Depression and Employment: How Therapy Can Help You Find Work and Be More Productive At Work
I can remember being faced with redundancy way back before I ever decided to become a hypnotherapist. It’s a strange feeling to be faced with the uncertainty and loss of control as you go through the redundancy process. I know a lot of people who have taken redundancy and job loss very personally in their sorts of circumstances and where the anxiety and stress has impacted upon their mental health and well-being.
As it turned out, my role continued after that round, only for the whole thing to restart with another round of redundancy consultations a few months later. This time I decided to be proactive and, as part of dealing with my own anxiety and mental health issues, I started the journey that led to becoming a full-time hypnotherapist here in Ely.
Over recent months I’ve been helping many people faced with redundancy and job loss due to the impact of the pandemic. There are many ways that hypnotherapy can help in such situations. When faced with redundancy or job loss it’s easy to find your mind filling with negative thoughts and worst case scenarios, and so we want to tackle these and ensure your thoughts are balanced, accurate and objective. There’s also a lot of scope to switch your thinking to the aspects you can control (rather than being dominated by the hopelessness that can come from waiting for someone else to make a decision). Many of the people I’ve worked with have taken the opportunity to grow side businesses, to train to do something they’ve always wanted to do, to take stock and change career or to brush up their CV and interview skills and connect with potential future employers.
When there are things outside of your control, there is nothing more empowering and effective than taking action on what you can do something about. And that means whatever happens with your employment, you have choices and options about next steps and you can hit the ground running.
As it happened, because I’d already started training as a therapist, when the opportunity came I chose voluntary redundancy because I wanted to follow my passion of helping people with their mental health. It’s a decision I’ve never had cause to regret.
There’s no doubt that your mental health, such as anxiety and depression, has a huge bearing on your employment. That could be finding work or being focused and productive in your current employment. Let’s have a look at some of the evidence about cognitive behavioural therapy, finding work and being productive at work.
Depression and Job Performance
It’s perhaps unsurprising that depression can have such an impact on seeking a job or your performance in your job. Symptoms such as feeling down or upset, feeling agitated, anxious or empty and lacking confidence and self-esteem will naturally impact on what you do, what you feel you can do and the kind of thoughts, feelings and behaviours you have.
If you are looking for work you may feel your search is hopeless, that you aren’t capable and won’t be able to do it or that they won’t want to employ you. Negative thoughts and feelings, and being hard on yourself, mean you may not have the motivation to apply or it impacts on your application or at the interview.
Aspects of depression such as lacking confident, feeling worthless and down, feeling isolated and struggling to focus and to think clearly, will impact on your job performance and your ability to do your job well. Depression can have an adverse affect on employment, resulting in job loss, absenteeism, and reduced at-work job performance and productivity.
Multiple dimensions of job performance are impaired by depression, such as interpersonal tasks, time-management and productivity. This impact can persist even after symptoms have improved (Adler, 2006).
And whilst depression impacts on seeking work and your job performance, cognitive therapy has been shown to be beneficial in helping you to deal with depression symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy For Depression
Alladin and Alibhai (2007) found that both cognitive behavioural therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy with hypnosis produced “a significant reduction in depressive symptoms at the termination of treatment and during follow-ups.” The results also demonstrated that adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy has a positive additive effect. The effect size for cognitive hypnotherapy was “significantly larger both at the end of the intervention and during 6- and 12-month follow-ups.”
That is, cognitive behavioural therapy is effective for the treatment of depression but cognitive hypnotherapy produces even better results in reducing the symptoms of depression. This fits with earlier research (Kirsch et al, 1995) which found a significantly larger effect when cognitive behavioural therapy was combined with hypnosis (when compared to the same treatment without hypnosis).
“The study clearly shows that the addition of hypnotherapy – an extra component to CBT, which largely focuses on changing behaviours and automatic thoughts – enhances treatment outcome.”
Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy has a whole range of techniques that can help tackle core elements of depression such as rumination, negative thoughts and emotions, anxiety about the future, low confidence and self-esteem.
So keeping in mind the positive benefits of adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy to improve outcomes, let’s now have a look at how this applies to employment and seeking work.
