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 Odyssey Health Services: A Unique Approach

Odyssey Health Services combines Medical Science and Behavioural Science to effectively and efficiently treat mental health and chronic physical conditions that lead to diminished function including absenteeism, modified work or hours, or prolonged work absences.

Odyssey Health Services specializes in treating a variety of mental and physical health conditions that, when not treated appropriately, result in individuals suffering from significantly restricted or impaired lives. In the workplace, this can mean reduced productivity, protracted work accommodation or modification, higher than normal levels of absenteeism or prolonged time off work on either sick or disability benefits.

Odyssey Health Services assesses and treats mental health conditions such as mood and anxiety disorders, and physical complaints such as back pain, headache, chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia, and other complex or difficult to manage conditions. Odyssey Health Services uses proven, evidence-based approaches that combine medical and behavioural sciences.

For many of these difficulties, medical management including medication offers only limited relief. Studies have shown that even when symptoms of pain, fatigue, depression and anxiety are reduced, this alone does not return disabled individuals to their normal functioning.

It is important to recognize that, for the majority of the somatic or ‘physical’ diagnoses above, there is not a sinister, progressive underlying disease process or pathology; appropriately graduated physical activity (including exercises to improve cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, endurance and strength, as well as gradual resumption of a full range of daily and vocational activities) is not in any way harmful for the patient, and early appropriate intervention can be to everyone’s benefit.

With respect to various chronic pain syndromes, the Core Curriculum for Professional Education in Pain, 3rd Edition, published by the International Association for the Study of Pain Press (2005) notes the following:

Know that personal, social and cultural influences, part and/or present, may play a significant role in the initiation, persistence and treatment responsiveness or nonresponsiveness of musculoskeletal pain and disability page 162

Understand that psychosocial factors are the main determinant of disability and are significant predictors or prolonged work absence in painful conditions page113

It is common with these syndromes that psychosocial stressors play a role in the degree to which the patient becomes dysfunctional (see ACOEM document). Factors such as: issues in the workplace (that may include a mismatch between the patient and their job, undesired or unpleasant changes in the workplace, or general job dissatisfaction); family or marital difficulties; financial or other stressors, may play a role in impairing the patient’s ability to cope with what might otherwise be far less troublesome symptoms.

Certainly with mental health difficulties the role of psychosocial factors is well understood and must also be addressed to return the individual to a more functional life.

We are NOT suggesting that an outside influence such as job dissatisfaction is the sole or primary cause of symptoms. Rather recognizing that such outside psychosocial factors may result in a patient with otherwise good coping skills, who would manage this period of symptoms without significant dysfunction, decompensating and experiencing much more difficulty.

There is however good reason to believe that if appropriate intervention can be implemented with the support and engagement of the patient’s primary health-care practitioners, many of the situations that serve to entrench these disabilities might be avoided. Therefore the duration of the patient’s suffering and dysfunction, and the claim, can be shortened significantly.

From both a social and an economic perspective, long term disability prevention and associated management strategies for assisting employees and companies are successful only if they address the non-medical, psychosocial factors that have been proven to contribute to frequent and prolonged absences from the workplace.

When a return to work is delayed for no apparent reason it might seem logical to investigate the medical issues further, by suggesting that the employee seeks a second opinion, receives additional treatment or undergoes another round of tests. However, managing return to work isn’t just about solving medical problems.

Most people who have a physical injury or mental health issue think that as long as the doctor gets them the right treatment they’ll be okay. If they’re not okay then they start thinking that maybe they were given the wrong treatment or the wrong diagnosis. Often, however, neither the treatment nor the diagnosis is the problem.

In fact, looking for medical problems and medical solutions can delay rehabilitation further because the reasons for delay may not be medical.

Research tells us that being at work contributes to a person’s recovery from illness and injury; that employment is a significant social determinant of physical and mental health; and that prolonged time off work decreases chances of a successful return to work.

It has been established that non-medical (behavioural and psychological) factors are the primary determinants of significant absence from work.

Studies have shown that early intervention and a focus on staying at work decreases the use of sick leave and increases the likelihood of an employee staying at work or returning to the workplace as quickly as possible. These services are designed to assist in the early detection and resolution of situations that may lead an employee to prolonged or repetitive absence from the workplace.

Committed to Collaboration

Odyssey Health Services works in a true partnership with the patient, the employer, the insurer, the patient’s health care providers and other stakeholders to ensure the best possible outcomes.

This process can include: behavioural activation, addressing psychosocial factors contributing to the disruption of attendance at work, planning for a graduated return to work, job search if the incumbent’s position is no longer available, or upgrading of skills or credentials in order to return to work.

Odyssey also supports employees once they have returned to work to mitigate the risk of relapse. 

Specialized Expertise

Odyssey Health Services’ team includes rehabilitation psychologists, cognitive behavioural therapists, kinesiologists, counsellors, and medical professionals who are experienced in both their own area of specialty and in dealing with chronic absenteeism and disability.

Unsurpassed Outcomes

Odyssey Health Services’ evidence based approach has resulted in over 25 years of outcomes that are consistent with, or superior to, those demonstrated in the general scientific literature. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with graded exercise is the only intervention with scientifically demonstrated effectiveness for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and has proven to be effective for Fibromyalgia and chronic headache and pain.

When used to treat depression and anxiety, CBT produces results similar to medication in mild to moderate cases, enhances the effectiveness of medication in more severe cases, and helps prevent relapse.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy refers to a set of interventions that are derived from a strong scientific base of knowledge about human behaviour.

When viewed broadly, this can include specific interventions such as Cognitive Therapy, Behavioural Therapy, Behavioural Activation, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Functional Analytic Psychotherapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, and the general term ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’. 

This class of therapies has a very strong evidence base for significant functional and symptomatic improvement, not only in mental health conditions such as mood disorders and anxiety disorders but in a broad range of physical health conditions such as Fibromyalgia, chronic headache, chronic low back pain, other chronic pain syndromes, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

At times, cognitive behavioural intervention may require assisting the patient to learn to accept their symptoms and function in spite of them, rather than focusing exclusively on eliminating the symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be used as a stand alone uni-disciplinary intervention, or can be incorporated into interdisciplinary treatment with other medical and physical therapies.

Our clinical staff has extensive training and lengthy expertise in implementing these techniques both in the context of interdisciplinary treatment and as stand alone counselling.

The treatment can be implemented with patients in their own environment, particularly effective for complex clinical problems, or in an office-based treatment setting for cases with a simpler presentation.