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Can a ‘return-to-work’ agenda fit within the theory and practice of CBT for depression and anxiety disorders?

  • Matthew Wesson (a1) and Matthew Gould (a1)


Helping service users to return to work has emerged as a key therapeutic objective of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative. IAPT programmes implement National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines, especially cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), for people suffering from anxiety and depression. However, relatively little research has been conducted to date into whether, or how, cognitive behavioural interventions can help individuals return to work. This paper reviews literature and research into CBT and occupational outcomes and considers whether a return-to-work agenda may jeopardize the therapeutic alliance which is suggested to be necessary for effective CBT. Moreover, through the use of clinical examples from our practice, we suggest ways in which employment issues might be integrated into CBT for depression and anxiety disorders. We conclude that a return-to-work agenda can be utilized during therapy while maintaining a collaborative and secure therapeutic relationship, especially, perhaps if work issues are embedded within the formulation. However, further research is needed, not only to determine whether CBT can help individuals return to work but also how CBT might best integrate a return-to-work agenda.


Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence: Mr M. Wesson, Department of Community Mental Health, PP6 Sunny Walk, HMNB Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Hampshire PO1 3LT, UK. (email:


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Can a ‘return-to-work’ agenda fit within the theory and practice of CBT for depression and anxiety disorders?

  • Matthew Wesson (a1) and Matthew Gould (a1)
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