Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Original Article
Cognitive–behavioural therapy and return-to-work intervention for patients on sick leave due to common mental disorders: a randomised controlled trial


Objectives Common mental disorders (CMDs) cause great individual suffering and long-term sick leave. Cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) effectively treats CMDs, but sick leave is not reduced to the same extent as psychiatric symptoms. Research results regarding return-to-work interventions (RTW-Is) and their effect on sick leave are inconclusive. The aim of this study was to evaluate CBT, a RTW-I and combined CBT and RTW-I (COMBO) for primary care patients on sick leave due to CMDs.

Methods Patients with CMDs (n=211) were randomised to CBT (n=64), RTW-I (n=67) or COMBO (n=80). Sick-leave registry data after 1 year and blinded Clinician’s Severity Rating (CSR) of symptoms post-treatment and at follow-ups after 6 and 12 months were primary outcomes.

Results There was no significant difference between treatments in days on sick leave 1 year after treatment start (mean difference in sick-leave days range=9–27). CBT led to larger reduction of symptoms post-treatment (CSR; Cohen’s d=0.4 (95% CI 0.1 to 0.8)) than RTW-I, whereas COMBO did not differ from CBT or RTW-I. At follow-up, after 1 year, there was no difference between groups. All treatments were associated with large pre-treatment to post-treatment improvements, and results were maintained at 1-year follow-up.

Conclusion No treatment was superior to the other regarding reducing sick leave. All treatments effectively reduced symptoms, CBT in a faster pace than RTW-I, but at 1-year follow-up, all groups had similar symptom levels. Further research is needed regarding how CBT and RTW-I can be combined more efficiently to produce a larger effect on sick leave while maintaining effective symptom reduction.

  • return-to-work
  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • common mental disorders

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.