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

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

Keeping a Job

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I help my family member keep a job?

Continue to provide emotional and tangible support, remind your family member about the various job coaching, work accommodations and stress management practices/supports that can make a difference.

If your family member seems to be really unhappy in that job, encourage them to work with their vocational provider to find a new position as soon as possible.

What if my family member does not like a job?

The first thing is to determine (or have someone else determine) with your family member is the reason for dissatisfaction with the job. For example, is it the job itself, the supervision or lack of it, the coworkers, the commute, pay or some other factor that is the problem?

Once that is determined, the team should consider with your family member whether the problems can be or should be resolved in some way – with or without support. If it does not appear that the problem can be resolved, the next step would be to consider what other job type, job location, job situation would be a better match and begin to work on finding a new job.

Sometimes training is needed for the person to find a satisfying job and those training options can be explored with the Rehabilitation Counselor from the VR agency, the Employment Specialist, or America’s Job Center.

What if my family member loses a job?

The first thing is to determine what happened on the job that led to the person losing the job.This assessment can be really valuable in deciding what is the best match. Helping someone to really understand what happened in a negative job ending is one of the best ways in planning for the future.

If the problem was the job itself, a new evaluation of interests and abilities might be in order.

If the problem was related to relationships, social behavioral issues of others in the workplace, it would be time to examine that, perhaps practice some new skills.

Attendance or punctuality can be a problem for some people so this can be looked at and help to find a job situation that would accommodate the right schedule or the right supports for your family member.

“Different job situations, even the same job titles with different employers, have both similarities and differences. When a person with a mental illness loses a job, that person should not be precluded from seeking another job right away. The fact that the person was successful in becoming employed should be celebrated. At the same time, help the person understand what went awry and how it can be avoided in the future. The loss of a job can be a learning experience. Focus on what the individual learned about their strengths and abilities, and then use this knowledge to find a better job!” (ICI) In Supported Employment and other rehabilitation programs, any job experience is considered a valuable assessment tool that will lead to future job decisions.

In summary, losing a job is just one step closer to finding the right job. This is the kind of message you would want to give to your family members.

What if my family member is “stuck” in a job and not moving forward?

The most common plateau that people with disabilities reach is the intersection of wages and benefits.They look at how much they can earn “without losing benefits” from their point of view. This ends up limiting the type of work, the number of hours and/or the amount of money they can earn. This is a strategy that many disabled people choose and it works for some.

But for others, they feel like they have “settled for” a certain lifestyle because they have to. In reality many of the “plateau” people COULD move on, doing more challenging work, earning more money but they have not done the math that takes everything into account including work incentives. They also are unlikely to get any support for moving closer to full time work. This is an area where more research is needed and better information is needed for the family and the person in recovery.

Help your family member keep in mind the principle of maximizing income and ensuring health benefits, not just keeping benefits. Many people are capable of having a career, meaningful work and a healthy lifestyle but they do not always get this message. The role of family members in these situations is to help with the research if the family member in recovery wants that support. This includes research on maximizing income, getting the right information, and finding resources that might support moving to more meaningful or more lucrative work.

In some cases family members enrich their understanding of psychiatric disabilities and of the psychiatric rehabilitation community through direct participation as providers or educators such as family-supported FACT teams in Maine (McFarlane), Family-aided vocational rehabilitation for youth in the Netherlands (Gaal), family education (NAMI Family to Family program) and others.