Vocational Empowerment Photovoice


Marie E. Restrepo-Toro, Cheryl Gagne, Zlatka Russinova, Philippe Bloch, Sharon Pritchett,
Tracy Woods, and Debbie Nicolellis

VEP cover

Price: $89.95   $44.97

Price includes one copy of the:

Product includes

  • Leader’s Guide
  • Workbook

+ Extra Workbook (PDF files): $25.00  $12.50


Audience: Administrators, program managers, supervisors, practitioners, and peer support personnel may find the content of the Vocational Empowerment Photovoice curriculum useful in their work to support the vocational aspirations of people in recovery.

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The purpose of the Vocational Empowerment Photovoice (VEP) program is to help people think about work and empower them to set a vocational goal. For many people who have a diagnosis of a serious mental illness, it is hard to imagine working. It may seem like there are just too many barriers, and it may be hard to know where to start. This program will invite participants to consider pursuing a meaningful vocational life.

Vocational empowerment is about feeling confident in one’s own ability to get and keep a job. Photovoice is a way that an individual or a group can capture strengths, problems, or concerns by combining photographs and written text. The writing and the photographs are used with group discussions that help people reflect on themselves and their situations in a positive way that educates and increases their confidence.

The curriculum includes two books: a Leader’s Guide and a Workbook for participants. For each Class Session, there is a detailed lesson for you to follow in the Leader’s Guide, and a section in the Workbook for participants to follow along. The group is designed as an interactive, dynamic class with several components, to be led by peer leaders well-versed in VEP. Each participant needs to have a Workbook along with a pen or pencil to write during the Photovoice sessions.

There are five sections included in the Leader’s Guide for each group session:

  • An overview of the session
  • A training schedule for each module
  • Background on the session content
  • A list of materials or supplies needed for that session
  • A session plan

The Leader’s Guide also includes an Appendix with Tips for Administrators and Supervisors Implementing Vocational Empowerment Photovoice.

Citation: Restrepo-Toro, M. E., Gagne, C.,  Russinova, Z., Bloch, P., Pritchett, S., Woods, T., & Nicolellis, D. (2015). Vocational employment photovoice. Boston, MA: Boston University, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation.

Designed for Use with Training Consultation from the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

It is highly recommended that the VEP curricula is paired with installation and expertise training from our trainers at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. If you are interested in Consultation/In-Service Training about how to best use these vocational training materials in your program or agency, please contact: psyrehab@bu.edu

Product Details

Leader’s Guide

PDF: 218 Pages
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1-878512-60-4



PDF: 80 Pages
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1-878512-59-8

Table of Contents


Leader’s Guide

  • Introduction for Group Leaders
  • Background on the Curriculum
  • What is Vocational Empowerment?
  • What is Photovoice?
  • How to Use the Curriculum
  • What’s in the Curriculum
  • Using the Workbook
  • Using the Leader’s Guide
  • Tips for Leading the Group
  • Photovoice Exhibit
  • Exhibiting the Final Vocational Empowerment Photovoice work
  • Session 1: Introduction to Vocational Empowerment Photovoice
  • Session 2: My Working Life
  • Session 3: Writing Your Photovoice Narrative
  • Session 4: My Vocational Values
  • Session 5: My Vocational Identity
  • Session 6: The Costs and Benefits of a Working Life (Part One)
  • Session 7: The Costs and Benefits of a Working Life through Interviewing Others (Part Two)
  • Session 8: Vocational Supports and Services
  • Session 9: Setting Goals
  • Session 10: My Vocational Journey
  • Three Booster Sessions: Follow-Up
  • Individual Sessions Guide
  • Footnotes 183


Appendix: Tips for Administrators and Supervisors Implementing Vocational Empowerment Photovoice

  • Introduction
  • Background on the Vocational Empowerment Photovoice Curriculum
  • Administrator Tips: Planning to Implement the Vocational Empowerment Photovoice Program
    • Introduction
    • The Goals of the VEP Program are to:
    • Before You Start Vocational Empowerment Photovoice (VEP)
    • Successful Implementation of the VEP Program
    • Preliminary VEP Agency Questionnaire
    • Plan to Enhance VEP Implementattion
    • Funding VEP
    • Ethical and Safety Considerations of Photovoice
    • Celebrate Participants’ Photovoice Pieces
  • Tips for Supervisors
    • Who Should Supervise VEP-trained Peer Teachers?
    • Supervision Outline
    • Questions for Supervision
    • Additional Tools for Supervisors
    • What is the VEP Fidelity Scale
    • Who Can Assess the Fidelity
    • What Are the Items
    • Content Fidelity Scales
    • Process Fidelity Scales
    • Sample Certificate of Achievement
  • References



