Front Desk

CIR Services Needed Today More than Ever

By Maria Lund, LEAP, CEAP


Employee Assistance Programs have been providing critical incident assistance to work organizations for many years. However, from disasters like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in the U.S., to earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, to last year’s City of Ferguson and Malaysian Airlines tragedies, it seems that critical incident response (CIR) services are needed today more than ever. As a result, the third quarter issue of the JEA focuses on the crucial role that EA practitioners play in responding to these crises.

In this issue’s cover story, Jeff Gorter, Jodi Jacobson Frey and Sharon O’Brien share their findings from five years of research on CIR services. While incidents like Ferguson and the Malaysian Airline mystery generate a great deal of media attention, it turns out that reductions in force, employee deaths, robberies and armed robberies are the most common events for which employers request critical incident assistance. The authors point out that while acute life events are intensely distressing for a short period of time, they only rarely lead to diagnosable pathology. This shifts the EAP response from a clinical nature, toward one that promotes natural resilience – an emerging trend in the field.

Jeannine Liebmann, Brian Bauer and Tim Hobart discuss important lessons learned in EAP critical incident response stemming from the August 9, 2014, shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager by a Caucasian police officer in the City of Ferguson. “As we go forward,” the authors conclude, “we will identify what does and does not work, and develop innovative approaches in responding to a crisis.”

Another unique challenge – that of response to the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 – is presented by Grace Ding, a CEAP in Shanghai, China. Among Grace’s “lessons learned” is how affected families have been able to provide tremendous support to one another as they all face lack of closure.

This issue of the Journal has other great articles. Matthew Mollenhauer and Chinese EA professionals Peizhong Li and Jie Zhang examine the pre- and post-instrument that was used to demonstrate that EAP counseling produced statistically significant improvements in workplace outcomes in a large sample of Chinese employees from both local and multinational companies.

Small businesses are gaining in prominence and importance in the American labor market, and yet, according to authors Maureen Carney and Scott Knoepke, the typical EAP does not adequately address their needs.  They describe how to tap into this underutilized market by tailoring services to the unique aspects of small businesses.

Elsewhere, Mark Attridge, Jeff Harris, and Sandra Nye offer insights and observations in their respective columns. Happy reading!