Thinking About Work
Is there potential for mixed messages about work from care providers, clinicians and others?
Yes, mixed messages do happen and it is unfortunate because getting mixed messages about the idea of work, one’s ability to work, or the impact on benefits can create more anxiety, confusion or ambivalence. Team members have different backgrounds, education, professional orientation and views of one’s ability to work so there are bound to be some differences of opinion. However, when the professionals, peers and family members can communicate with the job seeker with one voice, it makes it considerably easier for the job seeker.
It is of the utmost importance that all support persons have correct information about wages and benefits as this is an area of great “fear” and a source of misinformation. One clinician may tell your family member that if s/he works and earns a certain amount, it will not affect their health benefits. At the same time, another family member could say to that person that working will cause loss of health care. Getting the RIGHT information for the situation is critical. Having the whole team providing the RIGHT information is essential. In most cases, with the guidance from a Benefits Expert, the family member will gain in their overall income by working. A Benefits Expert or Benefits Specialist is a trained individual whose role is to analyze the effect that work would have on public benefits received by people with disabilities.
Some of the research on models such as Individual Placement and Support, a type of Supported Employment (Dartmouth) and Assertive Community Treatment teams (SAMHSA) indicates that there are better employment outcomes when the Employment Specialists are part of a team (and team members work in unison). When the professionals work as a team and the family is a good collaborator, the individual job seeker or worker is less likely to be stressed about employment goals. In an extensive overview of research on services to families of people with psychiatric disabilities 15 major principles were summarized for those models that had significantly better outcomes. The FIRST of these principles was “Coordinate all elements of treatment and rehabilitation to ensure that everyone is working toward the same goals in a collaborative, supportive relationship”. (Dixon)