Cover image of Let's Talk Employment guide
Let’s Talk Employment
A Guide for Family Members of Individuals in Mental Health Recovery


Job Keeping: Skills & Supports


What Questions Should I Ask?

  • What are the some effective methods of job keeping?
  • What if my family member gets discouraged if they do not succeed in keeping a job?

Amorphic construction workersWhat You Should Know

Job keeping can be accomplished as a result of the skills of the individual employee, the supports of the vocational services provider (if there is one), as well as the supports and accommodations provided by the employer. It is a three-way recipe to success.

The Employee: Working consistently to learn and perform the job duties required by the employer is the first responsibility of the employee (explicit or hard skills). At the same time, the employee is practicing good work habits and learning the social and interpersonal behaviors that fit with the culture of the company and of the specific unit where the employee works (implicit or soft skills). There will be problem-solving challenges along the way, and the person’s Job Coach or Vocational Professional should be helpful in anticipating and solving those problems.

Man running on top of the words Wellness Works with a drawing of a bicycle

Stress hardiness is another characteristic that results from the employee’s daily practice of wellness activities that prepares him or her for stress that might occur on the job. Some job-related stress may result from the job itself or events on the job (coworker leaves, company changes hands, supervisor is angry, etc.). At other times, there may be “transitional stress” (also called the rehabilitation crisis), which happens when someone is moving to a level of greater independence and greater responsibility (such as starting a new job, moving to an apartment, working additional hours, or getting promoted.)

“The ‘rehabilitation crisis’ is the experience of the … person who has accepted the challenge to grow, has achieved significant movement toward his goals, and is now feeling overwhelmed by his changing/changed state. The client has advanced far enough in the process to begin to experience a transition in his activities, his relationships, and his sense of himself. He is proud of his progress, yet sad for what he must give up and frightened of the uncertainties he must face. He is in conflict and must choose to go forward or return to his previous state. He is giving up old ways; he has yet to establish new ways. He is in transition and he is vulnerable.” (McCrory, et al)

Amorphic person meditatingIf the employee knows that stress WILL occur, he or she can prepare by daily meditations, breathing exercises, mantras, or other stress-hardiness building practices that the individual has developed over time. It is the once or twice daily practices that help prepare for coping so that when the stressful event occurs, he or she will be ready. There are approaches that also consider stress as a “friend,” who can teach us important life lessons. How to Make Stress Your Friend TED TALK, video by Kelly McGonigle.

The Employer: Perhaps the most important way that the employer helps the employee to keep a job is through excellent supervision, which incorporates a positive and hopeful attitude, helpful criticism, finding solutions to work challenges, flexibility, and teamwork. Sometimes the supervisor will use a compliment “sandwich” which means wedging a helpful criticism between two compliments. See section 12 for further information about accommodations.



Although your family member may have a long-term goal of tapering off medications and therapy, it is likely that at least during certain stages of adjustment to employment, maintaining good treatment will be important. The “right” treatment is different for each person and depends on many factors in addition to physical and mental health. For some, it means the correct medication and correct dose, supportive therapy, or specialized therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or treatment for substance abuse. Some people will need and want holistic or complimentary approaches, such as yoga, meditation, exercise, physical therapy, cognitive training, and others.

Employment does have a new set of demands and stresses for many people and it is important for the employee to keep tuned into what they might need to modify in their treatment or wellness plan. Having a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) also is a good support. Clinicians should be knowledgeable about your family member’s employment progress and problems. The support of the family may be ensuring that your family member, who is now working, gets the clinical services that he or she thinks are needed. Your family member may need help in selecting clinicians, transportation, holistic approaches, or other treatment supports.

If an employee is terminated from a job or chooses to leave because it is not a good match or other reason, this is not necessarily a failure. It is a chance to learn what works or does not work for them. Family members and Employment Specialists can help to frame the experience as “one step closer to the right job” and move on. From each job something can be learned whether it is “what I like” or “what I don’t like.” Often there are great discoveries, such as a skill or interest the employee did not know he or she had. When one job ends, it is just time to move on with the new learning to the next.

Keep in mind that programs, such as some of those previously mentioned (e.g., IPS Supported Employment, Clubhouses, Veterans Administration and other veterans’ services, state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies) can offer job-keeping supports through Employment Specialists, Clubhouse staff and members, or Job Coaches to work with the employee and employer to make the job as successful as possible. They also may help the employee to move on to another job or educational program when the time is right.

Leaving a Job
Piece of paper with the phrase Letter of Resignation written on itIf voluntarily leaving a job, it is generally best to give at least two weeks written notice. State the reasons for leaving in a somewhat gentle way. Examples might be: “I want to find a position that is the right match for me,” or “I am working towards a job that is a better career move for me.”  Thank the employer for the opportunity to work there. Apart from serious problems in the workplace, the employee usually is better off if they leave on good terms so that the employer can provide a good reference.

If there was a serious grievance, such as toxic work place, abuse by someone in the workplace or other major problem, your family member might help to develop a written notice with the help of the Employment Specialist or an advisor at one of the ADA Centers available in each region of the U.S. It is important future job references that you avoid major confrontation in the workplace. For more in depth advice on job leaving see this website: