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Episode 109 | Starting an EAP with Jessica Schroder



  • Episode 109 | Starting an EAP with Jessica Schroder 00:00


Hi Group Practice Listeners! In this coaching episode, I’m talking with Jessica Schroder all about how to market and contract to EAPs.

In this episode we cover:

  • Contracting with existing EAPs
  • How to find existing EAPs
  • Establishing your own EAP
  • Start up costs to consider when establishing your own EAP
  • Pros + Cons of EAPs

This episode is sponsored by TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes is an EHR software that helps behavioral health professionals manage their practice with confidence and efficiency. I use TherapyNotes in my own group practice and love its amazing support team, billing features, and scheduling capabilities. It serves us well as a large group practice owner.

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Maureen Werrbach

Hey, everyone, I have Jessica Schroeder with me today. And we’re going to be talking about how to market and contract to EAPs or large companies and HR departments. So welcome, Jessica. How are you?

Jessica Schroder 

I’m good. I’m good. How are you?

Maureen Werrbach 

Not bad! I love starting first with seeing where your practice is at physically. But also just where it’s at in terms of size and where your plans are. And why EAP is important to you, and then we can get into the nitty gritty stuff.

Jessica Schroder 

Yeah. So I’m located in Kansas City and I have two locations. One is in Leavenworth, Kansas, which is a smaller town. And then in Overland Park, Kansas, which is completely the opposite. It is very saturated with therapists down in Overland Park. And that’s why I wanted to find out more information about this because I’m kind of thinking outside of the box. How can I mark it in other ways that other therapists are not?

Maureen Werrbach 

I think that’s a great idea.

Jessica Schroder 

Yes. And I’m looking to grow my practice. I want to grow, grow, grow.

Maureen Werrbach 

Awesome. So tell us what is it about this specific topic, contracting to EAPs that you’re gravitating towards?

Jessica Schroder 

So I’m really thinking about how do I get in with some of the bigger companies and create a new source of referrals? So I was thinking, how do you I’m not sure. Do I contact the HR? Do I go through the EAP? And have them direct me to the companies? How do I find them? It’s just like, where do I start? This feels really overwhelming.

Maureen Werrbach 

Okay, so I have a question that will kind of guide me in which direction we’re going to go. So there’s two things you can either contract with existing EAPs in your area, or you can become an EAP for a larger company or organization. So they’re a little bit different. One is obviously existing EAPs that you become contracted with to provide services for and then they refer clients over to you. And one would essentially be being your own EAP for a company. Obviously, you cut out kind of the middle person which is an existing EAP. So potentially reimbursements can be higher, and you don’t have to work through a middle person. So I wanted to give both options and see which one were you kind of focusing on doing. Because with with that question initially, I was like, I wonder which, which way she’s leading.

Jessica Schroder 

I did not realize that I could be my own EAP. So that’s very intriguing. Okay.

Maureen Werrbach 

I mean, we could talk about both of them a little bit.

Jessica Schroder 

Great. Yeah, that’d be, that’d be great. Let’s do both.

Maureen Werrbach 

Okay, so I’ll start with the easy answer, which is contracting with existing EAPs. I think that’s a little bit easier than kind of getting yourself set up on your own. Some of your first question was like, how to find them. And I think the easiest way, the easiest way to find them is by one would be by asking any local therapist, Facebook groups, which EAP is there.

And I know we have a Chicago therapist’s Facebook group, and oftentimes people are asking what EAPs are insurances are best to be in network with in the Chicagoland area because obviously it varies state by state in terms of reimbursement rates, but also with EAP. Specifically, there’s certainly EAPs that are really common in Chicago that are not common or not even around in other states. And so I’ll say that the first and easiest places if you have a Facebook group or a local therapist Facebook group is to ask in there just because you may find very quickly out which ones are pretty common in your area.

The second way to do it if you don’t have a local Facebook group, and if you’re not well connected to a bunch of private practitioners in your area, is to check with what large local companies there are in your area.

So for us, you know, here in Chicago and more I’m at Walgreens is a large we have corporate Walgreens is Not too far from us. So if I wanted to know what EAP is they were taking, going straight to corporate Walgreens and just googling them. And I don’t know, it’s a little bit of investigative work, but you can figure it, you can find that information up. Probably within a day would be another great place to look. Because if you have a large corporation or business nearby that already has a pre existing APS with an EAP company, the assumption is, is that a lot of their employees likely work around your area as well or live around your area as well. And so that can get you started on figuring out what a piece would be good to, to get to know.

