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A Blended EAP is Best

A view of the state-of-the-art employee-assistance program at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Saturday, September 1, 2007
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JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s employee-assistance program is state of the art in two ways. First, it is a pure example of a "mixed" model blending external and internal counselors. Second, it has woven together EAP services with disability management.

The company, which has 140,000 domestic employees, has moved well away from the traditional EAP design, which focuses on individual counseling, primarily for mental health and substance abuse issues.

Paul Pendler, 48, runs the giant financial organization's disability unit within an internal EAP, itself part of Human Resources. He holds a Psy.D., a doctoral degree that is more clinically and less research-oriented than a Ph.D., in psychology.

The internal EAP is staffed with counselors (or, as Pendler calls them, "EAP clinicians") who are deployed in offices throughout the company.

"We have a chance to walk around the building and see what is brewing," says Pendler, located in Chicago for the New York-headquartered company. Employees can literally walk a short distance to see a counselor, he notes.

An external vendor, ComPsych, provides a network of employee-assistance counselors through an 800 number, "wrapping around" the internal program.

This mixed model quite likely increases utilization of EAP services, says Pendler, which he sees as beneficial to the corporate bottom line as well as the health of employees.

Pendler, who earned his doctoral degree from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology/Argosy University, came to work for JPMorgan Chase by way of being a service provider at an outpatient mental health program at a Chicago-area hospital that treated workers on mental-health leave. From there, he went to work for an employer who sent some workers to the outpatient program -- the First National Bank of Chicago, which was absorbed into what is now known as JPMorgan Chase.

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Pendler believes that internal control of disability-related services is more likely to yield favorable results than outsourcing. In his opinion, the quality of commitment by the employer is higher. 

For instance, he argues internally run EAPs will be more attuned to addressing the needs of the whole worker, and to looking at employee productivity more broadly.

"Think outside the box. Think of the whole person," he advises.

"It almost goes without saying that if you are committed to the emotional and physical health of your employees with an eye towards productivity, you will be most effective with onsite clinicians," he says. They have become, he adds, "behavioral specialists."

In sum, Pendler represents the kind of EAP manager who, with strong clinical training and years of experience, is confident of addressing many predicaments in which employees and supervisors can become mired.

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