An employer-sponsored behavioral health program can reduce symptoms in employees with depression and anxiety, reports a study in the October Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The response rate is higher for employees receiving 8 to 12 therapy sessions, with no further increase among those with more than 12 sessions, according to the new research by Daniel Maeng, PhD, and colleagues of University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center. They evaluated a five-year experience with their university's employee behavioral health program.
The in-house program provided short-term, evidence-based treatment (psychotherapy and medication management) for university employees and dependents. Multidisciplinary, diagnosis-specific treatment was provided at clinics located on or near campus. The study analyzed treatment outcomes of approximately 1,600 episodes of moderate to severe anxiety/depression in 900 employees.
Outcomes were assessed according to the "dose" of therapy received: low (less than 8 sessions), medium (8 to 12 sessions) and high (more than 12 sessions). Treatment response was defined as at least a 50 percent reduction in anxiety/depression symptom scores.
Employees at the medium- to high-dose levels were nearly twice as likely to respond to treatment, compared to the low-dose level. For both anxiety and depression, response rates were higher for patients with at least 8 to 12 therapy sessions, with no further improvement beyond 12 sessions.
Employees in the low-dose group averaged only 4 sessions, compared to about 10 sessions in the medium-dose group. "[G]etting the patients in the low-dose category to make 6 additional visits may have a significant impact in helping them to achieve response more quickly," Dr. Maeng and colleagues write. They note that more than 12 therapy sessions might have other benefits, such as improvements in functioning or relationships.
While the study was not a "true program impact analysis," the results suggest that the behavioral health program had a positive impact on employees with depression or anxiety, focusing on access to treatment and quality of care. Dr. Maeng and coauthors emphasize the need for further research to identify the "optimal treatment intensity," as well as barriers to program participation.
Maeng, D. et al. (2019) Utilization of an Employee Behavioral Health Program and Its Effects on Outcomes for Depression and Anxiety Disorders. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0000000000001678