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Psychosomatic Consultation in the Workplace (PCIW)

Detecting mental disorders in good time

Psychosomatic consultations in the workplace contribute to preventing mental disorders of employees, or to detecting them in good time. At present, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) is taking part in a research project on the optimal design of this kind of offers.

Psychosomatic consultation in the workplace (PCIW) © Uwe Völkner, Fotoagentur FOX

Mental disorders as a challenge for the world of work

Mental disorders increasingly occur in an age in which most people are employed. They are often accompanied by degradation of performance, restricted capacity for work, early retirement and unemployment.

Mental health issues and disorders are frequently detected too late. It often takes months or years before they are treated adequately and appropriate treatment is possible. This increases the risk of chronification, which is frequently accompanied by long-term unemployment.

Information and consultation in the workplace

Reasons for delays to accepting help with mental problems include fear of stigmatisation, lack of information and insufficient access to initial consultations and early intervention.

It therefore seems obvious to inform employees directly at the workplace and make consultation offers available to them there. This is where various pilot projects begin in which specialised clinics work together with companies. Employees are supported in solving their problems and, where necessary, access to the medical-therapeutic system is facilitated.

Contents of psychosomatic consultation in the workplace (PCIW)

The focus of these consultation and coaching offers respectively is on early guidance, namely before a mental crisis leads to a long period of unemployment and chronic diseases result from this. The offers are based on a short-term consultation and intervention concept. They comprise an initial diagnostic assessment and short-term therapeutic intervention through psychotherapists.

The offers are aimed at relieving the situation and communicating strategies for handling concrete problems better, for example, stress, conflicts at work and/or strain in the family. In the best-case scenario, they contribute to the prevention of mental disorders. However, in specific cases it may be found that a longer treatment period (therapy and/or hospital stay) is necessary.

General conditions for psychosomatic consultation

Consultation offers and their realisation differ in some aspects:

  • direct access to consultation (for example through information flyers or events) or through a contact partner in the company, for example, the company doctor,
  • consultation location (in the workplace or in the clinic),
  • number of appointments (frequently between three and five).

Good internal coordination and transparency are conducive for the acceptance and utilization of the offers. In addition, strict compliance with medical confidentiality is imperative.

You can find a current overview inter alia here: Rothermund, E. & Gündel, H. (2016). "Früherkennung und Frühintervention bei psychischen und psychosomatischen Erkrankungen von Beschäftigten" in M.A. Rieger et al. (2016) "Prävention und Gesundheitsförderung an der Schnittstelle zwischen kurativer Medizin und Arbeitsmedizin", pp. 219-233 ff.

BAuA's research project

BAuA is accompanying and evaluating the introduction of psychosomatic consultation and/or preventive health coaching in companies in Lower Saxony. The focus here is on the perception of the offer by employees and companies.

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