World EAP Conference Roundup

Soaring on the Winds of Change: Recap of 2016 World EAP Conference

Journal of Employee Assistance editor Mike Jacquart attended “EAP Innovation: Soaring on the Winds of Change,” EAPA’s 2016 World EAP Conference,” held October 31 - November 3 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. In this article he shares key findings from this important gathering. EAPA’s Conference on Demand is also available for anyone interested in downloading conference breakout sessions from either the 2015 or 2016 conferences. Full information is available at

DAY ONE – The annual Chapter and Branch and Leader Development session was expanded this year. Run by the EAPA Board of Directors, the session featured “Leading a Volunteer Organization” by Steve Smith with Rosecrance Health Network. Finding enough volunteers can be a real challenge for any organization, Smith said. “You need job descriptions to find out where they fit. You need a consistent way of training, which creates greater buy-in, what do YOU want to do?” Smith noted. Success stories from EAPA Chapter and Branch Leaders, and award presentations, were other highlights.

Day One concluded with the always popular EAPA Expo Grand Opening Reception (formerly known as the EAPA Marketplace Reception). Some of the many vendors included: Center for Discovery, Cigna, Harting EAP (Daybreak EAP Software), and National Association to Area Agencies on Aging. Held on Halloween, the festivities included plenty of candy and costumed attendees, including a Cat in the Hat, various ghouls, and a Ghostbuster or two.

DAY TWO – The opening keynote, “Moving from Victim to Victor through the Power of Forgiveness” was led by Lyndon Fitzgerald Harris, co-director with Tigg’s Pond Retreat Center. Lyndon presented groundbreaking ideas from the new science of forgiveness. “We need to create a culture of forgiveness in the workplace,” he stated. Sessions I attended included:

High Stakes Fitness for Duty Evaluations: When Concerns of Violence Arise was led by George Vergolias, Psy.D., Associate Medical Director with R3 Continuum. Among other areas, participants learned the differences between affective and predatory violence, and how to determine when to refer for Fitness for Duty versus Threat of Violence evaluations. “Clinical judgment is often only 50%, we have to consider other factors,” he said. “Can we mitigate risk? We can’t predict, but we can manage risk factors.”

Bev Younger, Ph.D., LCSW, Clinical Associate Professor with the University of Southern California School of Social Work, presented Rapidly Diversifying EAPs: Strategizing for the Future. This session addressed the continuing diversification of internal and external EAPs, and offered strategies for adapting to accelerating change. From factories to labor policies; like the ADA, FMLA and others, to broad brush EAPs, managed care, digital delivery, and the Affordable Care Act, EAPs have always needed to adapt to employee needs, she explained. “Is diversity a loss of Core Technology or a necessary adaptation?” questioned Younger.

DAY THREE – Wednesday’s keynote address was something quite different from the norm: short, engaging EAP Talks (think TED Talks) about current EA topics from Jeff Harris, MFT, CEAP, Program Manager, EAP & WorkLife Services, University of Southern California; Marina London, Web Services, EAPA; Sally Spencer-Thomas, Psy.D., President & CEO, Carson J Spencer Foundation; and Mark Attridge, Ph.D., President, Attridge Consulting.

Harris spoke on how EAP practitioners can build credibility as consultants. “Make it your business to know their business, including micro-cultures,” he explained. “Trust is everything. Deliver consistent, good results and don’t challenge a manager in front of a team. Get periodic feedback, and follow up.”

London posed the question, “Is EAP ‘Tech Proof?” It dawned on her that certain things in Vegas (scantily clad women, slot machines, circus shows, and magic acts) had not changed even though she hadn’t been there in decades.

Along similar lines, in spite of today’s ever-changing technological innovations, London maintained that certain aspects of society, and EAP, will remain “tech proof.” For instance: there will still be a need for human contact, and there will still be a focus on mental health. “The very act of helping is tech proof,” she said.

