Thinking About Work


How might I start talking to my family member about work?

The conversations about work ideally are ongoing from young adulthood and up. “Consistency is key in infusing strong expectations; the assumption of work should be echoed by all people of influence in young people’s lives.” (ODEP) When initiating a conversation, a good starter might be to talk about his/her strengths and also what what the family member sees as his/her strengths. (Rapp) Be aware of the strengths of your family member, especially those that might be important in a job. You might share compliments such as “You are well organized, a good listener …. well groomed …. persistent etc.” Periodically acknowledge those strengths. Avoid criticism unless it is around something really important such as a safety concern. Research suggests that families can best aid in recovery by: moral support, practical support and help motivating the individual. (Aldersey)
If the individual is in a program that provides vocational supports – you might talk about those services and how they work. Who else does your family member know who has used those services? If your family member doesn’t think s/he has any skills, you might describe some situations in which your family member has had to demonstrate a skill, e.g. decorating the house for a holiday; helping to organize items for a yard sale or teaching a youngster a computer skill.
Starting the conversation about employment through pointing out strengths can provide both moral support and help with motivation. It is especially important that family members listen to the expressed needs and wishes of the individual about preferences including preference of how/when family should be involved. In a recent unpublished study conducted by the VA in Bedford, MA and funded by the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development it was learned that when family members attend Motivational Interviewing training sessions along with the job seeker, there were 6 times more or 600% better rate of entering a Supported Employment Program. Family members’ knowledge and support made a huge difference.

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