Work as therapy

“Work is more fun than fun!”

Noel Coward

A large body of clinical evidence suggests that meaningful work promotes full participation in society, independence and human rights.

The UK Social Exclusion Unit (2004) found that work has the potential to deliver two of the core precepts central to mental healthcare for people with severe mental illness – social inclusion and recovery.

Social Inclusion and Recovery

Waddell and Burton (2006) cite meaningful work as the most effective means to improving the well-being of individuals, their families and their communities.

Waddell and Burton present a theoretical framework of work and psychological well-being founded on extensive evidence. 

They conclude that work

  • is central to identity, social roles and social status
  • meets important psychosocial needs
  • is a significant driver of social gradient in mental health
  • is essential to independent income, intrinsic to self-worth and full social participation


Clinical trials found that a combined intervention of CBT and work-place participation yielded a quicker reintegration into work than CBT alone (Blonk, Brenninkmeirjer, Lagerveld & Houtman, 2006).