By Les Kertay, PhD, ABPP, LP
Senior Medical Consultant
It isn’t a question of whether behavioral factors matter in integrated absence management (IAM). Instead, it’s a question of whether we address them deliberately, or whether behavioral factors sabotage and undermine our best efforts. Here are three principles essential to understanding how to address behavioral factors in IAM.
Principle 1: Precision Matters
Because stress is ubiquitous in the workplace, stress management is a set of skills from which everyone in the workplace can benefit. But stress may or may not lead to psychological symptoms such as anxiety or impaired concentration; not every stress case requires IAM. When a person experiences significant symptoms, stress management alone usually won’t maintain function; it might be necessary to consider job adjustments or accommodations, but mental health treatment may not be necessary. This is the frontier where a case may graduate from stress management to IAM.
Not all psychological symptoms are severe enough to warrant a psychiatric diagnosis, and when one is assigned, it should be done according to a standard protocol. This is an important point in managing behavioral health claims for disability or worker’s compensation benefits: no claim should be adjudicated absent a clear diagnosis that follows a clear protocol that includes a careful history and/or psychological testing. Finally, not all psychiatric diagnoses translate to work-related disability. As with diagnosis, a standardized approach to functional assessment is a critical component of the IAM program.
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