The Necessity of Cognitive-Vocational Rehabilitation Programs for Mental Health Populations

Adults living with mental illness risk facing unemployment and poverty. Therapists are eager to address the psychological and cognitive needs of clients with severe mental illness in order to help them find employment and live independently. Little research is available on the implementation of a cognitive and vocational rehabilitation program for adults with severe mental illness. This blog post discusses a study that examined the effects of implementing a cognitive-vocational rehabilitation program for adults with severe mental illness.

Mental health conditions such as affective disorders, psychotic disorders, and PTSD interfere with a person’s cognitive functioning. In turn, the result of cognitive impairment, from a mental health condition, may also result in a person struggling to maintain employment. Therapists are interested in developing programs that address the cognitive and vocational needs of individuals with mental health conditions. In Australia, therapists and researchers studied the effects of such a program, called Employ Your Mind (EYM).

EYM was designed by the Fife Employment Access Trust in Scotland. This 6-month program consists of 4 phases which involve computerized cognitive training, bridging exercises, group discussion, and a work experience placement. This program was piloted on 32 adults living with mental health conditions in Australia. 21 of the 32 adults completed the program. Program measures included cognitive assessment, psychosocial assessment, and employment status following completion of the program.

Of the 21 adults who completed the program, adults reported an improved sense of employability, quality of life, and psychological well-being. Cognitive assessments also revealed that adults significantly improved their processing speed. Lastly, 15 of the 21 adults reported their employment status which revealed that the employment status of participants doubled after completing the program with 8 people in active employment in comparison to 4 prior to starting the program. These results demonstrate the efficacy of cognitive-vocational programs in mental health populations.

Programs such as Employ Your Mind are in need across communities. Many people living with mental health conditions do not get access to cognitive and vocational rehabilitation services. This is often due to lack of resources in the community or the patient not having a support system to help them get access to these services. The needs for vocational rehabilitation services are high, as well as the importance of helping individuals living with mental illness gain access to these programs.

Therapists may build programs like Employ Your Mind in their communities to serve the populations that they work with. These kinds of programs can be adapted to meet the needs of neurological, aging, and developmental disability populations. This can be done by using digital cognitive therapy tools and worksheets that have activities progressing in difficulty to help clients practice and build essential cognitive skills. Therapists working with people that have cognitive impairment and vocational goals may want to provide these programs for their clients.

To learn more about Employ Your Mind and the people behind the program, read about Anne Miles (OT) and Caroline Crosse. You can also read how Tyler Anton, an OT in Canada provided a similar program for people with developmental disabilities.

Source: Miles, A., Crosse, C., Jenkins, Z., Morgan, P., Fossey, E., Harvey, C., & Castle, D. (2021). Improving Cognitive Skills for People with Mental Illness to Increase Vocational and Psychosocial Outcomes: The Employ Your Mind Program. Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health, 1-11.
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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