Supported Education with Dr. Karen Unger



Supported Education







Supported  Education     

In the past 15 years much emphasis has been placed on supported employment and helping consumers return to work.  Although this has been a successful step to promote recovery, some consumers find the jobs available to them unsatisfying and leave after relatively short periods of time.  Studies show more than half of the consumers have a high school diploma and/or college credits or degrees.  However, the work they become engaged in seldom reflects their education level or their career potential.

Mental illness often begins when young adults are completing high school and moving on to college.  The onset of the illness creates a developmental lag and slows the career trajectory to which most young adults aspire.  Supported education was developed to avoid or remediate this problem.  It is a way to catch up so career goals can be met, and fulfilling and appropriate work found that provides a living wage.

Supported education, the process of helping people with psychiatric disabilities return to school by providing supports and services to them so they can enroll and remain in an educational program, responds to this stated need.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) of the federal government has recognized supported education as an exemplary practice; one that has a body of research that documents outcomes and program models.

More people with psychiatric disabilities are returning to postsecondary schools each year.  Two things have made this possible.  First, new medications have helped them control their symptoms, with fewer side effects.  Second, the passage of the American with Disabilities Act has made it easier for students with psychiatric disabilities to receive accommodations so they can remain in school.

Although colleges and universities provide accommodations and academic counseling to all students, they usually cannot offer the kind of personal support most students with psychiatric disabilities need to meet the challenges of returning to school.  Mental health clients have often internalized the stigma surrounding mental illness and have lowered their aspirations and goals.  New students need encouragement and support.  Assistance with registration, financial aid, time management, stress reduction and symptom management are often necessary to get them back on track.

Education specialists or other mental health practitioners can provide these and other services.  Just as job coaches and preparatory classes are available to assist people to return to work, mental health clients returning to school are more apt to succeed if they have some preparation and someone to whom they can turn to for personal coaching and support.

Many people with mental illness are asking for supported education services.  When they have the necessary help, they do very well.  They are able to complete their education goals and return to work.  Studies have shown that participation in supported education is the single most consistent and significant predictor of successful employment.  Being a student is an important and meaningful role.  Education provides a sense of accomplishment and purpose.  Supported Education enhances career opportunities and promotes independence and recovery, and should be an service option available for all who are interested.

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

Copyright 2013, Karen V. Unger, All Rights Reserved.