Learning & Resources

Shalem Mental Health Network

Perceptions of Congregational Assistance Plan Counselors

Social Work & Christianity, Vol. 44, No. 4 (2017), 23–3, Journal of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work

Rick Csiernik, Kristi Darnell, & Mary Lynn Trotter

A Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) using an affiliate counselor model to provide therapeutic care was established in 2006 in Ontario, Canada. In 2015, 145 members of the Ontario Association of Social Workers were surveyed regarding their experiences as third-party contractors providing clinical Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services. While there were positives arising from this role, there were also serious shortcomings, including a lack of training or support when first hired and afterwards, not being allowed to inform clients that there was a ceiling on sessions allowed, having to request permission to allow for proper case closure, not being able to continue to work with clients even if the client requested
ongoing service, and inadequate remuneration. This led to the current parallel study involving a purposive sample of 25 (19.7%) CAP counsellors to ascertain if these issues also existed within the CAP model. Respondents indicated that the parameters of the counseling process were clear to the therapists who reported that, unlike working with some Canadian EAP vendors, the CAP program was more transparent. The best aspect of being a CAP counselor was the latitude to integrate one’s faith into the therapeutic process to best serve the needs identified by clients. While there were some administrative and clinical concerns raised by respondents, the most prominent theme indicated no substantive clinical or ethical issues working as an affiliate counselor within the CAP model.