Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Supportive Vocational Services


My family member wants to get professional support for the Vocational Process. Where might we look for help?

The answer is determined in part by what your family member needs and in part by what is available in your area. The most widespread services are the America’s Job Centers workforce training and placement programs. The Vocational Rehabilitation agencies also provide services for individuals with disabilities. The state Departments of Mental Health also exist to serve those with mental health conditions. Local mental health centers or private agencies can be very helpful in identifying services. Veterans have their own services, but at times can use the state funded programs.

  • America’s Job Centers are in all states and serve the general population including people with disabilities. They have many resources to help individuals with their job searches. They also have a small staff, so individuals using their resources should be independent.
  • The Vocational Rehabilitation and the Dept. of Mental Health and its affiliate agencies provide some services of their own. They also contract out a majority of their services to nonprofit agencies. This includes those that provide Supported Employment or Rehabilitation-oriented Clubhouses (ICCD). State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies offer an array of resources for employment. They also have a separate programs of Supported Employment (not necessarily part of a clinical team, although it is in some states). The VR agencies can also provide on the job training and some have well developed employer development services.
  • Supported Employment (IPS model) programs are usually part of a clinical team with a holistic approach. But, the SE program itself is not equipped to work with people when they are not yet ready to work. They do an excellent job of getting employment very quickly. They then use the job as a start to determine if the person needs other supports.
  • Clubhouses will work with someone from beginning to end on their employment journey. This usually begins with part time and temporary employment and then work through to permanent employment. At times, the clubhouses may collaborate with another program to get the choosing resources that someone needs when entering competitive employment. (Clubhouse International)
  • The Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Administration offers employment services as well. These assist veterans both on and off the hospital campuses. In some cases they have the resources to help individual veterans to explore employment opportunities.
  • For career exploration, O-Net Online provides career information across all industries.
  • The Social Security Administration offers its Ticket to Work program for individuals. They send a list of potential providers to SSI recipients encouraging them to select an employment service provider. (Employment Networks in the Ticket to Work program)

Once your family member has chosen an employment program, the quality of their relationship is critical. There has to be mutual respect, trust, and purpose for productive and rehabilitative treatment. The alliance includes the job seeker, the rehabilitation professional and other members of the team. (McCrory)

What if my family member and I disagree about work goals?

Consumer choice is of the utmost importance. If the family believes the choice is too ambitious, this might communicate that the family member is “less than” without giving the individual opportunity to try. If the goal is too lofty or out of reach, it will become obvious as they take the necessary steps. If a change is needed, the person can step back and start over. Families may prefer to spare loved ones any feelings of failure from taking a job that is too difficult. Only by getting out into the workforce does vocational self-awareness develop. The most common error is underestimating, rather than overestimating potential.

The family may have concerns that by starting at a low-skill entry-level job, the person will be bored and frustrated. They may believe that they may not be using their intelligence or education. As before, family members must be careful not to become the decision makers. Information-giving is often a helpful role while advice-giving is not always appreciated. With support, the job seeker can find a good match in which they feel challenged with meaningful work. The fact that their loved one is working can comfort family members. This will help individuals continue to dream and pursue their goals. (Lesley Univ)

Family members should recognize how difficult it is for someone with a mental health condition to achieve employment. There are many barriers of employment that exist for the individual struggling. The best solution is for the job seeker to work towards a good match, regardless of time. If the family member has dreams beyond their current vocational level, that is great! Those dreams should be supported and revived when the timing is right. As always, personal and professional support networks are important to the search. (MHA) The job seeker and the family will do well to update their knowledge about the job market and opportunities in the community.

Return to the main page on helping your family member Achieve Employment Goals.

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