Home Events Supported Self-Employment for Consumers with Psychiatric Disabilities: A Talk Story Session (Session 9D)

Supported Self-Employment for Consumers with Psychiatric Disabilities: A Talk Story Session (Session 9D)

Zoom: https://hawaii.zoom.us/j/8089682205
Main Topic
: Employment
Session Type: Talk Story


The public VR system is serving individuals with psychiatric disabilities at higher rates than any other disabilities (Chan, Wang, Muller & Fitzgerald, 2011; Ingraham et al., 2001) and yet the unemployment rate for this population is more than three times that of the general population (Lutterman, 2013) and as high as 85% nationwide, with states including Maine, West Virginia, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and California reaching unemployment rates at 90% and above (NAMI, 2014). Despite the dismal employment statistics, studies show that persons with psychiatric disabilities can be successfully employed at competitive jobs in integrated settings (Cook & Razzano, 2000; Crowther, Marshall, Bond, & Huxley, 2001; Rogers, Anthony, Lyass & Penk, 2006) when given appropriate employment supports.  Research indicates that approximately 60% of persons with psychiatric disabilities who are not working report the desire to work, yet less than two percent receive adequate supported employment opportunities (NAMI, 2014). Often left out of the supported employment service delivery option is supported self-employment.  The self-employment rate for people with disabilities is twice that compared to those without disabilities (Galle & Lacho, 2009) but most of the increases in self-employment opportunities have been focused on individuals with developmental disabilities (Dotson, Richman, Abby, Thompson, & Plotner, 2013). The advantages of self-employment for people with disabilities include easier implementation of illness self-management tasks and commitments to treatment schedules and accommodations in the areas of transportation, communication, and overall accessibility is easier to meet as many small business ventures are designed to meet the personal needs of the business owners. For individuals with psychiatric disabilities, self-employment accommodates the episodic nature of living with mental illness and impact of employment-related stigma often associated with psychiatric illness. This talk story session is designed to stimulate discussion about supported self-employment practices and innovations that support the entrepreneurial spirit of persons living with the most disabling conditions, particularly for those living with serious mental illness.  A cooperative model of supported self-employment where bookkeeping, marketing, and other business-related supports are offered to a coop of business owners with disabilities will be introduced along with an invitation to discuss innovative ways to support individuals to incubate their business ideas.  Other discussion points will include ways to capitalize on the support from the business community along with experts from vocational rehabilitation agencies, family members, and the larger community to incorporate support at all aspects of the business process. This talk story session will include the presenter’s experience incubating and supporting self-employment ventures through a cooperative effort with multiple partner agencies.  This session welcomes all who are interested in the idea of a cooperative supportive employment model to support all aspects of starting a business and support the employment interests of consumers living with psychiatric disabilities and other disabling conditions.

Learning Objectives:

  • Gain knowledge about the benefits of self-employment for persons with psychiatric disabilities.
  • Understand the barriers to starting and maintaining a business without a cooperative model or support in other aspects of running a business.
  • Gain knowledge about psychiatric vocational rehabilitation practices including supported self-employment.
  • Understand the importance of engaging the business community in any successful supported self-employment service delivery.
  • Understand how a self-determined work motivation model can be incorporated into any supported self-employment model.

Keywords: supported employment, vocational rehabilitation, psychiatric vocational rehabilitation, cooperative business model

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Mar 02 2021


12:00 pm - 12:45 pm

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Mar 02 2021
  • Time: 5:00 pm - 5:45 pm

Zoom Meeting


  • Dr. Sandra Fitzgerald
    Dr. Sandra Fitzgerald
    San Francisco State University - Associate Professor

    San Francisco State University

    Sandra Fitzgerald is an Associate Professor with San Francisco State University’s Department of Counseling. She worked previously as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of Hawaii and working primarily with persons with psychiatric disabilities. She currently has a training grant which focuses on training the next generation of counselors in psychiatric vocational rehabilitation and her research has applied self-determination theory to better understand the work motivational factors for consumers with psychiatric disabilities engaged in return to work activities. She conducts research in Hawaii with consumers from the Hawaii Clubhouse, and consumers of vocational rehabilitation services.

  • Leisha Ishikawa
    Leisha Ishikawa

    Leisha Ishikawa has three years of experience as the Program Coordinator for a non-profit that aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness experienced by diverse older adults in San Francisco. At San Francisco State University, Leisha is pursuing a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling with an emphasis in gerontological counseling. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and minor in health studies from the University of San Francisco. She is determined to alleviate social inequities and barriers that older adults face in accessing mental health care. Through her work, she enjoys fostering intergenerational, multi-cultural connections between older adults and volunteers to build friendships across differences. She is originally from Hilo, Hawaii and is eager to work with older adults (Kupuna) and their caregivers in her home community as a mental health counselor in the future.