As many employees struggle with mental-health issues during these tumultuous times, internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy is one tool that may help them bounce back. Employers can play a pivotal role in supporting staff amid the coronavirus pandemic by investing in these offerings.
The pandemic is having a significant impact on working Canadians’ mental health, with LifeWorks Inc.’s most recent monthly index finding a negative 10.7 overall mental-health score for April, up slightly from March but still below pre-pandemic benchmarks.
One of the ways employers can support employees during the coronavirus crisis is by offering cognitive behavioural therapy through their benefits plans. CBT is a mental-health coaching tool that’s now widely available in Canada. It’s generally delivered individually or in a group setting and focuses on the exploration of one’s thoughts, beliefs and attitudes and how they shape the way people approach and eventually handle life events that cause stress.
These days, particularly since the onset of the global pandemic, CBT is often offered via online portals and referred to as internet-based CBT or iCBT. Today’s heightened awareness of mental-health challenges in the workplace has made iCBT a key tool that can help Canadian employees deal with the issues that trouble them.
The appeal of iCBT for some employers and employees is the problem-specific and goal-oriented approach with time-defined treatment. Therapy protocols are structured and delivered like online courses with an agenda and limited to several study modules that, once complete, can provide tools and milestones against which progress can be measured. This contrasts with conventional therapy sessions, which can run on for several weeks, months or even years. The approach is seen to be collaborative where sessions are guided by a professional but combined with self-taught lessons to create a climate of self-reliance and personal growth for the individual.
The plethora of iCBT offerings on the market today can help employers find an affordable solution to support employee mental health while aiming to reduce short- and long-term disability claims related to emotional issues. Indeed, iCBT services can often be secured by plan sponsors for as low as $3 per plan member per month. And life insurance companies are incorporating iCBT services as part of their case management protocols to help get employees on STD or LTD healthy and, ultimately, back to work sooner.
In my opinion, one of the greatest benefits to employers is the use of iCBT by their employees to get ahead of any mental-health challenge early to help avoid long-term problems. The strongest iCBT services introduce modules regularly to help plan members identify what treatments are available to help them find the answers to their specific stress. These modules may include: panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, chronic pain, social phobia, childhood depression, marital/family conflict, eating disorders and more.
Amid the ongoing pandemic, iCBT is just one option in employers’ toolboxes that may help employees not only emotionally survive, but thrive, throughout this once-in-a-century public health crisis.