Benefits giant pilots online therapy

Certain employees will now be given the choice to receive mental health treatment online.

Benefits giant pilots online therapy
A Canadian benefits giant has begun piloting online therapy this week in what is a sure sign of increasingly digital times.

Sun Life Financial confirmed the launch of its virtual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program yesterday and said the approach was designed to expand access to mental health care for all plan members.

“In an era where mental health claims represent almost 30 per cent of disability claims, it’s more important than ever to explore new ways of delivering effective therapy faster to those who need it,” says Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier, assistant VP of workplace health and group benefits.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, more than 500,000 Canadians miss work each week due to a mental health problem, creating a significant impact on employers through loss of productivity, absenteeism and disability costs.

Organizations are now utilizing technology to improve almost every area of their people practices and Pelletier – an experienced psychologist – says employee wellness can stand to benefit too.

“We live in an increasingly digital world,” she says. “Offering virtual CBT provides a new and innovative way to reach our plan members and provide flexible solutions, especially to those living in remote areas where access to qualified care may be limited.”

As a result of the virtual CBT program, clients on an approved disability claim will now be given the choice to receive virtual therapy if they’re suffering from mild to moderate anxiety or depression.

Offered in partnership with the University of Regina, the CBT program is completed online through five self-paced modules and a therapist is assigned to each client to check in weekly via email, tracking progress and assessment.

“Past research has shown virtual CBT to be just as effective as in-person therapy, with the added benefit of removing obstacles to care such as limited access to qualified therapists and mobility and time restrictions,” says Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos, University of Regina professor and director of the Online Therapy Program.

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