Working with mental health problems: clients' experiences of IPS, vocational rehabilitation and employment

Marsha Koletsi, Astrid Niersman, Jooske T van Busschbach, Jocelyn Catty, Thomas Becker, Tom Burns, Angelo Fioritti, Rana Kalkan, Christoph Lauber, Wulf Rössler, Toma Tomov, Durk Wiersma
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2009, 44 (11): 961-70

BACKGROUND: Although the effectiveness of individual placement and support (IPS) has been well established, little is known about clients' perceptions of the model compared to usual vocational rehabilitation, nor about their experiences of searching for and returning to work with this kind of support. This qualitative study aimed to explore clients' views of the difficulties of obtaining and maintaining employment, their experiences of the support received from their IPS or Vocational Service workers and the perceived impact of work on clients' lives.

METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 48 people with psychotic disorders participating in a six-centre international randomised controlled trial of IPS compared to usual vocational rehabilitation. To assess their experiences of the services and the perceived effects of working, two IPS and two Vocational Service clients at each centre who had found work during the study period were interviewed, along with two IPS and two Vocational Service clients at each centre who had not.

RESULTS: IPS clients reported having received more help seeking and maintaining employment, whereas Vocational Service clients reported having received more help in finding sheltered employment or placements. Clients who had worked associated this with financial stability, improved social lives, increased self-esteem, integration into society and amelioration of their symptoms, as well as reduced feelings of boredom and isolation, but also reported increased levels of stress. IPS clients as well as Vocational Service ones reported not receiving enough follow-up support, despite this being proposed as a key feature of the model.

CONCLUSION: Findings from the in-depth interviews reflect differences in service models that have also been tested quantitatively but further work in disaggregating the IPS model and assessing the impact of each component would be valuable.

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