New CES Course Addresses Employment Opportunities for People with Mental Health Issues


As an employment specialist, you’re charged with finding the best possible job for the person you support. But often, people have co-occurring issues, including mental health issues, that can make finding and keeping a good job that much more difficult.

The new College of Employment Services (CES) course, Mental Health, will help you to address those challenges. The course gives learners a wide variety of tools to help the people they support succeed in the workplace.

“We want to help folks see the value of employment for people with mental illness,” says Rick Kugler, a training associate with the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and one of the authors of the course. “Too often, in treatment centers, case managers and others will look at employment as an accessory, rather than something that will significantly help an individual feel better about themselves and have financial security. Work helps people with mental illness in all aspects of their life. Chronic unemployment simply isn’t good for people.”

In this case, mental illness refers to people who receive public mental health services. “A lot of people go to work every day with varying degrees of mental illness,” Kugler notes. “This course address people who have a more severe and persistent mental health issue.”

Kugler pointed out that that surveys have shown that less than 20% of people who receive public mental health services are employed. However, upward of 50% say they would like to have a job. “There’s a disconnect with people who are actually working and people who want to work,” he adds.

Kugler stresses that in the Mental Health course, learners will understand the importance of integrated services. “When people with mental illness go back to work, they need vocational services and their mental health services. It’s a matter of developing collaboration around the person.”

“Also, suppose the person needs accommodations in their job, such as seeing a counselor or going to a clinic,” Kugler continues. “How are they going to communicate with their employer? We want to empower people to make their own decisions about how their identity is shaped in the workforce…Mental illness is often not apparent, and is often perceived as scary. There’s a lot of stigma with mental illness. We discuss that in this course, how to best negotiate accommodations and disclosure of their issue.”

Almost a year in development, the four-lesson Mental Health course was subject to DirectCourse’s standard external reviews, and used some of the best research in the country. “One of the key players in the research are the people at Dartmouth, who developed the Individual Placement and Support model,” Kugler says. “They have done the most extensive research on employment and people with disabilities. We source a lot of their material.” With this course, you’ll learn best practices as demonstrated by this research, and the most effective methods to support people in finding, maintaining, and succeeding in their work.

For more information on the College of Employment Services curriculum, please visit:

For more information on the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, please visit:

For more information on the Dartmouth IPS Supported Employment Center, please visit:

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