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GIM Speeds Healing, Return to Work for Employees on Extended Sick Leave

04 Aug

Being out on long-term sick leave is a health threat for the employee and a burden on family and employer. So any low-cost therapy that can reduce distress and speed up the return to work, is of great value.

This Danish pilot study showed that GIM™ (Guided Imagery and Music™) helped greatly with the mood, sense of well-being, and physical comfort of employees out on extended sick leave. It also reduced their levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

GIM™ is a technique of guided listening to music that generates imagery in the mind.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Aalborg University studied twenty Danish workers on extended sick leave, who were randomized to either the GIM intervention or to wait-list control.

They studied changes in salivary cortisol, testosterone, and melatonin, and collected self-reported data on perceived stress, mood disturbance, sleep quality, physical distress symptoms, work readiness, well-being, anxiety, depression, immediate stress. Speed of job return was also noted. 

What they found was a significant benefit after nine weeks in the GIM group, as compared to the wait-list group, with large effects on well-being, mood disturbance and physical distress. Changes in cortisol concentrations had a medium effect size.

Additionally, early intervention at the onset of sick leave showed faster job return and significantly improved perceived stress, well-being, mood disturbance, depression, anxiety, and physical distress symptoms . In the whole sample, 83% of the participants had returned to work at nine weeks' follow-up.

These results suggest that GIM is a promising treatment, and further studies are recommended, as this was a small sample.

Citation: Beck BD, Hansen ÅM, Gold C. Coping with Work-Related Stress through Guided Imagery and Music (GIM): Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Music Therapy. 2015 Fall;52 (3):pages 323-52. doi: 10.1093/jmt/thv011. Epub 2015 Sep 30. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award