A qualitative investigation of individual and contextual factors associated with vocational recovery among people with serious mental illness

Erin C Dunn, Nancy J Wewiorski, E Sally Rogers
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 2010, 80 (2): 185-94
Most people with serious mental illness (SMI) experience difficulty in fulfilling a vocational role, with many being unemployed or underemployed. Given the profound social and economic costs of this level of work impairment, researchers have investigated ways to enhance "vocational recovery," or the processes through which people with SMI regain their role as workers and reintegrate into the workforce. Using data collected from a larger qualitative study of 23 individuals who had progressed to an advanced stage of recovery from SMI, this study explored respondents' perspectives on employment and its relationship to their vocational recovery. Text passages describing employment were analyzed inductively by a diverse team of researchers. Seven themes were identified as being important in helping participants return to work or remain employed following the onset of a serious psychiatric disability: having the confidence to work, having the motivation to work, possessing work-related skills, assessing person-job fit, creating work opportunities, receiving social support, and having access to consumer-oriented programs and services. Implications of these findings on the development of interventions and policies to improve the vocational outcomes of people with SMI are discussed.

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