Employment & Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Depression
Depression increases your risk of being unemployed, and employees with depression experience greater difficulties with being unable to concentrate and accomplish tasks at work. And, as mentioned above, research has shown that cognitive behavioural therapy, and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy for depression, can help you to effectively reduce your symptoms and can also provide protection against relapse and recurrence.
There is evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy may produce greater improvements in employment versus the use of medication, particularly over the longer term. Individuals who responded to a four month course of cognitive therapy were more likely to be employed full-time two years later than participants who responded to antidepressant medication (Fournier, 2015).
More recently, research has investigated the change in job status and presenteeism (i.e., the inability to focus on and accomplish work) over the course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) treatment. Ezama et al (2021), assessed employment status, presenteeism, depressive symptoms, cognitive style, and CBT skills at intake and post-treatment in a sample of 126 participants enrolled in a 16-week course of CBT for depression.
They found that employment status significantly improved for those seeking work, and presenteeism decreased significantly for those in employment.
“We found evidence of two kinds of positive occupational outcomes over the course of CBT. Among patients seeking work, 41% of patients were able to make positive changes in obtaining a new position. Working patients experienced substantial reductions in presenteeism, being able to concentrate and accomplish tasks at work more successfully” (Ezama, 2021).
This suggests that CBT can have positive impacts for people finding work and for employees being more focused and productive at work. An, as mentioned above, adding hypnosis to the treatment is likely to lead to even more positive outcomes from cognitive therapy.
Depression and Employment
All of the research and evidence suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy/hypnotherapy can help if you are struggling with depression. Further, the treatment can help you in your quest to find work, and to perform better in your current position.
Cognitive therapy can help you to develop the skills you need to cope with negative thoughts when they occur. Gaining this skill is linked to a reduction in depression symptoms (Adler, 2015).
Cognitive behavioural therapy/hypnotherapy can help you to tackle and decrease negative thoughts and to clear the ‘brain fog’ or sense of hopelessness, pessimism or worthlessness that comes with depression. By interrupting negative thoughts, learning skills for tackling automatic thoughts and reducing rumination, your mental health, well-being and mood will improve.
At a time when unemployment and redundancy rates are high due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital to tackle any depression symptoms that may impact on your employment. As I write this, the UK unemployment rate is higher than it has been for about five years. Employment and unemployment, along with the pandemic itself, can have a large impact upon your mental health and well-being. And if you are struggling with depression it can make finding work and performing at work much more taxing.
All of the research here suggests that cognitive therapy can help you with your depression symptoms and that this can have a positive impact on your search to find work or on your focus and productivity if in employment. In addition, hypnotherapy can help with not only depression, anxiety and confidence, but can help you if these are impacting on your job search or your mental health is affecting you at work.
In addition, hypnotherapy can help you in many positive ways if you are faced with redundancy so that you cope better, handle it well, become proactive, and come out stronger. Certainly, redundancy was the thing that started me down my (now over a decade) path of helping people and provided the impetus to take voluntary redundancy and get out there into the world of therapy and self-employment. Your future path may be very different to mine, yet there’s no doubt that taking control over your thoughts and feelings will help you to make the most of it and to get where you want to go with what you do with your life.
To your health and happiness,
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Adler, D.A., McLaughlin, T.J., Rogers, W.H., Chang, H., Lapitsky, L. and Lerner, D., 2006. Job performance deficits due to depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(9), pp.1569-1576.
Adler, A.D., Strunk, D.R. and Fazio, R.H., 2015. What changes in cognitive therapy for depression? An examination of cognitive therapy skills and maladaptive beliefs. Behavior therapy, 46(1), pp.96-109.
Alladin, Assen, and Alisha Alibhai. “Cognitive hypnotherapy for depression: An empirical investigation.” Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 55, no. 2 (2007): 147-166.
Ezawa, I.D., Bartels, G.C. and Strunk, D.R., 2021. Getting down to business: an examination of occupational outcomes in cognitive behavioral therapy for depression. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, pp.1-13.
Fournier, J.C., DeRubeis, R.J., Amsterdam, J., Shelton, R.C. and Hollon, S.D., 2015. Gains in employment status following antidepressant medication or cognitive therapy for depression. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 206(4), pp.332-338.
Kirsch, Irving, Guy Montgomery, and Guy Sapirstein. “Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy: A meta-analysis.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 63, no. 2 (1995): 214.