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Early intervention in the workplace

friaa: Early intervention in the workplace

BMBF-funded Germany-wide randomised and controlled study on the effectiveness of psychosomatic consultation hours in the workplace.

According to evaluations by the health insurance funds, mental illnesses are one of the most frequent causes of sick days in Germany. Major problems in connection with psychological complaints at work are the often late diagnoses and the long waiting times for treatment. In addition, those affected often do not dare to seek medical help or go to psychotherapy, or they do not immediately find the right therapist. This is exactly where the joint project "Early Intervention at the Workplace" (friaa) of the Psychosomatic and Psychotherapeutic Clinic of the University Hospital Erlangen in cooperation with the University Hospital Ulm and other joint partners comes in.


Study objective

Within the psychosomatic consultation hour, all interested employees receive a diagnosis and advice on possible treatment options. If necessary, therapy sessions can be attended afterwards. All appointments are anonymous. The company doctor is consulted with the consent of the employees, but is subject to confidentiality. The aim of the study is to ensure a quick and professional diagnosis and psychotherapeutic treatment of psychologically stressed employees directly in the company through the psychosomatic consultation hour and to check the effectiveness of the offer.


Head of Studies and Cooperation Partners

Head of Studies

  • Prof. Dr. med. Harald Gündel and private lecturer Dr. med. Eva Rothermund, from the University Hospital Ulm
  • Psychological psychotherapist M.Sc. psychologist Kristin Herrmann (study coordinator), Ulm University Hospital
  • Prof. Dr. med. Peter Angerer (co-study director) from the University Hospital Düsseldorf

Head of the other study centres:

  • Prof. Dr. med. Yesim Erim, University Hospital Erlangen
  • Psychological psychotherapist Prof. Dr. Christoph Kröger, Foundation University of Hildesheim
  • Prof. Dr. med. Volker Köllner, Seehof Rehabilitation Centre

qualitative studies:

  • Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Data evaluation:

  • Institute for Medical Biometry and Informatics, University of Heidelberg
  • Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy II of the University of Ulm at the Günzburg District Hospital


Course of studies

The study, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Pension Insurance Fund with 2.3 million euros, will include up to 600 participants at five locations. The test persons - psychologically stressed employees of the cooperating companies - are randomly assigned to one of two groups. The diagnostic group will receive a comprehensive diagnosis and initial counselling by the therapists of the University Hospital Erlangen and will then be referred to outpatient providers. In the intervention group, the diagnostic assessment and initial counselling are followed by short-term therapy with reference to the workplace by the study therapists. An essential component of the psychotherapy is support for the subsequent reintegration into the workplace; the company doctors are also included in the circle of helpers. Mentally ill employees who suffer from anxiety disorders, sleep disorders or somatoform disorders such as fatigue, exhaustion or pain symptoms can participate in the study. Inclusion in the study is done by the company doctors, but is also possible at the own request of those affected.


Background to the study:

As part of the research project, the scientists leave their clinic and come into the living environment of their patients, if desired directly to the workplace. "The psychosomatic consultation hours of our specialists and psychotherapists take place in several centres in the region," explains Prof. Dr. (TR) Yesim Erim, Head of Psychosomatics at the University Hospital Erlangen. "Our goal is to quickly identify and treat employees who are mentally stressed and thus promote their retention in the workplace." With their everyday offer, the network partners hope to increase the well-being and health of the employees as well as to support the cooperating companies.

"Early intervention on site enables those affected to take advantage of appropriate help in time. But the respective company is also helped, as work absences are reduced and social security funds are relieved," say the initiators of the study, Prof. Dr Harald Gündel and Dr Eva Rothermund, from Ulm University Hospital.

"In Franconia, we live in a region with people who demand the highest performance from themselves," says Prof. Erim. "On the one hand, the high work ethic has made this region a cradle of science and innovation. On the other hand, the persistently high willingness to spend - sometimes coupled with the double burden of paid work and family necessities - has resulted in impairments to mental health. Our study aims to explore whether early interventions that start in the workplace can significantly increase employees' ability to work." The ultimate goal of the study, he said, is to permanently establish psychosomatic consultations at the workplace in the catalogue of statutory health insurance schemes. "The project will also make a contribution to ensuring that the states of exhaustion that result from high work demands are recognised earlier by those affected and the doctors treating them," says Prof. Erim. "After all, people with mental disorders should not be discriminated against, but diagnosed and treated promptly."

Further information

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