Here, we notice that scientific research has a very weak point:


(it - at its best - tests solutions/therapies invented and described by others).

First take a familiar example. Pharmacology investigates how things work, physically, invents a drug, but all that is not part of published science.

The only aspect that will be published, are the clinical trials, 'how well does our drug perform?'

The same happened with burnou. To our knowledge, NO SINGLE METHOD of burnout treatment was published in all the years since 1974. In 1974, Freudenberger did give a sketch of a method, but it was not followed up upon.

So the situation you get is that EXISTING therapies are tries for burnout, as

  • RET (Rational Emotive Therapy)
  • CBT (Cognitive Behavorioul Therapy)
  • Rogerian therapy

not because they would have a CAUSAL relationship to burnout/burnout recovery, but just because they exist.

A second drawback is that testing 'burnout patients treated with CBT' vs. 'controls untreated' is very inprecise: you do not kwow what CBT exactly has been applied, you do not know whether procedure was adhered to, and apart from that: it is widely recognised (als as research finding) the the 'click' between therapist and patient is most decisive for progress.

But the research on 'efficiency of (eg.) CBT)' never correct for this factor of 'click'.

So, up to 2014, none of the existing therapies has been found very significant for burnout recovery.


  • the 'Problem Solving' approach engineered and tested by Stichtiing Burnout in the Netherlands, that scores very high reates of success
  • ACT, Acceptance Commitment Therapy. The research results here are convincing, not just 'borderline SPSS significant.

Why are 12 step program and ACT the best therapies for burnout?

1) the '12 step program' of Stichting Burnout is very much focussed on clarifying the situation, investigating emotions, investigating burnout triggers, making a plan how to tackle issued etc. It is quite analytical - including emotions - and focussed towards a solution

2) ACT is succesfull because it is 'deconstructive' or 'defusional' regarding:

- identification of client with problem
- too verbal thinking
- too much worked out self image
- interpreting everything as 'good' or 'bad'.

Burnout may also me a blessing in disguise.

At the same time, ACT works at clarifying life values, and committed actions to that. So ACT goes FURTHER than 'healing an illness', it provides you with a very sound direction for your life as well!

You find many research articles confirming the success of ACT in burnout treatment on the science bases mentioned under '4. Science about burnout'.

Other therapies and why they fail

Cognitive behavorial therapy can yield satisfactory results, if the emotional component is well included, and if the CBT has been worked out for burnout specifically.

Other therapies rather lead to 'disaster'

  • Freudian youth investigation
  • 'week by week ad hoc coaching'
  • outdoors based trainings
  • technocratic restart with working activities without burnout analysis

The first one totally neglects the elements of the current situation; the emergence of personality traits in youth is nice for the history records, but will not change burnout or burnout circumstances, apart from the 'ocean of time' this approach requires.

'Ad hoc coaching' contains no burnout analysis and no direction. A waste of time and money, and meanwhile the burnout continues to damage the individual.

Outdoors trainings, very popular in Germany, miss the point of analysis of burnout situation, miss the accurate design of solutions to the situation, and totally overlook the 'shock' for the burnout client returning from 'relaxed wood experiences' back to work. All approaches 'from the wood' seem not to work.

Restarting to work after burnout may have, under the right conditions, 1 advantage: rebuilding self-confidence. But without prior burnout analysis, demanding someone to take up again old tasks and old interactions that MADE someone burnout in the first place is a total disaster and deepens the burnout. This technocratic proceedings, as almost required by law, make many victims in the Netherlands.

So be very 'afraid' of 'one size fits all therapies' - with probable only exception: ACT.

The 12 step programm is totally written towards burnout, so that is succesful.

There is plenty for the design of new therapies. Design them, think of WHY they would work with burnout, ask the opinion of burnout experts, then describe your method, and have researched whether it helps.

Meditation and mindfullness have also be invented, as EMDR or 'WRAP', but once well descibed it is possible for researchers to test them.

But do not expect research to design and optimize a burnout program....