Spencer-Thomas discussed how EAPs can be shining lights of hope in the social movement of suicide prevention. She concluded her compelling talk by having the lights turned off. Then she asked audience members who’ve been affected by suicide – first indirectly, and then directly – to hold up their lit cell phones. As the room went from dark to heavily lit, it became apparent how many of us have been impacted by suicide, and what a terrible thing it is to feel depressed, in the dark, with nowhere to turn.” 

“No one should die in isolation and despair,” she said.

Attridge led a talk on how EA professionals can better integrate EAP into other workplace programs. The effort is worthwhile because EAPs can enhance their business value by creating connections with other health and benefit programs within the same organization. 

Sessions JEA editor Mike Jacquart attended included:

The EAP Connection to Military Sexual Trauma and Campus Sexual Assaults was led by Patricia Herlihy, Ph.D., RN, CEO and founder of Rocky Mountain Research; Lauren Bloom, a grad student at the University of Maryland; and Leah Marshall, a college sexual violence prevention advisor. Herlihy said that sexual assault has a tremendous ripple effect – from the victim and survivor, to family, co-workers, friends, and even the community. “It’s not just rape, but unwanted touching, grabbing, threatening, offensive remarks, and threatening and unwelcome advances.” According to the Media Report “Protect Our Defenders,” in 2014, 85% of victims did not report crimes.

Bloom pointed out that sexual violence is not just physical in nature, but also includes voyeurism, sharing intimate images, catcalling, and leering. There is a common misconception that there is something the victim could have done to prevent the assault. “There is too much onus on the individual,” she said. “Whether it’s college, the workplace, or the military, it’s difficult to acknowledge how prevalent this problem really is,” Marshall said. “This is not a women’s issue or a men’s issue, it’s a human issue,” she stressed. “Power and control can occur in any relationship, anyone can be a perpetrator.”

Innovations in Suicide Risk Assessment, Management, Recovery, and Grief Support, was led by Sally Spencer-Thomas and Bernie Dyme, LCSW, President and CEO, Perspectives Ltd. “A co-worker’s suicide has a deep, disturbing impact on workmates,” said Thomas. “For managers, tragedies post challenges no one covered in management school. For survivors, they feel, ‘when is the next shoe going to fall?’” “Since co-workers often have more face-to-face time than family, we need to do a better job promoting what mental health is.”

“We need to make suicide a health and safety priority,” Dyme stated. “Reduce stigma, open dialogue, promote EAP, and find champions willing to tell their stories. Encourage talk about mental health and determine if and how to make accommodations for those with mental health conditions and issues.”

Understanding the Changing Latino Demographic and Diverse Latino Cultures, was presented by Gerardo Canul, Ph.D., behavioral health consultant with GK Partners in Wellness. The growth in the Latino population in the U.S. requires EAPs to have a plan of action in order to offer effective EA services. “It’s important to understand core cultural Latino values and beliefs,” Canul explained. For instance, he noted that Latinos typically have a philosophy of collectivism versus individualistic beliefs. “The value of being a member of a community of family takes priority to individualism. Cooperation is valued over competitiveness.”

DAY FOUR – The last day of the conference featured a President’s Breakfast in which EAPA President Lucy Henry and President-Elect Tamara Cagney spoke to the audience. Cagney offered her vision for the EA field in a well-received address, and the incoming Board of Directors was also installed.

Also unique was Creating a United Vision for the EAP Field. Participants included Greg DeLapp, EAPA CEO; and organizational EA presidents Jeffrey Gorter, MSW, National Behavioral Consortium; Kaoru Ichikawa, Ph.D., CEAP, Asia Pacific Employee Assistance Roundtable; Judy Plotkin, MSW, Employee Assistance Society of North America; and Igor Moll, MWO, Employee Assistance European Forum.


