EAP in Sheep's Clothing

Employee Assistance Professional Anthony Barr-Jeffries (LifeSynch) sounds so concerned about the patient. He just needs a few minutes of my time. After all the employer has already gone beyond the call of duty in allowing the patient to work at all, given the diagnosis and treatment, so could I just tell him how long I expect to continue the treatment?

I could so easily spit out an arbitrary number like 6 months or 9 months. But it would be a lie.

I point out to Dr. Barr-Jeffries (He has a PhD, but in my state he is a licensed counselor, not a psychologist.) that my duty is to provide the best treatment to the patient, not to help the employer, or even to assure the patient’s continued employment. What will he and the employer do with this information? He does not claim to be treating the patient. Does he expect me to make a deal? If I say 6 months, will the employer let the patient keep his job? Okay, how about 4 months? Does the employer want to transfer liability to me?

Should a physician get involved in that kind of negotiation? I think not. Behavioral health care rarely works like a standard 10-day course of antibiotics. When we estimate length of treatment it is for the benefit of the patient, not the employer, who remains free to decide whom they wish to employee as long as they obey laws like the ADA.

Physician and patient can take the employer’s rules into account in making treatment decisions. We might decide the treatment should trump the job, or vice versa, but with or without the involvement of an EAP, the treating professional should not enter into such a deal. Employers can always retain a forensic examiner to answer their questions with an independent examination.

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