Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has amassed a wealth of evidence demonstrating its effectiveness in treating a wide range of psychological disorders since US psychology professor Aaron Beck first introduced its conceptual framework in 1979.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE, 2004) has recommended CBT as a primary intervention for depression, anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. A British Occupational Health Research Foundation (BOHRF) study by Linda Seymour and Bob Grove in 2005 similarly recommended it as the treatment of choice for helping people with common mental health problems to remain in the workplace and make an effective adjustment to health and productivity.
The financial cost of work lost as a result of mental health problems is universally acknowledged by researchers, and fully appreciated by employers. Estimates reported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2005, for example, indicate that self-reported work-related stress, depression and anxiety accounts for 12.8 million lost working days per year in the UK. It is increasingly evident that initiatives to reduce absenteeism are moving to the forefront of the health and safety agenda, particularly with the recognition that longer-term absences tend to hinder an employee's successful return to work.
A study in 2005 by employers' body Business in the Community estimated that absence cost employers some £28.6bn in 2004, and statistics suggest that individuals with primary mental health problems constituted a significant group within this profile. An HSE report in 2005 indicated that, of the 2.2 million people who suffered from work-related ill health in 2003-04, up to 75% were cases of stress or musculoskeletal disorders. In November 2003, it was estimated that 44% of all individuals who received incapacity benefit in the UK were suffering from mental health or behavioural disorders, according to statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
CBT could be a highly cost-effective way to reduce sickness absence or even prevent the loss of highly valued staff from the workforce as a result of mental health problems.
The underpinning theory of CBT is that people who become depressed or anxious do so because they engage in maladaptive or faulty thought processing (cognitions) and reasoning, which are self-defeating, and affect mood, behaviour and ph