Sun Life Financial is piloting a new virtual cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) program with the aim of expanding mental health care access to its group plan members. The program is offered in partnership with the University of Regina, announced the insurer June 5.
"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," said Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier, assistant vice-president, Workplace Health, Group Benefits, Sun Life. "We live in an increasingly digital world. 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."
Mild to moderate anxiety or depression
Clients on an approved disability claim with mild to moderate anxiety or depression will have the option to receive virtual therapy. The program is completed online through five self-paced modules. A therapist is assigned to each client and stays in contact with the client via email communication and tracks and assesses their progress.
"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," said Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos, University of Regina Professor, director of the Online Therapy Program.
Loss of productivity
"At least 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," Dr. Pelletier continued. "Virtual CBT is part of our ongoing commitment to deliver innovative products and services to our clients to help improve their health and well-being."