2015 NWCDC

The Elephant in the Room

A progressive goal attainment program can help injured workers overcome psychosocial risk factors.
By: | November 13, 2015

Catastrophic thinking, perceived injustice, entrenched beliefs and fear avoidance.

You can call these combined psychosocial risk factors the elephant in the room when it comes to their negative impact on claims outcomes.

At a presentation November 12 at the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo in Las Vegas, Darrell Bruga, the founder and CEO of LifeTEAM Health, laid out a game plan for mitigating these factors.

Bruga outlined the ways that injured workers, who might have a defeatist mind-set, can be re-engaged and brought back to a more fulfilling life, one that includes a working income.

The progressive goal attainment program Bruga champions was first developed in Canada.

LifeTEAM is conducting a pilot program with Southern California Permanente Medical Group. Dr. John Harbaugh, an occupational medicine physician director at Permanente was Bruga’s co-presenter.

That path back involves activity coaching, so that someone who has been off work for months can be aided in finding activities to create more structure in their life and build confidence.

Such a “disability intervention” Bruga said, can be started in a matter of weeks.

“Ideally, you are engaging this person early on,” Bruga said.

The obstacles to a healthy mind-set in an injured worker can be formidable and deep-rooted however, Dr. Harbaugh said.

Abuse in childhood, whether it be physical violence, sexual abuse, or the psychic chaos created by an alcoholic or drug-addicted parent, greatly increase the possibility of work performance problems and a delayed recovery after an injury, Harbaugh said.

A permanent disability settlement, Harbaugh said, is nothing more than a veiled “pathway to poverty.”

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]