  • Session 1: Introduction to Vocational Empowerment Photovoice
  • Session 2: My Working Life
  • Session 3: Writing your Photovoice Narrative
  • Session 4: My Vocational Values
  • Session 5: My Vocational Identity
  • Session 6: Costs and Benefits of Working: Part One
  • Session 7: Costs and Benefits of Working through Interviewing Others (Part Two)
  • Session 8: Vocational Supports and Services
  • Session 9: Setting Goals
  • Session 10: My Vocational Journey
  • Booster Session #1 Worksheet Session
  • Booster Session #2 Worksheet
  • Booster Session #3 Worksheet
  • Celebrating Our Photovoice Work!
  • Release Form


maria Maria Restrepo-Toro, MS, CPRP, has been working at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation since 1990.  She is a Senior Training Associate and has worked in several research projects and divisions through out the years.  Maria has six years of clinical experience, and in the last five years she has been developing the Latino Initiatives at the Center.  She trains people in the field of vocational psychiatric rehabilitation both nationally and internationally, in both English and Spanish. She develops training materials both in English and Spanish. Currently, she is the Principal Investigator for a Field Initiated project funded by NIDRR. She was a Co-Principal investigator for phase I / II of Community Action Grant for System Changes within Massachusetts. She was responsible for coordinating the implementation of an exemplary practice that will be culturally competent and will meet the rehabilitation and recovery needs of the Latino consumers within the state. Maria strongly believes in the need to empower Latinos with psychiatric disabilities to recover and regain hope, and to gain equal access to rehabilitation services.


gagne Cheryl Gagne, ScD, has been with the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation since 1988 when she joined the Supported Employment Research Project Team.  Since then she has worked in numerous research, training, and service projects at the Center.  Currently, Dr. Gagne is a senior training associate and spends her time training and consulting with mental health programs in the United States and internationally.  She is the associate director of the Services Division of the Center, which develops, delivers, and evaluates innovative services for people with psychiatric disabilities. She has developed many training programs and courses for mental health professionals and people who use mental health services. Since 1994, Dr. Gagne has taught the course, Rehabilitation of Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities, at Boston University.


SARHEADSZlatka Russinova, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate at the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. Dr. Russinova is a Principal Co-Investigator for the NIDRR funded Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training Program in Psychiatric Rehabilitation (2002-2012). She has served as the Principal Investigator for three projects examining employment issues among persons with psychiatric disabilities that have been funded as part of NIDRR’s Field Initiated Projects program. One of these projects was longitudinal study on sustained employment among persons with psychiatric disabilities. The second project examined the factors that determine the vocational recovery of persons with psychiatric disabilities and the third project explores the interrelationships between psychiatric stigma, disclosure at the workplace and vocational recovery. Dr. Russinova has served as Project Director on several research projects over the course of four consecutive NIDRR funded Research and Training Centers (RTC) on rehabilitation of people with long-term mental illness. Dr. Russinova is a clinical psychologist, who has had a Harvard Medical School academic appointment as a Clinical Fellow for several years.


Philippe P. Bloch, M.Ed., is employed as a Research Coordinator at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University, having been promoted from his prior position of Research Assistant in November, 2002. His current responsibilities include the administration and coordination of a NIDRR-funded research project designed to evaluate the impact of psychiatric stigma at the workplace, as well as the development, implementation, and delivery of a peer-facilitated intervention intended to help psychiatric consumers cope with the effects of prejudice and discrimination. Mr. Bloch has also been involved in data collection and analysis for two other NIDRR-funded research studies, investigating sustained employment and vocational recovery for individuals who have experienced disabling psychiatric conditions. He has presented findings from his research at conferences on the national level and published in peer-reviewed journals. Prior to joining the Center, Mr. Bloch served as a volunteer Research Assistant for Physicians for Human Rights, where he performed a policy analysis on medical neutrality during times of armed conflict. Mr. Bloch holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude from Harvard University and a Master’s degree in Education from Lesley University.

Sharon Prichett


Tracy Woods, BA, is a Massachusetts Certified Peer Specialist and has contributed as both a student and an instructor at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation’s Recovery Education Program since 2007. In her capacity as a peer instructor, Tracy has taught wellness classes related to substance free lifestyle, mindful eating, and recovery as a way of life. Tracy also has developed her knowledge and expertise in the area of stigma and discrimination through teaching Photovoice, an intervention that focuses on combating ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination. Using a newly developed curriculum, Vocational Empowerment Photovoice, Tracy has both taught and supported the delivery of this intervention as a research demonstration project. Tracy also contributes to the Center’s research endeavors via qualitative coding and data analysis. Tracy received her BA from Monmouth College and has attained continuing education in mathematics and electronics from the Lowell Institute School, Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies.

debbien3 Debbie Nicolellis, MS, CRC, currently serves as Program Manager at the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. She currently directs the Certificate Program in Psychiatric Vocational Rehabilitation, an award-winning training program for vocational rehabilitation professionals, and the Vocational Peer Support Training Project, a federally-funded curriculum designed to train peer support specialists in supporting vocational recovery. Debbie began her work with the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation as Supported Education and Employment Specialist in 1989. Since 1997, she has focused on enhancing the competencies and conceptual knowledge of mental health, rehabilitation, and peer support personnel in psychiatric rehabilitation and recovery-oriented services throughout the country and abroad. Debbie specializes in the Psychiatric Vocational Rehabilitation process, Social Security Work Incentives, Readiness Assessment and Development, Employment Support, Vocational Peer Support, and enhancing partnerships with people with psychiatric disabilities. Debbie has authored several curricula, book chapters, and articles in Psychiatric Rehabilitation.



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