Employee assistance program (EAP) counselors help employees of companies and organizations to better handle work stress, coworker conflicts, layoffs and other problems in the work environment. They also provide personal counseling, couples counseling and family counseling to employees who are having problems in their private lives. EAP counselors are educated professionals typically trained in occupations such as psychology, counseling, social work, or related areas. If you want to become an EAP counselor, you will need at least a bachelor's degree but possibly a master's degree, and you will needs several years of clinical work experience.
Training to become an EAP counselor usually involves earning at least a four-year degree and often an advanced education. Specific requirements will vary. For example, some EAP counselors are trained as clinical psychologists and hold doctoral degrees in psychology and must be licensed in the field. An EAP counselor with an academic background as a social worker might hold anything from a bachelor's degree to a doctorate and might be required to be certified or licensed, depending on his or her geographic location.
Specialized certification as an EAP counselor will let employers know that you are an expert in the field of employee assistance and can make you more attractive to employers. Certification is not required to become an EAP counselor, but it might be required by some hiring employers. The major certification that is offered to employee assistance counselors is the Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP) credential through the international Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA). Requirements for earning it vary depending on the candidate’s current educational and experience levels.
Joining organizations such as EAPA and others in the field can provide educational and networking opportunities and possibly help you find a job in the profession. Such organizations also can help you determine the specific additional training and experience you will need to acquire to work in this field if you already have training as a psychologist, counselor or marriage and family therapist or in a related occupation.
Characteristics that will help make you a successful EAP counselor include strong listening and speaking skills. A caring, emotionally stable personality is important. Being sensitive to the concerns of others and compassionate in helping others deal with their problems is needed if you want to become an EAP counselor. Having leadership qualities that inspire others also will help you in this position.