Navigating the Intersection of Work and Mental Health

Working Better and Stressing Less

Ideas on work and mental health

Do you want to try out some career development activities?

As many of you know, I've been working to develop some online content to help share the career development process I coach clients through, with a wider audience. I hope to launch this content on a more integrated/interactive platform sometime soon but in the meantime, grab a plain ole notebook and follow along....  

Over the next several weeks, we will introduce and walk you through a framework to make major and minor career and life decisions. While you may have started this journey because you’re struggling in your career right now, we hope this system is one that you can apply over and over again in your life to make value-congruent decisions that bring you professional and personal contentment.

About the author

I’m Katie Playfair, a Licensed Professional Counselor (License OR4080) based in Portland, Oregon. Counseling is my second career. Previously, I was a management consultant in technology companies and it was there that I observed how painful anxiety could be and how much harm ineffective coping mechanisms caused to both people and their teams.

Today, I use cognitive-behavioral (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) techniques to help clients address mental health and career issues. CBT is a behavioral treatment paradigm that focuses on helping clients change their behaviors first. Evidence shows that behavioral change can facilitate changes in thoughts and feelings. ACT is a nuanced paradigm that, from a client perspective, focuses on mindfulness and values. Although this career development program is not a substitute for mental health treatment, we will draw on principles and practices from CBT and ACT to help you make better career decisions.


What this course is

Together, we will use a variety of mediums to help you build psychological and practical skills to help you build a value-congruent career. While this course is focused on career, the skills we teach in this course can be applied to other areas of your life as well. Many of the concepts we will use to help you explore and take action in your career come from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT (pronounced “act”). ACT was developed as a psychotherapy paradigm by Steven Hayes and refined by him and others since its inception (Hayes & Wilson, 1994). We will use ACT to help you notice your experiences, identify your values, and take action on things that are important to your career. You may find that these skills generalize to other parts of your life.  

We will also use practical exercises such as looking through your resume, LinkedIn profile, personal websites, and personal brand briefly during this course. Although these are ancillary activities, we will provide some guidance on these practical issues.

What this program is not

This online course is NOT a substitute for professional therapy or medical advice. In professional therapy, the counselor provides consistent assessment and treatment of conditions including mental health disorders. Online self-help resources do not allow for that personalization or two-way communication. If you have any history of mental health symptoms, please complete this course only WITH the guidance of your mental health professional.

Maximizing impact and value

Changing how you approach your career and possibly even your life can take a lot of time and practice. Reading these instructions may bring you some benefit alone but we recommend engaging with the material more thoroughly by taking time to read it and complete homework assignments. If you don’t have time to do a bit of homework every day, save these emails and access the system when you do have time!

We also recommend that you keep a journal throughout this process so that you can engage better with the material and so that you have a record of how you got “unstuck” this time so you can repeat it in the future. If you don’t like journaling, please consider the “journal assignments” each day to be personal reflections that you can do by simply thinking.


Get a journal or notebook if you want to use one (we REALLY encourage this).  Additionally, consider what kind of time commitment you want to make to the program. What will make YOU feel successful? Write down your commitment and block the time you’re willing to commit.

References & Further Reading

Hayes, Steven C.; Luoma, Jason B.; Bond, Frank W.; Masuda, Akihiko; Lillis, Jason (2006). "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Model, processes and outcomes".Behaviour Research and Therapy44 (1): 1–25.doi:10.1016/j.brat.2005.06.006PMID 16300724.

Hayes, S. C. & Wilson, K. G. (1994). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Altering the verbal support for experiential avoidance. The Behavior Analyst, 17, 289-303.

Öst, L.G. (March 2008). "Efficacy of the third wave of behavioral therapies: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Behaviour research and therapy. 46 (3): 296–321.