Empowering individuals with psychiatric disabilities to work: Results of a randomized trial.

Objective: Supported employment has experienced immense growth as an evidence-based intervention targeting the disproportionately high rates of unemployment among individuals with psychiatric disabilities who actively want to work. However, employment services are often not available to individuals who are ambivalent about work or lack work self-efficacy. The purpose of this study was to pilot-test the efficacy of a new peer-run photography-based group intervention (Vocational Empowerment Photovoice [VEP]) designed to empower individuals with psychiatric disabilities to consider employment services and pursue work. Method: A total of 51 individuals with serious mental illnesses enrolled at a university-based recovery center, who were not employed or enrolled in any vocational services, were randomly assigned to the VEP program or to a wait-list control group. Mixed-effects regression models were used to examine the impact of the VEP program on both extrinsic (enrollment in employment services and employment rates) and intrinsic (work hope, motivation and self-efficacy, vocational identity, overall empowerment and internalized stigma) work-related outcomes. Results: Participation in the VEP program was associated with a significantly higher rate of engagement in employment services over the course of the intervention and with significantly higher overall empowerment and decrease of internalized stigma sustained through the 3-month follow-up assessment. Stronger engagement in the VEP program was associated with increased work hope, self-efficacy and sense of vocational identity. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: The study highlights the malleable nature of defeatist beliefs which prevent many individuals with mental illnesses from pursuing employment services despite their inherent interest in working. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)