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Emotional Resilience Training at HealthPartners
In 2013, HealthPartners, a large health system headquartered in Bloomington, Minnesota, offered two emotional resilience coaching programs to employees as part of its BeWell employee health and well-being program. A case study published in the January/February 2016 issue of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal shows that improved well-being persisted at least one year later among employees who participated in programs (Lloyd, Katz, & Pronk, 2016). In addition to educational programs for individuals, HealthPartners provided resilience information and training to managers and executives.
HealthPartners’ employees complete annual health assessments that look at a variety of areas, such as physical activity, eating, sleep, and stress. Based on the person’s needs, they may receive coaching from a health promotion professional or a behavioral health professional, depending on the topic and level of need. Behavioral health professionals actively reach out to individuals with high stress levels, difficulties with emotional health, or substance use concerns, and complete at least three individual telephone consultations to determine who might benefit from additional resources or face-to-face consultation with a mental health or chemical health professional.
The Emotional Resilience programming is an example of the additional resources implemented at HealthPartners. Emotional Resilience consists of two related group coaching programs that build skills to reduce stress and enhance coping. The first is called Healthy Thinking©, which helps participants recognize and replace negative self-talk. The second, Healthy Communication©, helps arm employees with effective communication skills. Each program consists of three one-hour sessions led by behavioral health professionals. Additional self-help and guided learning resources were included, and online virtual coaching was available on topics like positive thinking, stress management, and health sleeping. The programs, available to all employees at the corporate offices, were promoted with emails and flyers.
A total of 83 employees from the corporate office participated in the offerings in 2013. The average age of participants was 48 years, and 85% were female. One-year outcomes were measured using an online, self-reported health assessment. The health assessment is summarized by a 1,000-point score called the Total Health Potential Score (THPS). It includes lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise as well as measures of quality of life, such as how often someone has to miss work due to illness. Questions on emotional issues included: “During the past four weeks, to what extent have you accomplished less than you would like in your work or other daily activities as a result of emotional problems, such as feeling depressed or anxious?” Questions on life and job satisfaction included: “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?” and “How satisfied are you with your current job?”
The average score for lifestyle factors improved by ten points among coaching participants, which was statistically significant. In addition, life satisfaction and job satisfaction scores improved slightly. “These results are encouraging,” said Karen Lloyd, Ph.D. HealthPartners’ Senior Director of Behavioral Health and Resilience, “because they show that group coaching can teach emotional resilience skills and that these skills can help employees not only at work but at home and in the community.”
HealthPartners also supports mental well-being through community-based approaches, primary prevention, primary care, and case management for severe mental health concerns. For individuals identified at high risk of psychiatric crisis because of complex or coexisting conditions, behavioral health professionals reach out proactively to provide education, assistance with care coordination, and support for crisis option planning. They also may interact with the individual’s support system of family and friends, with the person’s permission, to provide information and encouragement.
Nico Pronk, Ph.D., vice president and chief science officer at HealthPartners, suggests the variety of resources, supports, and referral systems available to employees with mental health challenges is an example of HealthPartners’ ability to integrate various aspects of population health. “While we certainly want to be sure we can support individuals in optimizing their levels of resilience, we also need to be sure that those individuals and their families are supported by a resilient community.” HealthPartners has committed to reducing misperceptions about mental illness through a community program called Make It OK, which encourages open conversations about mental health and provides educational resources. Pronk also serves on the Employer-Community Collaboration Committee for the Health Education Research Organization.
Takeaway for Employers
Results of HealthPartners' resilience education efforts should be of great interest to employers. A 2012 Gallup poll shows that at any given time, nearly six in ten Americans are thriving, while more than 40% are struggling or suffering (Ray, 2012). In addition, nearly half of Americans reported they had a major stressor in the past year, such as the death of a loved one or problems at work (NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health, 2014). Gallup estimates that lost productivity and lost work days vary among employees based on their level of well-being (Robison, 2010). Those at the midpoint of the struggling zone cost more than $6,000 per year, and employees in the suffering zone cost $28,800 on average.
In follow up to the positive results from the emotional resilience programming, HealthPartners became the first in their region in 2015 to offer a web-based program to treat mild and moderate stress, tension, depression, or anxiety. Beating the Blues is an eight week program of 30-minute modules that teach cognitive behavioral skills. Developed at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, it has 12 years of research that shows it can significantly improve depression and anxiety. Based on the positive results from this initial pilot test, the resilience resources were made available to other HealthPartners employees, and the programs will be available as a service to other HealthPartners customers.
For additional details on the emotional resilience program and its one year outcomes, read the full article in the Health & Fitness Journal.
In 2015, HealthPartners’ BeWell program received Gold Level accreditation status from the HealthLead organization for excellence in employee health and well-being programming and the addition of the BeWell ScoreCard.
HealthPartners also teamed up with the Minnesota chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness and Twin Cities Public Television to create the award-winning Make It OK© campaign, which encourages understanding and talking about mental health to reduce stigma.
HealthPartners is the largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the United States, serving more than 1.4 million medical and dental health plan members nationwide. Founded in 1957, the HealthPartners care system includes more than 1,700 physicians and employs over 22,500 people.
Nancy Spangler, PhD, OTR/L is a consultant to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.
Last Updated: April 2016
Lloyd, K.D., Katz, A.S., & Pronk, N.P. (2016). Building emotional resilience at the workplace: A HealthPartners case study. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, 20(1), 42-46.
Ray, J. (2012). Nearly one in four worldwide thriving. Washington, DC: Gallup, Inc.