Top 10 Rated World EAP Sessions

Selected by session attendees:

* Signs and Symptoms: Barriers to Recovery and Challenges Employees Encounter after Treatment
* Balancing the Needs of Employees with Cancer, their Co-workers, and Managers
* Innovations in Suicide Risk Assessment, Management, Recovery, and Grief Support
* EAP Proof of Success: Reducing Malpractice Claims for Physicians
* Change! Transition! Resilience! Expressing Transformation through Dance, Music, and Drama
* Workplace Conflict: What to Do and What to Avoid!
 * Navigating Mental Health for Airline Pilots
* The Struggle is Real: Lessons Learned on the Front Lines from Internal EAP Managers
* Understanding the Changing Latino Demographic and Diverse Latino Cultures
* EAP Industry Outcomes for Employee Absenteeism and Presenteeism: A Global Research Analysis


EAPA Awards Recognize High Achievement

Each year, the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) recognizes and celebrates the achievement of members, individuals and organizations who have distinguished themselves through their work and leadership in the EA profession.

Dr. Don Jorgensen received EAPA’s highest individual award, the Lifetime Achievement Award during EAPA’s 2016 World EAP Conference in Chicago. Other award recipients this year included Boyd Scoggins (EAPA Member of the Year); China National Petroleum Corporation (EAP Quality Award); South Carolina Chapter (Outstanding Chapter Award) and Metropolitan Tokyo (Outstanding Branch Award).

The complete list of award winners is as follows:

Best Use of Technology in EA Award
Given to an EAP, chapter, or branch, individual or entrepreneur for cutting edge use of technology in the delivery of EA services.
Bon Secours Richmond EAP – based in Virginia – sophisticated use of cutting edge technology permeates every aspect of EAP service delivery.

EAP Quality Award
Honors an EAP that demonstrates adherence to the EAP Standards and Guidelines for EAP Programs and includes an exemplary, continuous quality improvement component.
China National Petroleum Corp. – EAP covers 20,000 Chinese employees working in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Latin America.

EAP Advertiser/Exhibitor/Sponsor/Exhibitor Award
Given to a 2016 advertiser/exhibitor/sponsor who has a track record of providing exceptional support to EAPA.
Harting EAP

EAPA Making It Happen Award
Given to a remarkable individual who has done something truly exceptional to help EAPA in its mission.
Alex Shukoff, EAPA conference photographer for decades and creator of the beloved conference slide show

EAPA Member of the Year
Honors a current EAPA member for outstanding contribution to EAPA within the last 24 months.
Boyd Scoggins, CEAP, Alabama chapter officer

EAPA Newcomer Recognition Award
Given to a new member who has made an impact at the chapter, branch, national level of the association in driving EAPA membership, visibility, and/or growth.
Christian Ellis-Frederick, CEAP, Indianapolis, IN, president-elect of Indiana chapter

Emeritus Member
Honorary membership category. The individual must be retired from any active paid EA work and have served EAPA in at least two elected or appointed positions at the chapter, branch, or international level.
John Maynard, CEAP, Colorado chapter
Randi Wood, CEAP, Colorado chapter

Excellence in EA Business Development
Rewards marketing, communication or advertising campaigns, content marketing, website, blog, social media, and other efforts that promote employee assistance.
Mary Olsen, NYC chapter

Hennessy Scholarship Winners
Receive two full registrations to attend the conference.
Dr. Marcellinus Nwaogu, Lagos, Nigeria (non-labor affiliated)
Abby Alconcher, Chicago, IL, USA (labor affiliated)

Lifetime Achievement Award
Honors an EAPA member who has made a significant contribution to EAPA and the EA profession over an
extended period of time.
Donald Jorgensen, CEAP, Tucson, AZ, Arizona chapter

Outstanding Branch Award
Metropolitan Tokyo Branch

Outstanding Chapter Award
South Carolina Chapter

President’s Award
Awarded by outgoing EAPA president Lucy Henry to an individual who has helped make her term in the office successful.
John Waller, CEAP, North Carolina chapter

Ross Von Wiegand Award
Honors an individual supporter of labor who exemplifies exceptional cooperation and working relationships.
Charley Galassini, CEAP, IBEW Local 701, Plainfield, IL, NIEAPA