How to Become an EAP Counselor 

An EAP counselor is a professional who provides counseling, support, and resources to employees facing personal, emotional, and work-related challenges.

They do this through employee assistance programs (EAPs) which are offered by employers. EAPs provide a range of services, including counseling, crisis intervention, mental health resources, and referrals, allowing employees to access the support they need to navigate personal challenges.

Becoming an EAP counselor can be a highly fulfilling career – being able to help people overcome obstacles, improve their wellbeing, and achieve personal growth can lead to high levels of job satisfaction.

EAP counselors benefit both employees and employers by supporting employees to function at their best. As a result, there’s been a steady rise in EAP counselor jobs in recent years. EAPs have become increasingly prevalent as employers recognize the importance of prioritizing the mental wellbeing of their employees.

In today's fast-paced and often stressful work environments, employers understand that supporting their workforce's emotional needs is not only beneficial for individual employees, but also contributes to overall organisational success.

Considering a career in EAP counseling?

Keep reading to discover more about this rewarding role.

Which Personal Characteristics Are Required?

Important characteristics for EAP counselors include:

  • Empathy and compassion. EAP counselors should have a genuine ability to empathize with others and show compassion. They need to be able to understand and connect with clients' emotions and experiences, creating a safe and supportive environment for them to share and explore their concerns.
  • Active listening skills. Effective listening skills are essential for EAP counselors. This involves being present in the moment, focusing on the client's verbal and non-verbal cues, and asking thoughtful questions to gain deeper understanding.
  • Non-judgmental attitude. EAP counselors should create a space where individuals feel safe to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of being judged. This helps build trust and rapport, facilitating a productive therapeutic relationship.
  • Emotional resilience. EAP counselors encounter individuals who are facing various challenges and may express intense emotions. It’s important for counselors to develop the ability to manage their own mental wellbeing.
  • Flexibility and adaptability. Each client is unique, and counselors may need to adjust their counseling techniques and strategies to meet individual needs.
  • Problem-solving and resourcefulness. EAP counselors often help clients navigate through challenging situations and find solutions. They should possess strong problem-solving skills and be resourceful in identifying appropriate interventions, tools, and resources to support clients effectively.

How to Become an EAP Counselor?

The pathway to becoming an EAP counselor varies based on the company you work for and where you live.

Sometimes, you may need an additional educational degree, certification, and even a license to practice EAP counseling.

As such, researching the specific requirements for EAP counselors in your area is always a good idea.

Below are a few basic steps to begin your journey to becoming an EAP counselor. 

Obtain Relevant Education

Pursuing a degree is the best way to kickstart your career as an EAP counselor. With no specific requirements on what to study, the best approach is to study something relevant to the field. For example, pursuing a degree in social work, psychology, family therapy, marriage, and so on will help you apply that knowledge as a counselor.  

Gain Clinical Experience

While studying to get a degree or after it, planning to gain clinical experience is vital. Search for opportunities in organisations that allow you to develop your counseling skills. For example, hospitals or mental health centers are great places to start. 

Obtain Certification or Licensure

Some jurisdictions require a license or certification to practice EAP counseling. If you live in such areas, check the requirements for licensure or certification. In most cases, you must have certain hours of supervised clinical experience to obtain licensure or certification. You can also pursue a specialty degree, such as a counseling psychology degree.

Gain Knowledge of Workplace Dynamics

Building your knowledge and understanding of different workplace dynamics is crucial as an EAP counselor.

Familiarize yourself with relevant laws and regulations, employee rights, safety guidelines, and disability laws, amongst other things that can impact an employee's mental health.

Develop Strong Communication Skills

Also, EAP counselors need to have excellent interpersonal and effective communication skills.

The job will require you to work closely with employees with sensitive personal issues or facing varying levels of distress. So, an EAP counselor needs to develop active listening skills and the ability to build rapport, trust, and empathy. 

Invest in Self-Care

EAP counseling can be emotionally demanding, as you may encounter individuals dealing with various personal and work-related issues.

Regular self-care practices serve as a protective measure against burnout, helping counselors maintain their passion, energy, and enthusiasm for their work.

Check out this article on how to develop an effective self-care routine.

Gain Experience in EAP Settings

If you want to advance your career as an EAP counselor, seeking opportunities in EAP settings is crucial.

External organizations run most companies' EAP programs. Looking for internships or positions within these organisations can help you gain the necessary skills to advance your career. 

Continuing Professional Development

Working in a field that deals with mental health is constantly evolving. As such, an EAP counselor must stay current with the latest research. Attending conferences, workshops, and seminars on workplace mental health can expose you to several new treatment modalities. 

Get Business Management Skills

Whether you're considering private practice or managing caseloads, honing business management skills is crucial. It's also important to invest in efficient technologies like Electronic Health Records or EHR for mental health practice management to help streamline administrative tasks and enhance service delivery should you go into private practice.


Becoming an EAP counselor can be a highly rewarding career path.

Seeing people overcome obstacles, improve their wellbeing, and achieve personal growth can be incredibly fulfilling.

The journey to this work requires dedication, continuous learning, and a genuine passion for helping others.

By following the steps in this article, you can build a solid foundation and embark on a rewarding career in EAP counseling.

Build Your Therapy Toolkit

Want a library of practical tools to share with clients? Check out The Professional's Mental Wellbeing Toolkit today. It's "everything you need all in one place."


About Rebecca

Rebecca is the founder of The Wellness Society and author of two fluff-free books, The Framework and Understanding and Healing Trauma.

She's passionate about creating concise and compassionate mental health and wellbeing tools that address the root causes of distress.

Read more about her views on our About page.