Recent Projects: Rehabilitation Interventions

A National Survey of Alternative Health Care Practices and Their Perceived Effect on Functional Recovery

Zlatka Russinova, Ph.D.
Project Director | see profile


The purpose of this project was to study the role of alternative health care practices in the process of recovery and the vocational functioning of people with psychiatric disabilities. Anecdotal data suggested that such practices often become a supplement, or an alternative, to traditional mental health and rehabilitation services. A mail survey about alternative health care practices was conducted with 400 people using a non-probability sample. In the second phase of the study, 40 individuals completing the mail survey were selected, using specific criteria for a second phase of the study. Those 40 individuals, and their traditional mental health care or rehabilitation providers, were interviewed in depth in an effort to obtain information about specific alternative practices, and how their use was perceived by the traditional providers interviewed.


This survey examined the use of alternative interventions with people who have severe psychiatric disabilities. Individuals with psychiatric disabilities use a wide variety of alternative practices for mental health benefit, including body-oriented practices, mind-oriented practices, and spiritually-oriented practices. Use of alternative practices seems to vary by psychiatric diagnosis. Meditation was the most frequently reported alternative practice, followed by massage, prayer, organized religion, yoga, and guided imagery. Benefits were reported across multiple domains, including psychological, physical and cognitive areas. These results are being used to guide future studies in the area of health and wellness.

alternative issue
Alternative Approaches to
Mental Health Care

Recovery & Rehabilitation Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 4
October 2001

Recent Publications:

Russinova, Z., Wewiorski, N., & Cash, D.J. (2002). Use of alternative health care practices by persons with serious mental illness: Perceived benefits. American Journal of Public Health, 92(10), 1600-1603. 

Press Release: People with serious mental illness use alternative health care to aid recovery

A Study of the Effect of Volunteer and Peer Support Services on Recovery

E. Sally Rogers, Sc.D.
Project Director | see profile


The purpose of this project was to evaluate the benefits of volunteer and peer support for people with long-term mental illness. We recruited an experimental sample of 156 adults with psychiatric disabilities to participate in a study of support services through an international volunteer organization (Compeer). A total of 81 individuals received the support services and 75 individuals served as the matched control group. Multiple outcomes were studied, such as vocational and residential status, quality of life, self-esteem, empowerment, social inclusion and support, and service utilization. Using qualitative methods, we also examined the nature of the volunteer relationship. This study increased our understanding of the nature of volunteer support services and their effect on rehabilitation and recovery outcomes.


The effect of the Compeer volunteer companion service on several outcome domains was examined using a quasi-experimental design. Preliminary results indicated that perceptions of social inclusion and social support are greater in the experimental group.

Investigation of Personal Assistance Services (PAS)

Marsha Langer Ellison, Ph.D.


The goal of this project was to further understand the meaning, current policy, and state-level implementation of Personal Assistant Services (PAS) for people with long-term mental illness. A secondary analysis of data collected by the World Institute on Disability (WID) has been conducted.


This study investigated the viability of personal assistance services as an intervention model for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. National PAS programs with experience serving people with psychiatric disabilities were examined using data from the RRTC at the WID. Only one program out of the 300 surveyed served people with psychiatric disabilities exclusively; 30 programs served individuals with psychiatric and other disabilities. PAS tasks that were most closely related to the needs of people with psychiatric disabilities (cognitive/emotional supports) were offered by half or fewer of the 30 programs analyzed. The larger funding stream for the 30 programs related to psychiatric PAS was Title XIX Waiver dollars (N=10). According to WID, approximately 7,300 people with psychiatric disabilities have PAS services in the U.S.

Related publications

Pita, D.D., Ellison, M.L., Farkas, M., & Bleecker, T. (2001). Exploring personal assistance services for people with psychiatric disabilities: Need, policy, practice. The Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 12(1), 2-9.