Employees on sick leave with common mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety fully returned to work sooner when therapy deals with work-related problems and how to get back on the job, according to a new.
Employees who received this therapy and returned to work sooner did not suffer adverse effects and showed significant improvement in mental health over the course of one year, according to the article. People with depression or anxiety may take a lot of sick leave to address their problems, said the study's lead author. However, focusing on how to return to work is not a standard part of therapy. This study shows that integrating return-to-work strategies into therapy leads to less time out of work with little to no compromise in people's psychological well-being over the course of one year, they added.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is based on the idea that people's thoughts, rather than external factors such as people, situations or events, cause feelings and behaviours. Cognitive-behavioural therapists encourage their clients to change the way they think in order to feel better even if the situation does not change. Behavioural techniques such as gradual exposure to difficult situations are often used within cognitive-behavioural therapy.
In the work-focused group, psychotherapists addressed work issues in an early phase and used work and the workplace as mechanisms or context to improve the client's mental health. For example, therapists consistently explained to their clients how work can offer structure and self-esteem, characteristics beneficial to clients' recovery. They also helped clients draft a detailed, gradual plan for returning to work, focusing on how the client would engage in specific tasks and activities.
All participants had fewer mental health problems over the course of treatment, no matter which type of therapy they received, with the most dramatic decrease in symptoms occurring in the first few months.
Being out of work has a direct effect on people's well-being. Those who are unable to participate in work lose a valuable source of social support and interpersonal contacts. They might lose part of their income and consequently tend to develop even more psychological symptoms. We've demonstrated that employees on sick leave with mental disorders can benefit from interventions that enable them to return to work, the authors say.