Jessica Schroder 

That’s great. I love that going to the corporation because that’s one thing I didn’t think of. I was thinking okay, I need to just find out who are the largest companies in my area but going to the corporate makes a lot of sense.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, I think you know. It really if you go to the corporations or the the law businesses like, I live in Chicago. So the there’s a lot of Chicago City city workers. And it’s, it just makes a lot of sense to see what are the, you know, what is the city of Chicago for all of the city workers from streets and sanitation to the people who do the streetlights and that–which is my dad–fire, first responders and all of that. They all are using, you know, one EAP for the whole city of Chicago employees.

So that’s, you know, makes it easy then to know, okay, if I wanted to take a EAPs, using the city of Chicago’s that has so many employees, obviously, who are going to be living in our area would be just a Smart Start, because there’s actually a ton of VIPs at least in Chicago, there’s tons of them.

And, you know, years and years ago when I first started my my solo practice, I was in network with almost every EAP and I learned rather quickly that you know, 90% of the EAPs are so small and are very specific to little small organizations that might not be anywhere near my practices, where I never got a referral ever from them. And so it really, I’ve seen in Chicago, there’s really, you know, three or so main EAPs that most people use, or most businesses are contracting through. So that would be assuming to be the case in your area as well.

Jessica Schroder 

Yeah, that makes sense. I know. I can even think of the top of my head one of them comes to mind already. So, okay, yes.

Maureen Werrbach 

And so that that’d be where I start. Like I said, the Facebook groups is going to give you a handful of places. But also just know going in because, you know, these Facebook groups tend to be even if they’re local, they’re, you know, a statewide thing and so that might not be so local to you.

If someone from across your state is giving recommendations, so I prefer to to look at you know, where are my employees clients working right now? Is there a trend? Is there a lot of people that work for a specific company that tend to come to your business? Because, you know, locally, they just live around where that business is located. That’s where I would start.

You’d be surprised, you know, it’s hard for us as group practice owners to know where all of the employees in my practice living but a quick email to your clinicians and asking them Hey, where’s like the most common places you’re, you know, is there a common business that a couple of your clients work at? And you might get a might get a trend that way?

Another thing to do is maybe googling you know, corporations near me or corporations in whatever zip code yours is? B

ecause I never even thought of Walgreens because Walgreens technically isn’t in Chicago. It’s in Northfield, it’s a little suburb, but it’s like 20 minutes away, so not far. It’s just I’m so focused always on Chicago that I don’t really look at suburbs of Chicago. And, oddly enough, we found that when I had googled the corporations that are near me, Walgreens popped up and I was like, Ah, there, Walgreens is huge. And I have a friend who lives two blocks away from me that works out his works in corporate Walgreens. So that made a lot of sense to do that.

So that’s also another option if you aren’t connected to, you know, local businesses or aren’t even sure what larger corporate businesses are around is, is googling that too.

Jessica Schroder 

That’s a great idea.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. And then just finding your HR department, if you google them, you know, Walgreens, human resources, you’re going to get a contact email or phone number on Google. And then I would just reach out and say, Hey, I’m a local therapist, and I provide services to employees of yours already and was interested in seeing what EAP you guys use to just make sure that I’m in network with that EAP so that, you know we could provide free services to your to your employees.

They’ll let you know what that is. Or if you have employees that are already currently seeing a therapist of yours, you can always ask them, you know, what EAP is do they have through their business, sometimes they don’t even realize they have EAP s and that kind of puts them on a path of doing that research themselves. And then, you know, potentially being able to use that, that kind of fit that they have through their, through their business.

Jessica Schroder 

When I worked in the corporate world, I did not know about EAP.

Maureen Werrbach 

Me neither, it’s very rare that employees of larger corporations realize that they have this that they have that benefit.

Okay, so leaning to the the little bit more difficult route but could be a rewarding in terms of program building, but also a financial perspective route is sort of becoming your own EAP. Now, there’s things that you need to do. So there is some upfront cost to it because you have to put a sort of EAP contract in place that you can then give out to local businesses.

But then even in those cases, you can do small businesses as well. It doesn’t have to be a large corporation.

So when if you become your own EAP, if there’s a local clothing boutique store, who has, you know, 15 employees, and they’re, you know, not a, what’s it called, like a brand that I’m forgetting the word now? Yeah, or like a brand where there’s like multiple locations around the US like that. If it’s just a small boutique store owned by a, you know, neighborhood person, and they have, you know, 10 or 15 employees, they likely don’t have EAPs, they’re less likely likely to just because they tend to either not think about offering benefits or something that’s just out of the financial realm compared to corporations.

