Workplace counselling services can make a significant and lasting improvement to the lives of people with work-related stress and other problems, new research has found.
A study by the University of Cambridge found that the well-being of University staff seeking help from its internal counselling service increased after a few weeks of support. On average, their well-being rose by more than 10 points on an index used by mental health professionals, to a level comparable with the national average.
In more than seven out of 10 of the 187 cases studied, the increase in wellbeing was "clinically significant".
The results add to a growing body of evidence which points to the importance of workplace counselling services, at a time when harsh economic conditions and limited budgets mean that some organisations are questioning their worth. Similar results have emerged from past studies carried out in the UK within large employers such as the NHS, the Post Office, and local government.
Researchers behind the Cambridge study say that their findings demonstrate how even a relatively short burst of counselling can make a positive difference to the lives and productivity of staff who are suffering from problems like anxiety, stress, depression or relationship issues.
On average, the participants had seven weekly counselling sessions, each lasting for 50 minutes.
Jill Collins, Senior Staff Counsellor at the University of Cambridge, said: "This study shows how important time-limited counselling can be for staff who have issues that are compromising their ability to work effectively. They leave with a far greater sense of well-being and much more able to cope with the demands of their working lives."
Rick Hughes from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy said that the research would send a powerful message to employers who question whether it is worth investing in counselling services.
"This research provides strong evidence of the positive contribution that counselling can make to employee health and wellbeing. If employees really are the most important resource within an organisation, then it is crucial that organisations fulfil their duty of care and make available to staff, a range of accessible counselling support interventions."