A new study into the mental and physical wellbeing of doctors has found that short-term counselling could help reduce emotional exhaustion and sick leave in the majority of cases.
A subsequent modest cut in work hours may also benefit doctors suffering from mental distress and burnout, the research, published on bmj.com, found.
Doctors are more susceptible to depression and suicide than the general population and there have been calls for early intervention programmes to avoid the welfare of patients being compromised.
Such programmes have been shown to reduce stress and exhaustion, although it was not previously known which factors contribute to the positive changes.
The new study, of 227 stressed doctors in Norway, found that counselling intervention followed by a reduction in working hours were linked to a reduction in emotional exhaustion, or burnout.
The researchers also found that such intervention and reduction in work hours resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of doctors on full-time sick leave.
"Our findings indicate that seeking a counselling intervention could be conducive to reduction of burnout among doctors," the authors concluded. "Considering doctors' reluctance to seek help ... it is important to offer interventions that facilitate access."