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Open Access Study protocol

Effectiveness of adjuvant occupational therapy in employees with depression: design of a randomized controlled trial

Hiske L Hees1*, Maarten WJ Koeter1, Gabe de Vries1, Wendy Ooteman2 and Aart H Schene1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center (AMC), Universiteit van Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 5, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Until November 2008 affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center (AMC), Universiteit van Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 5, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:558  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-558

Published: 17 September 2010

Abstract

Background

Major depressive disorder is among the medical conditions with the highest negative impact on work outcome. However, little is known regarding evidence-based interventions targeting the improvement of work outcomes in depressed employees. In this paper, the design of a randomized controlled trial is presented in order to evaluate the effectiveness of adjuvant occupational therapy in employees with depression. This occupational intervention is based on an earlier intervention, which was designed and proven effective by our research group, and is the only intervention to date that specifically targets work outcome in depressed employees.

Methods/Design

In a two-arm randomized controlled trial, a total of 117 participants are randomized to either 'care as usual' or ' care as usual' with the addition of occupational therapy. Patients included in the study are employees who are absent from work due to depression for at least 25% of their contract hours, and who have a possibility of returning to their own or a new job. The occupational intervention consists of six individual sessions, eight group sessions and a work-place visit over a 16-week period. By increasing exposure to the working environment, and by stimulating communication between employer and employee, the occupational intervention aims to enhance self-efficacy and the acquisition of more adaptive coping strategies. Assessments take place at baseline, and at 6, 12, and 18-month follow-ups. Primary outcome measure is work participation (hours of absenteeism and time until work resumption). Secondary outcome measures are work functioning, symptomatology, health-related quality of life, and neurocognitive functioning. In addition, cost-effectiveness is evaluated from a societal perspective. Finally, mechanisms of change (intermediate outcomes) and potential patient-treatment matching variables are investigated.

Discussion

This study hopes to provide valuable knowledge regarding an intervention to treat depression, one of the most common and debilitating diseases of our time. If our intervention is proven (cost-) effective, the personal, economic, and health benefits for both patients and employers are far-reaching.

Trial registration number

NTR2057