Introduction Common mental disorders (CMDs) are highly prevalent and a leading cause of work disability. Although specialised programs are now offered to prevent these workers from developing long-term work disability, little is known about their views on helpful aspects of these programs. Our study sought to describe the active components of a work rehabilitation program based on the best scientific evidence, from the participants’ perspective.
Methods This study is the qualitative part of a broader research project aimed at the developmental evaluation of the program using a mixed methods approach over two years. We conducted semi-structured interviews of 26 participants after program completion. The questions concerned the program components they considered beneficial and their reasons. The interviews were conducted by telephone, recorded and analysed using thematic analysis principles. Converging themes were identified and classified by component type.
Result The active components identified concerned the interventions’ group format, activities, and occupational therapists (OTs). Participants saw three benefits to the group format: it offsets the feelings of isolation and shame associated with mental disorders; allows them to adjust their view of their work disability and means for reducing it; and reactivates their social interaction skills. The activities seen as most beneficial concerned training on techniques to better cope with work and daily life (e.g. mindfulness meditation). OTs were seen as having three main functions: relaying information to physicians and other stakeholders; coaching (supporting integration of the techniques, giving meaning to the experience, pointing to external resources); and ensuring the therapeutic environment of the group interventions.
Discussion Our study results provide valuable insights into components that should be priorities if we are to ensure that work rehabilitation programs meet this population’s needs. While additional work is required, current results suggest that a group format is an important intervention component for workers with CMDs.