A feasibility study of a novel work-focused relational group CBT treatment programme for moderate to severe recurrent depression

Walker, Nicola; Vernon-Smith, Madeleine and Townend, Michael. 2021. A feasibility study of a novel work-focused relational group CBT treatment programme for moderate to severe recurrent depression. Mental Health Review Journal, 26(4), pp. 328-352. ISSN 1361-9322 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Purpose: No current psychotherapeutic intervention is designed to enhance job retention in employees with moderate–severe recurrent depression. The aim of this study is to test the feasibility of a new, interdisciplinary work-focused relational group cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) treatment programme for moderate–severe depression.

Design/methodology/approach: The programme was based on a theoretical integration of occupational stress, psychological, social/interpersonal and bio-medical theories. It consisted of up to four 1:1 psychotherapy sessions; 12 work-focused, full-day, weekly CBT sessions facilitated by a cognitive behavioural therapist and occupational therapist; and up to four optional 1:1 sessions with an occupational therapist. Depression severity (primary outcome) and a range of secondary outcomes were assessed before (first CBT session) and after (twelfth CBT session) therapy using validated instruments.

Findings: Eight women (26–49 years) with moderate–severe depression participated. Five were on antidepressant medication. While there was no statistically significant change in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale depression scores after therapy (n = 5; p = 0.313), Beck Depression Inventory-II depression scores significantly decreased after therapy (n = 8; –20.0 median change, p = 0.016; 6/8 responses, 7/8 minimal clinically important differences, two remissions). There were significant improvements in the secondary outcomes of overall psychological distress, coping self-efficacy, health-related quality of life and interpersonal difficulties after therapy. All clients in work at the start of therapy remained in work at the end of therapy. The intervention was safe and had 100% retention.

Research limitations/implications: A major limitation was recruitment shortfall, resulting in a small sample of middle-aged women, which reduces representativeness and increases the possibility of methodological weaknesses in terms of the statistical analysis. A definitive trial would need much larger samples to improve statistical power and increase confidence in the findings. Another major limitation was that two of the authors were involved in delivering the intervention such that its generalisability is uncertain.

Practical implications: This novel programme was evaluated and implemented in the real world of clinical practice. It showed promising immediate positive outcomes in terms of depressive symptoms, interpersonal difficulties and job retention that warrant further exploration in a longer-term definitive study.

Social implications: Empirical studies focused on enhancing job retention in employees with moderate–severe recurrent depression are lacking, so this study was highly relevant to a potentially marginalised community.

Originality/value: While limited by a recruitment shortfall, missing data and client heterogeneity, this study showed promising immediate positive outcomes for the new programme in terms of depressive symptoms, interpersonal difficulties and job retention that warrant exploration in a definitive study.

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© 2021 Emerald Group Publishing. This is an author-produced version of a paper subsequently published in Mental Health Review Journal. This version is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. You may not use the material for commercial purposes.


Cognitive behavioural therapy; Depression; Job retention; Interpersonal difficulties

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


2 September 2021Published Online
30 November 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

14 Sep 2023 11:54

Last Modified:

15 Sep 2023 09:34

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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