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Working wonders through supported employment

The Dartmouth supported employment model has helped thousands of people find competitive work in a variety of environments, including restaurants.

Until the 1980s, work rehabilitation programs for people with severe mental illness followed a "step-wise approach," explains Deborah Becker, a member of the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center (PRC). First clients had to practice being good workers in "artificial and segregated settings," and then the staff would help them get a job. "The problem was that that never happened," says Becker. "People stayed in these let's-get-ready-to-go-to-work settings or they would drop out." So in the late 1980s, Becker, a vocational rehabilitation counselor by training, teamed up with Dr. Robert Drake, director of the PRC, to create a better way of helping people with severe mental illness find competitive work. The model they created, called Individual Placement and Support (IPS), has proven to be the best of its kind. With IPS supported employment, more people find work faster, and, to the surprise of many, working seems to lessen their psychiatric symptoms. Thanks to a partnership with Johnson & Johnson, Dartmouth's PRC has helped implement IPS in 115 sites in 12 different states. To learn more about IPS supported employment and the people it has helped watch the videos below and read "Working Wonders" from the Spring 2010 issue of Dartmouth Medicine.

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