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

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

Supports for Work

What might I ask myself when thinking about supports for work?

What does “supports for work” mean?

Supports are the people, places, things, and activities that boost your confidence to participate in meaningful activities such as work (Farkas,, 2000).

What kinds of supports are there?

Supports for work fall into four main categories: People, Places, Things, and Activities.


People supports for work might be the people who help you find work, such as vocational counselors, employment specialists, job coaches, or vocational peer specialists. Typically, professional people supports for work may:

  • Help you assess your strengths, interests and limitations.
  • Help you to determine what type of work or work setting would be a match for you.
  • Help decide if education or training is needed to reach the intended goal.
  • Help determine what, if any, impact wages will have on their benefits and what to do about benefits.
  • Help you maintain wellness, stay healthy while working. (Dixon, et al., 2001)
  • Match you to jobs in the community.
  • Help you to gather specific job-related resources such as uniforms, bus passes, or car repairs.
  • Teach the person skills and help find resources to maintain employment and manage money.
  • Help in overcoming specific barriers to employment either in the individual or in the community. (Boston University)
  • Help in determining what resources are available and accessible to pursue your goal. (Mental Health America)

The supports for work might also include a professional peer. This person can help with inspiration, motivation or information. (Temple University)

“People supports” might also be people at work if you’re already working, such as coworkers or a supervisor. People supports can include people outside of work who support you as you consider, choose, get, and keep work.

We can think of the kinds of support provided by people in two ways:

Emotional Support
Emotional support is related to close personal relationships. You might think about it as helping to increase your feeling of hopefulness and optimism, especially in regards to work. Emotional support may look like a friend listening to you or someone “being there” with you.

Practical Support
Practical supports for work can be a lot of things, but they help out in very concrete ways, such as as with bus fare, childcare, helping out with interview clothes, or practicing your elevator speech.


“Place supports” for work are those places that support you in your work efforts.  Places may include spaces at work that support you, such as your supervisor’s office, or the Employee Assistance Program.  They may also include places outside of work, such as a local park, your home, or the local library.


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


Activities that support work are the things that you do to boost your confidence to consider, choose, get, and keep work. Examples include exercising, revamping your resume, or talking to a friend.

Consider the following if you are thinking about the kinds of supports you have or need for working:

  • What kinds of people, place, thing, and activity supports do you have now that can support you to make a change in your work situation?
  • What kinds of supports do you think you will need to gather or develop?

Do I have enough supports in place to move forward?

Whether you have enough support or not is up to you. Only you and perhaps people whom you trust can make the determination that you have enough support.  You might consider what kinds of support you need, and then look at how much support you have now in those areas.  Think about how much support you think you will need, and look to see if there is a difference.

What if I don’t feel supported enough to work?

You may feel, after considering how much support you have, that you have less support for working than you think you’ll need.  You may have looked at your situation, and either feel unsupported overall, or have some support but not enough, or see detractors from the vocational change you want to make.  What can you do?

Gather supports:  Think in terms of the people, places, things, and activities that could support you as you Choose, Get, and Keep work. (Farkas,, 2000)  Start to gather the items and people you think could support you, and start to do the activities that can boost your capacity to move toward work.

Educate your supports: If people in your circle are divided about your working, have concerns about it, or are actively working against your plans to work, one thing you may think about doing is to educate your supporters about your plans.  You may want to talk with them about why you want to work, how you plan to do it, and why you think this will work.  Find out about their concerns, and talk about them.  Try to come up with a way to come together around steps to get started, even if you don’t agree about everything.

See these additional resources if you want to look at supports for work:

Return to the main "Thinking About Work" page.

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