Does Psychotherapy Treatment Effect Length of Disability Claim?

According to a recent study, people who receive psychotherapy for major depression are on short term disability longer than those who do not receive psychotherapy. Shanil Ebrahim of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster University in Canada examined the difference in duration of time of claim to closure of claim in short term (STD) and long term (LTD) disability claims among Canadian workers.

Using data from a large disability insurer, Ebrahim analyzed over 20,000 claims and found that individuals who received psychotherapy were on STD longer than those who did not. In contrast, individuals who had filed LTD claims had faster closure times if they received psychotherapy when compared to LTD recipients who did not receive psychotherapy for depression.

The economic and financial impact of depression is immense. Workers who are impacted by depression may lose income as a result, and if they do not have access to disability, may rely on government assistance. However, private disability policies, when maximized, although paid for by the worker, also end up affecting all citizens through risk distribution and higher rates. Therefore, insurers and private citizens alike could benefit by understanding what factors, treatments and approaches put workers back on the job sooner.

This most recent study by Ebrahim supports other research that shows sooner re-employment times for individuals receiving psychotherapy and LTD. Surprisingly, however, this study also suggests that individuals who file only STD claims may actually be adding to their disability period by receiving psychotherapy and especially, as studied here, cognitive behavioral therapy. Additionally, older age and comorbid or recurring conditions added to the length of disability.

The research on depression is broad and varied. Understanding how it impacts individuals, families, economies, employers, and communities is ongoing. Although this study sheds some new light on the finer nuances of treatment approach, disability, and employment, more work needs to be done. “Establishing the causal effect of psychotherapy on claim resolution will require well-designed prospective studies,” added Ebrahim. Future efforts should focus on particular factors impacting claim duration for people with major depression.

Ebrahim, S., Guyatt, G.H., Walter, S.D., Heels-Ansdell, D., Bellman, M., et al. (2013). Association of psychotherapy with disability benefit claim closure among patients disabled due to depression. PLoS ONE 8(6): e67162. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067162

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  • owens

    August 1st, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    why would therapy be counter productive to getting better? its always been seen as a good thing and even here long term disability does benefit from therapy. is it that short term means the treatment is not really complete and that causes the problem? id love to know what factors are at play here.

  • Alexa

    August 2nd, 2013 at 4:17 AM

    No matter the time frames, I think that it is a real shame when workers feel like they can’t take the time that they necessarily need when they are receiving treatment and they have to be out of work. There should be a law that states that someone who is actively seeking help does not have to come back to work until they are healthy and sound enough to come back and do their job fully and to the ability that they did before they got sick. I think that there are probably too many times that people go back before they are fully ready mainly because they are scared of lost wages and losing their job.

  • Phoebe

    August 2nd, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Is it that filing for short term disability gives the employer a little more lee way in terms of extending leave time and giving them employee ample time for recovery versus just taking regular time aawy from work?

  • Big Cloud

    August 4th, 2013 at 12:49 AM

    What I have come to realize from my own experiences is that therapy takes time to give benefits.

    When you treat it like medication and a quick fix you really aren’t getting anything out of it.

    Therapy takes time but the effects are helpful to a great extent.After all,it is an investment to well-being so there should be no second thoughts into investing time in it.

  • Mo

    August 6th, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Sometimes I feel like there is such a push and pull with insurance. they want you to buy it but they sure don’t want you to use it when you need it and then they SURE don’t want to have to pay anything out even if those are the services that you have paid for! And on top of that, you will be lucky to ever be able to get any kind of coverage again for a reasonable price once you have filed a claim because then you are going to be considered too much of a big risk. Such a racket.

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