems at hand, but they feel frustrated and powerless," said Sandra Barnes, Employee Assistance Program coordinator/prevention coordinator.

Problems may involve anything from emotional issues, to stress, to marriage, to drug and alcohol-related issues, to finances, and everything in between, Barnes said.

EAP can offer assessments, short-term counseling, and referral services. All services are free unless there is the need for an outside referral, which may be covered by a client's insurance. This program is offered to all Army civilians, retirees and military dependents.

Ernestine Richardson, EAP manager, said the program provides a valuable resource that is underutilized by both management and employees. Although the program is voluntary, supervisors may make need-based referrals for employees on the basis of poor performance, attendance and quality of work, Barnes said.

"Through self-referral or supervisor referral, a client is able to sit down in a comfortable, nonjudgmental environment," she said.

During the consultation, a professional is able to offer support and understanding and then provide feedback and recommendations. The professional assists in recognizing the issues and implementing a plan to resolve them.

"It is about learning to deal with the storms. The rainbow is there, we just have to see it," Barnes said. "When we stop avoiding and start realizing our issues, then we are much more apt to deal with them head-on, so we can continue to be productive at work and at life."

Consultations can number from one to four sessions, depending on the need, and are completely confidential.

"Confidentiality is our supporting foundation for the program to work," Barnes said.

She added that there are however, certain circumstances involving a risk or threat to cause harm that would hinder the confidentiality. The success of the program cannot be measured in the numbers, but rather in the stories from clients who can attest to the fact that it changed their lives in a positive way, Barnes said.