But there’s a lot of wiggle room to working with small businesses as well in that sense, because they can potentially you can set something up with them. Obviously, you need a contract for this, but set something up with them where maybe they pay whatever your what’s your what’s your rate, what’s your out of pocket rate?

Jessica Schroder 

Like $100.

Maureen Werrbach 

Okay, and then what do you take insurance right now? Mm hmm. Is your insurance at $100? Or is it a little bit less, a little bit less.

So it typically with a EAPs, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t go your full price, you could potentially go your full price. But that’s, you know, the idea of becoming an EAP would also mean that you kind of are garnering a referral source in some ways. And so you might decide to have a rate that’s comparable to your insurance rates for us. EAPs tend to be a lot less.

And a lot of group practice owners will kind of weigh their pros and cons with this. And see if say, it takes a little bit of research, but like there’s one EAP in our Chicago area that pays horribly. Horribly! And we find also across Chicago, that most people who use that EAP tend to not be long term clients, like they don’t continue on with either using their insurance or, you know, outside of the EAP paying out of pocket. And so we found that it really wasn’t a benefit to us. We saw that there’s trends in terms of, you know, clients who use their EAP as their specific EAPs and maybe related to the types of businesses that they’re that these EAPs are at, where they continue on.

That’s kind of the benefit I see in providing EAP services is that after the first you know, three free sessions that they get from their employer, they then continue on and then they become, you know, a client of ours where it’s, you know, consistent client.

And so you know, with these smaller businesses, you have the ability to potentially be able to offer them their employees benefits that they wouldn’t normally be able to afford with larger EAP companies.

They might pay, let’s say, two or three sessions, at your out of pocket rate for two or three sessions for any of their employees per year. And then, you know, if, if your therapists are good therapists, that it’s likely that they’re going to continue on then using their insurance or paying out of pocket. That’s where that referral stream can become really helpful. And I love the idea of just helping small businesses out also in that sort of way. So your options expand if you become your own EAP because you can reach out to these smaller businesses who might not be using large EAPs to to give benefits to their employees.

Jessica Schroder 

I really do like that because in my Leavenworth location, we’re all small businesses and work with the Main Street Association. Which is, you know, they promote small businesses. And so I really like that. And I think this area could use more mental health services.

Maureen Werrbach 

I agree with that. And I think I mean, if you think about it just in our realm as group practice owners, I don’t think I know a group practice who offers EAP services to their own therapists, right. So I think it’s just something that’s really missing in the small business realm. And something that’s just thought of, I don’t know, it’s something that because I can’t imagine that the EAP service even if you use large EAP companies is that expensive compared to paid sick time and you know, CTE stipends, and everything else that we tend to offer in our group practice realm, but it’s interesting. It’s not something that I see being offered in small businesses.

And I think it’s because people, small business owners aren’t even thinking about that. And so a great tool that you could potentially have if you started this yourself, and like I said, you’ll need to work with an attorney to draft a template of an EAP. What’s nice is you can customize it for each each business. So if there’s a business that’s like I can only afford to offer one free session that I pay you for, for each of my employees each year, that still gets the ball rolling to get them in the door.

They still get them in for one session, and then you know, hopefully they either are using their insurance with you or paying out of pocket afterwards. But you can you can sort of customize them that EAP contract that you have to suit each individual business’s needs that still obviously works with your business.

Jessica Schroder 

I love that. That is awesome. So you you had said the up there’s a lot of­–there could be upfront cost.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, it’d be meeting with an attorney and making sure that you draft a legal document, a legal contract and EAP contract. And then obviously your time. It takes a little bit of time to obviously do some research and find existing EAPs that you would panel with and then go through the process of paneling with them. But it’s going to take more time to draft this, and then sort of put together it’s essentially a program of sorts.

And so it takes a little bit of time to figure out who are you wanting to service.

Who are you wanting to provide these EAP services to and kind of putting together a program of swords, so that you have, you know, a sort of template for who you’re going to be reaching out to what businesses you’re going to be going to, and then all of that is work. So you have to factor in that upfront work.

Obviously, once you get companies that want to use your services for EAP. Then, then there’s also the process of ensuring how do you connect with the business owner when someone wants to use their EAP right, so that the business owner is paying for the service and not the employee. So there’s a little bit of work that you need to put together then to ensure that there’s a system for businesses being able to pay for that service, for however many sessions they’re agreeing to, before, the client then sort of picks that up and starts, you know, either continues on on their own or, or whatnot.

Jessica Schroder 

That’s great. Okay, that makes a lot of sense.

