Few states license the EAP field, an unfortunate reality that continues to undermine our profession. Why is this the case? This article will explore the licensure issue, and offer recommendations.
My experience in licensure dates back to the 1990s, when the EAP I directed was sued for an event that occurred before I was hired. The ensuing trial was based upon the plaintiff's contention that the EAP inappropriately referred an employee to a hospital with a mental health unit. The employee asked to be hospitalized, but seven weeks later the man committed suicide. While the EAP had acted correctly and followed up on the case, the staff member failed to effectively document her process, while other documentation supported our case. The attorney representing my program wanted a professional witness who could speak for the EA profession. I selected a statewide leader in Florida EAPA.
The first question raised by the attorney for the plaintiff was: "Are you licensed as an EAP professional?" Our expert answered, "No." The next question was even more compelling: "Is the Employee Assistance Program Profession licensed in the State of Florida?" Once again our witness answered, "No."
The witness then attempted to champion the merits of the CEAP[R] credential and EAP Core Technology. The next question was predictable: "Is this CEAP credential recognized by the State of Florida Department of Professional Regulation as qualification for the bearer to practice as a professional in the State of Florida?" The answer from our witness was once more a quiet, "No."
At this point the judge called both attorneys to the bench, conferred with them and announced to the jury and court that: This witness cannot be recognized as an 'Expert Witness' in this' case because, this so called 'Employee Assistance Profession' is not a recognized profession, in this State. At this point in time beauticians and barbers are licensed professionals, while these Employee Assistance practitioners cannot give testimony in this' court as experts for a profession that does not exist.
The defense testimony our witness provided was discredited and while the practice of counseling for which I am licensed was available, the counselor named in the suit was an unlicensed postdoctoral, agency clinician. In reality it was the EAP practice that was on trial. The EAP was being sued for procedural inconsistencies; yet we were not able to offer testimony regarding EAP standards of care. I believe that, had the EAP been able to provide expert testimony, a different outcome would have resulted. The trial ended in a draw (hung jury). Rather than face a retrial the malpractice insurance company settled out of court for a sizable amount. Our insurance carrier raised our liability rates...