Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Interventions to improve work outcomes in work-related PTSD: a systematic review

Erene Stergiopoulos1, Adriana Cimo1, Chiachen Cheng12, Sarah Bonato3 and Carolyn S Dewa14*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace Health, Centre for Addition and Mental Health, 455 Spadina Avenue, Suite 300, Toronto, M5S 2G8, Canada

2 Canadian Mental Health Association, Clinic & Resource Centre, 272 Park Avenue, Thunder Bay, P7B 1C5, Canada

3 Library Services, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 33 Russell Street, Toronto, M5S 2S1, Canada

4 Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, 250 College Street, Toronto, M5T 1R8, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:838  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-838

Published: 31 October 2011



Posttraumatic stress disorder acquired at work can be debilitating both for workers and their employers. The disorder can result in increased sick leave, reduced productivity, and even unemployment. Furthermore, workers are especially unlikely to return to their previous place of employment after a traumatic incident at work because of the traumatic memories and symptoms of avoidance that typically accompany the disorder. Therefore, intervening in work-related PTSD becomes especially important in order to get workers back to the workplace.


A systematic literature search was conducted using Medline, PsycINFO, Embase, and Web of Science. The articles were independently screened based on inclusion and exclusion criteria, followed by a quality assessment of all included articles.


The systematic search identified seven articles for inclusion in the review. These consisted of six research articles and one systematic review. The review focused specifically on interventions using real exposure techniques for anxiety disorders in the workplace. In the research articles addressed in the current review, study populations included police officers, public transportation workers, and employees injured at work. The studies examined the effectiveness of EMDR, cognitive-behavioural techniques, and an integrative therapy approach called brief eclectic psychotherapy. Interestingly, 2 of the 6 research articles addressed add-on treatments for workplace PTSD, which were designed to treat workers with PTSD who failed to respond to traditional evidence-based psychotherapy.


Results of the current review suggest that work-related interventions show promise as effective strategies for promoting return to work in employees who acquired PTSD in the workplace. Further research is needed in this area to determine how different occupational groups with specific types of traumatic exposure might respond differently to work-tailored treatments.