Does the supported employment approach really help people find jobs?

The supported employment approach is an evidence-based practice that does help people return to work (which can be the first step toward recovery) or even start work for the first time. The emphasis is on helping the job seeker obtain competitive employment. Competitive employment is defined as a “real” job in which the individual is hired, employed, and paid by an employer, not a rehabilitation agency, at not less than minimum wage or the customary wage for the position. Research shows that 70% of unemployed adults with serious mental illnesses (SMI) have a strong desire to work and consider finding a job a priority. A 2016 meta-analysis of 23 supported employment programs (Drake, et al.) found that supported employment programs consistently produce better vocational outcomes than comparison programs such as prevocational programs, sheltered work, and Transitional Employment Programs. On average, 60% of individuals who were in supported employment programs obtained competitive employment, compared to about 24% in comparison programs. Study participants were more successful in obtaining competitive work, worked more hours, and earned more from competitive employment than did individuals receiving other vocational services. Here is a systemic review of additional studies.

Also see this comprehensive review on supported employment and recovery.

A desire to work is all that is required of the individual to get started. The supported employment specialist will begin by asking what type of work the individual is interested in obtaining. The employment specialist reviews the person’s employment history and interests, helps with resume building, provides counseling on how to complete and submit job applications, and role plays and practices successful job interview skills. The specialist will also help the individual stay on the job by giving support or by helping the individual acquire any needed skills. View more information on training to become a supported employment specialist.

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