Colorado Recovery has expanded services outside our signature continuum of care. We are now admitting directly into our intensive outpatient program (IOP) clients who may be ready to begin their recovery at the IOP level of care, or for those in the process of stepping down from another program. One of the offerings now available at the IOP level is our employment group.
Meaningful employment is an important aspect of the treatment model originated by our late founder, Richard Warner. Clinical research shows that employment can improve outcomes of mental health treatment. “Several studies have shown that patients discharged from psychiatric hospital who have a job are much less likely to be readmitted to hospital than those who are unemployed, regardless of the patient’s level of pathology,” Dr. Warner wrote The Environment of Schizophrenia.
“Finding suitable employment for clients as part of their treatment plan is the task of the employment group,” explains relocation counselor Dalma Farkas. “Clients learn and practice social skills which are essential for job searches and placements. Participants receive continued support, assistance, and encouragement—from each other as well—to successfully get back into the labor market.”
Employment support includes helping clients find a job, go back to school, or find volunteer work in the community. The group covers a lot of territory: how to write a stellar resume, how to prepare for a job interview, and how to keep a job.
Farkas usually gets things rolling with a thorough career assessment. “I ask them what they would like to do, what’s their dream job? I inquire about their job record and also find out what didn’t work for them to avoid bad experiences in the future.”
The trick is not to overwhelm clients. “We choose two to three job openings, but not more. We work on the resume to fit the job description. And, of course, we prepare clients for job interviews, going over a lot of possible questions like ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ or ‘What is this gap in your resume?’ We prepare at least 20-25 questions.” says Farkas. “They practice every day and when they get the job, we’re not done, either. We check in, ask how it is going, and inquire about the stress levels. Every client is different and has different needs so we need to be attentive and flexible.”
Sometimes, Farkas recommends a short job experience just to practice being in a work environment. Many clients don’t have an extensive employment history, they are typically young people who haven’t had much of a career, so they require quite a bit of help.
“Often, they don’t really know what to do, that’s where I come in,” says Farkas. “They may have tried the wrong job with long shifts that exacerbated their symptoms. We’re using those work experiences to find the right job for them. We avoid stressful, triggering places to avoid a relapse.”
The Warner model is all about empowerment through engagement because if people with mental illness lack a useful social role, they “face lives of profound purposelessness,” as Dr. Warner wrote. Like most of us, they are much healthier if they care passionately about their job.
“I try to find jobs for our clients that are also their passion,” says Farkas. “Employment that still allows for recreational activities. Not a job that makes them go home exhausted and that makes their symptoms worse. Employment is supposed to improve their health after all.”
Another option is volunteer work. “Most of them have never volunteered before but Boulder offers many fantastic options here, one of my clients recently volunteered at a local museum,” recalls Farkas. “It turned out to be perfect for her—she is the happiest person now.”
For more information about direct admission to our intensive outpatient program or our other services, connect with a specialist who can answer your questions at (720) 218-4068.