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

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


What might I want to know about supports for work?

What does “supports for work” mean?

Supports are the people, places, things, and activities that boost your confidence and capacity to participate in meaningful activities such as work. The categories below have been described in curricula developed at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation and are also discussed in the section on Thinking About Work.


Certain people at your place of work, such as a coworker or a supervisor, can be part of your support system. These people can offer you resources, emotional support, or direction. Getting help from these people can support you having a successful career. People supports for work can also be people outside of the work arena who support you as you keep work. This support system can include family, friends, clergy, neighbors, and childcare professionals.


Place supports for work are those settings that support you in your work endeavors. These places can be spaces at work, your car (if that’s part of the job), or any other work space that you find supportive. They may also include places outside of the work area. These can include a local park to take a walk in when you’re stressed, your home, place of worship, or local library. These places may support your success and satisfaction with work in different ways.


Things that support work are items that serve as resources for you either inside or outside of work. These items can include computers, alarm clocks, a calendar to help you keep appointments, or a smartphone that can help you set reminders.


Activities that support work are the things that you do that boost your success and satisfaction at work, and they, too, can be at work or outside of work. Exercise, sleeping well, talking to a friend or a supervisor, and meditation are all examples of activities that can support you in work.

How do I know what supports I will need in the workplace?

Figuring out the supports you will need, or do need, in the workplace may require some thought and some perspective.

Do some thinking.

  • Take stock of the supports you have. How do they help you? Do your supports work together (i.e., the people)? Do they feel like enough support for you to feel satisfied and successful at work?
  • Where do you think there are “holes” in your support system?
  • What people, places, things, and activities do you think might support you in ways you don’t have now?

Get some perspective.

  • Ask supervisors, friends, family, whoever you think will have an important perspective on your support needs, what they think you have, and still need.

Self-Directed Psychiatric Rehabilitation Activities

A workbook that allows you, with or without a supporter, to work through thinking through, choosing, getting into, and keeping a valued role, including developing supports.

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Vocational Empowerment Photovoice

A peer-led class that puts cameras and workbooks into the hands of people looking to increase their motivation for working.  Includes section on Vocational Supports and Services.

Learn More

Virginia Commonwealth University RRTC on Work Supports

The purpose of the Virginia Commonwealth University Rehabilitation Research & Training Center (RRTC) is to identify effective supports for assisting individuals with disabilities to maintain employment & advance their careers.

Learn More

How can I strengthen my supports so I can be successful?

Strengthening your supports is a matter of taking the supports that you have and getting from them the amount of support that you need, as well as the types of support that will get you what you need.

Amount of support

You might have a little support, but not enough to really support your success, such as bus money at the beginning of the month, but not at the end.  Strengthening the amount of a support may take some creativity, such as putting your money into a bus pass for the whole month, or asking for rides as the month gets long.

Kinds of support

There are different kinds of support, such as practical support like bus fare or childcare, and emotional support like someone listening when you’ve had a tough day.

Working Together

Sometimes needing support is a matter of educating supporters or getting your supporters to work together. Getting your supports to be coordinated around you and what you (and perhaps your family) want may be key to your success. Working toward educating your supporters about not only what you want from work, but how you are going about doing it may help you win additional support from your team.

Return to the main "Keeping Work" page.

Where am I in my employment journey?