How about this: University of Louisville employees have a benefit that provides resources to help them get through the season. Not only that, that same benefit is available any time of the year.

It’s called the employee assistance program (EAP) and it provides experts in the areas of mental health, finances, marriage and other areas who counsel and consult with employees — and their family members — for free.

The EAP can assist with emotional, relationship, family, legal or financial problems. It gives support and can help with problems that may seem overwhelming, said Dana Hummel, director of benefits.

Professionals at Human Development Co., provide one-on-one counseling and consultation for faculty, staff, administrators, house staff, residents, retirees — and for family members who live with them. Online resources include information on topics ranging from how to buy a used car to planning a living will. HDC’s at-work services include training, employee mediation and incidence counseling.

The EAP may be the university’s most “overlooked” employee benefit, Hummel said.

It isn’t that people don’t use the benefit, but more people would be likely to use it if they realized everything the EAP provides and the scope of people who are eligible to use it, she said.

“The EAP is an important tool that can help employees and their family members face and overcome life’s challenges,” Hummel said. “This benefit, at the same time, helps increase retention and employee productivity.”

Here’s how the EAP works.

A person has a problem — which could range from something as simple as focusing on a tennis game or setting a financial budget to something as complex as grief counseling or possible bankruptcy — and calls HDC.

HDC determines which service would be appropriate, sets an appointment at either its downtown or St. Matthews location and advises the client on any materials he or she needs to bring, such as in the case of financial consultation. Appointments are available evenings and on Saturdays.

Services are free for the first eight sessions per issue. For instance, an individual with marital problems could see a counselor for eight sessions. If they were having financial problems, they also could see a financial consultant for another eight sessions.

“We can literally see someone all year round if there are that many issues involved,” said HDC President Susan Rowe.

HDC also provides one free legal consultation.

HDC resolves most of cases that it receives, Rowe said. For those it cannot resolve, it refers clients for additional help. That can happen at any point in the process — from the first session where a counselor learns that a client is suicidal or is facing imminent bankruptcy — to the last of the eight sessions where the client just needs more time.

If HDC refers clients elsewhere for assistance, it makes all the appointments necessary, contacts their insurance companies to make sure the service will be covered (or helps to arrange for community resources, if insurance will not pay); and follows up to make sure they went to the appointment and that the transition from HDC to the new service provider is a smooth one, Rowe said.

As part of the university’s contract with HDC, UofL supervisors can call an unlimited number of times to get advice on how to deal with employee issues. Supervisors even can refer an employee to HDC when he or she is having such problems as frequent crying at work, not getting along with others, tardiness or other issues that affect job performance.

And units can request on-site counseling services in such instances as a death of a unit member or in the aftermath of a crisis situation. HDC also provides customized training to units, either on campus or off site. Such training carries an additional cost and is not included in UofL’s contract.

Rowe said it is important for people to know that HDC services are confidential.

Only in the case of a supervisor referring an employee for service, can HDC divulge any information. In that case — and only if the employee signs a release of information — the company can tell the supervisor whether the employee is receiving service and whether he or she is complying with recommendations. Nothing else. HDC never can give specific information related to a client or his or her case.

“We are bound by law to keep their information confidential. We cannot repeat what’s been said to us,” Rowe said. The only condition under which HDC legally would be allowed to break confidentiality is if someone is a threat to themselves or to someone else.

As people get closer to the holidays, Rowe said that people at UofL “should know that they can get help 24/7, 365 days a year anywhere in the United States.”

“If you’re visiting relatives in California for the holidays and you start feeling sad, we can have an affiliate meet with you in California, no matter where they’re at,” she said, explaining that HDC is part of an EAP network.

Clients can see a counselor from any of the network affiliates and know that that person has the same high qualifications as those with HDC, she said.

More information is at Human Development Co. People can e-mail with general questions.