Supported Education with Dr. Karen Unger



Supported Education







Key Article Abstracts           

Unger, K. & Pardee, R. (2002, Winter).  Outcomes measure across program sites for postsecondary supported education programs,  Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 25 (1), 300-304.

This article briefly describes three supported education programs and examines outcomes for each.  The program settings were a mental health center, a clubhouse and a community college.  Students (n=124) were followed for five semesters to assess program outcomes.  Although this study did not statistically control for variations in services among sites, each site adhered to the principles and practice of supported education as a specialized intervention.  Differences among sites in student demographics, education and employment outcomes, satisfaction with school, job/education fit, satisfaction with life and self esteem are reported.  Although there were variations in outcomes among sites, few significant differences were found.


Unger, K., Pardee, R., & Shafer, M. (2000).  Outcomes of postsecondary supported education programs for people with psychiatric disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 14, 195-199.

Supported education programs provide support and services so people with a major mental illness can begin or continue postsecondary education.  124 students from three supported education sites were surveyed for five semesters to assess demographic and service utilization information, education and employment outcomes, predictors of school completion and job/education fit.  The study showed that students completed 90% of their course work, and achieved an average grade point of 3.14.  Increases were noted in the number of students living independently.  Type of psychiatric diagnosis was not a predictor of school completion but having one’s own car and number of psychiatric hospitalizations prior to program participation were predictors.  The school retention rate was comparable to the general population of part-time students.  Employment rates (42%) during the study were lower than the population of other part-time students but higher than the population of people with mental illness generally.  There was not significant change in either quality of life or self-esteem.  Students reported a job/education fit of 50%.


Unger, K. (1993).  Creating supported education programs utilizing existing community resources. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal. 17(1), 11-23.

In the past decade a new option for attaining meaningful roles in the community has emerged for people with psychiatric disabilities.  Supported education, assisting consumers to attain access to and be successful in postsecondary environments, has become, for many, the program of choice.  However, with few new monies available, supported education programs have had to be developed utilizing existing resources.  The efficacy of developing programs by reordering priorities, reallocating resources, and developing cooperative agreements and community coalitions, has been explored.  Student service needs were identified and learning from supported education sites discussed.  Student demographic, psychiatric and educational history, activity impairments and functional limitations and service utilization are noted.


Unger, K., Anthony, W., Sciarappa, K., & Rogers, E. S. (1991).  Development and evaluation of a supported education program for young adults with long-term mental illness. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 42 (8), 838-842.

Fifty-two adults with severe psychiatric disabilities were selected to participate in a university-based supported education program aimed at helping them develop the skill to choose and implement a career plan.  Thirty-five of the subjects completed the four-semester program.  After the intervention, 42 percent of the students were competitively employed or enrolled in an educational program, compared with 19 percent before the intervention.  The number of hospitalizations experienced by the subjects in the first year of the program decreased significantly, and the subjects’ self-esteem increased significantly.  The results indicated that rehabilitation services on a university campus may be a viable adjunct to more traditional rehabilitation services for persons with psychiatric disabilities.


Unger, K. (1990).  Supported post secondary education for people with mental illness. American Rehabilitation, Summer, 10-14.

With community integration as the goal, the concept of supported education is emerging as an appropriate means to serve people with psychiatric disabilities.  Similar to the concept of supported employment, supported education provides an opportunity for people with psychiatric disabilities to participate more fully in the resources of the community.  Programs developed to support people with psychiatric disabilities as students in postsecondary environments are categorized into three models or prototypes.  Examples of each prototype are defined and described.  Components of a supported education model are also discussed.

Rehabilitation Through Education,  Dr. Karen Unger,  P.O. Box 82356,  Portland, OR 97282-0176,  (503) 709 9720,

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