First Person Accounts of Long-Term Employment Activity among People with Dual Diagnosis

Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, Lebanon, NH 03766, USA.
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal (Impact Factor: 1.16). 02/2009; 32(4):261-8. DOI: 10.2975/32.4.2009.261.268
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Evidence suggests that many individuals with dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance use disorder can be successfully employed in competitive jobs, though there remain barriers and facilitators to consistent work activity in this population. The purpose of this study is to elicit and examine first person accounts of work activity over a 16-year period from people with dual diagnosis, who were not selected for employment readiness or vocational interests.
120 people with severe mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorder participated in this study. Their work activity was self-reported at yearly interviews occurring over a 16-year period. Participants naturally fell into one of four categories: those who (i) never or hardly worked; (ii) worked intermittently; (iii) worked fairly consistently; (iv) worked very consistently. A more in-depth interview occurred at 16 years when participants gave first person accounts of their 16-year work history in answer to open-ended questions. These responses were analyzed using traditional methods of qualitative content analysis, comparing responses across the four categories of work patterns.
Five overlapping themes given by participants as strong influences on work activity arose from the data. These are (i) illness management, including use of psychiatric medication and controlling substance abuse; (ii) personal evaluation of the impact of employment; (iii) congruence between job preference and actual employment; (iv) personal motivation and job-seeking assistance, and (v) the conditioning nature of working or not working.
Longitudinal themes of work activity suggest service improvements consistent with evidence-based supported employment.