Maureen Werrbach 

So there’s a little bit that’s why I said it’s a little bit of the harder road, but I love the idea of that road, because you can choose who you want to reach out to. And if there’s some local businesses that you feel like could really benefit from it, that don’t have EAP services to begin with, you’re missing out on, you know, your whole small business neighborhood in a sentence, right. All with the kind of end goal of being able to help more people in your community that might not have been able to get that support initially.

Jessica Schroder 

Yes, I agree with that. I feel like that’s increasing, unfortunately.

Maureen Werrbach 

I agree. Yeah. So I was I’m looking at some of your questions. you’d ask them one of them that I didn’t answer really is the the pros and cons.

I talked about the pros, I think but with the the cons, I would say, with existing EAPs, I guess I mentioned a little bit of the con, if you started, started your own EAP is just a time investment. Initially, you have to have that financial investment Initially, I think you can definitely bootstrap it. So it doesn’t have to be, you know, $5,000 of money to set your own contract up. But you definitely need that money ahead of time.

But with existing EAPs, I’d say that the cons potentially are kind of like the situation that I mentioned of that one gap in our area, which is there are a lot of EAPs that don’t pay very well.

The Pro is that a lot of practice owners don’t realize that they can negotiate that even more than they can with insurance contracts. And so you can definitely right from the get go say, you know, I can’t do that. But I can do this amount. And you likely I mean, depending on how high you’re going can get them to agree.

The con again will be if you do get the rate that you want, what happens is ups have some sort of algorithm, where they will refer to the lower paying practices.

So practices like let’s say that accept six, the $60, that the EAP is saying they’ll pay out. And let’s say you say, you know, you apply and then they say $60, and you say, you know what I can I can do it for 80. I can’t do it for 60. And they say, All right, great. There are a lot of EAPs out there, who then will refer to the to therapists who agreed to the $60. And you might find that you’re not getting that many referrals, even though they agreed to pay a rate that you actually wanted. And so that’s kind of the cons that I’ve seen through being in with EAPs as a group practice owner myself.

The higher rates that you requested and got accepted, the less referrals you get, because obviously, the EAP doesn’t want to the business owners don’t want to pay more, you know.

And so they tend to then refer only to the lowest, the people who are agreeing to take the lowest amount, which is definitely a negative in that area.

I remember initially getting really excited when I was like, Oh my gosh, we got 80 when all of these EAP is 160, that’s like a $20 increase, and then all of a sudden, we were not getting any referrals from that gap. And it took, you know, a year or so of, you know, talking with other practice owners and stuff to realize, oh, okay, so you, you, you feel like you’re getting what you want, you’re like, wow, I’m getting the wage that I wanted. And then really, you’re just not going to get any employees or get any clients from that then so they’ll know be the candidate that I’ve, that I’ve noticed with EAPs.

The other con, is that EAPs tend to ask for information on the clients. And, you know, obviously, as a therapist, I hate that part. And so, it depends on the up contracts.

But there are some, you know, and this is where if you became your own EAP, you could, you know, being a therapist and knowing what it’s like to send, you know, confidential information over to third parties, like insurance companies and such, you could have a contract that then, you know, is is more in line with, you know, your clients privacy, obviously, business owners who are paying would need to know that the person actually attended a session but you could minimize the amount of information that is given to just client attending a session on this and the state, you know, for the for the business to say, Okay, I’ll pay that service out them.

So that’s another pro, I guess, to the becoming your own.

But that’s something also to look at with the EAP contracts that you that are existing that you might be interested in is looking at that fine print and seeing what information would they be giving? Or would they be asking of you to give to the employers who are paying out? And you know, I think there’s some that definitely give a lot more information out from diagnosis. And you know, what’s talked about in sessions and others that are less open, who maybe only are offering, you know, the date of service and diagnosis?

Jessica Schroder 

Yes, I have also seen that as well. So that makes sense.

Maureen Werrbach 

Are there any last questions that you have?

Jessica Schroder 

Oh, my gosh, this was just so informative already. You know, I really wish I didn’t have clients today. Just sit around and work on this, but oh, well, I know how that feels.

Maureen Werrbach 

Definitely, when you do get started post some more questions in the Facebook group because I feel like you know this one thing about the podcast coaching is that it’s usually around starting something whether it’s you know, starting to hire people starting a program, it’s obviously about something that the person is trying to get to. And so I always love seeing when it starts to get implemented. Obviously, that’s where all the big, big questions come in. So make sure to tag me when you start to work on things when you have extra questions, because I’d love to try to keep helping in any way I can.

Jessica Schroder 

Thank you. I really appreciate it. This is fantastic.

Thanks For Listening

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Meet your host


Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:


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