Supported employment for individuals with mental illness is recognized as an evidenced based practice. One of the highlights of this approach is rapid job placement which does not necessitate a need for job readiness training or sheltered work. Some individuals have used this approach to gain work but do not maintain employment. Some individuals do not need the intensity of services offered in a SE approach, but may benefit from a clubhouse approach.
This study had two purposes. These included to examine the relationship between the working alliance and the employment outcomes of individuals with severe mental illness who were receiving vocational services. The study also looked at whether working alliance differences existed between client receiving evidenced based supported employment service and those receiving traditional vocational rehabilitation services (DPA). This is a highly regarded team model organized within a day program where individuals get ready to work, then work with a group and overtime progress through a series of placements and eventually move into competitive work. The hypotheses was individuals receiving supported employment services would have a stronger working alliance with their IPS vocational provider than those receiving traditional vocational services (DPA).
The setting included a number of different job sites across 5 states and DC where individuals with mental illness received supported employment services. Services were provided by 5 different experimental programs that adopted the individual placement and support model of supported employment.
The participants included 310 individuals with mental illness who were unemployed, 18 years of age or older and who did not have a diagnosis of severe mental retardation. Each person was randomly assigned to the ACT or the Clubhouse programs. Most participants were white males with a schizophrenia diagnosis.
The research measures included participant characteristics and employment. Control variables included: age, severity of psychiatric symptoms, severity of physical health problems and active substance use. Gender was also added.
Psychiatric symptoms were measured using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale. Physical health problems were measured through PANSS probes, Medicaid claims, and interviews. Substance abuse was identified through records, reports and interviews. Two motivational control variable were collected related to interest in working at baseline and match of random assignment to participant preference. The programs kept the same service logs and other records.
The data analysis plan included benchmark comparisons of program performance by using published outcome data from exemplary SE programs. A comparison of ACT and clubhouse outcomes was completed using a services of hierarchical regression analyses.
The intervention was the Individual Placement and Support(IPS)model of supported employment delivered through Assertive Community Treatment programs.
There was no control condition as supported employment has already been identified as an evidenced based practice. Comparison services were delivered through Clubhouse programs.
The results included a comparison with benchmark employment outcomes. Club house participants had higher earnings and hours worked as compared to participants in exemplary supported employment programs. Earnings and work hours for ACT participants was greater than two of those programs. A comparison of ACT and clubhouse outcomes found ACT program had better service engagement. There was no difference in time to obtain a first job. Club house participants were employed longer and for more hours and earned more than than ACT participants. Background variables were predictive of receipt of job search services, which predicted higher employment rates. Wage was an incentive for employment success. A few participants in transitional employment, had about the same job tenure as other participants.
ACT participants received services faster than clubhouse participants. The strong integration of vocational and clinical services, provided by ACT, appeared to be especially helpful to participants with co-occurring disorders.
The authors concluded that adding supported employment into multiservice programs like ACT and clubhouses, is a way to provide more services to individuals with mental illness, without compromising quality of those services. Although, a cost analysis was not presented, it is suspected that this may also be a cost effective approach to providing supported employment services.