Peer Employment Support Group: Training Peers to Facilitate the Development of Readiness for Employment

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Principal Investigator: 
Jonathan Beard, MSSW, LICSW, CPRP
Funding Source: 
King County Regional Support Network
Project Period: 
09/01/2014- 8/31/2015
Project Summary: 

The intention of the Peer Employment Support Group (PESG) approach is to offer a place for discussion and exploration about employment for consumers unsure about seeking employment.  It is intended to be a low barrier point of entry to employment services. Participants can work through their ambivalence without pressure and talk about whatever concerns they may have about employment in a supportive atmosphere. PESG can and does help attendees develop their readiness to pursue a vocational goal and say “yes” to employment. It is a manualized intervention, but facilitators are not required to cover all of them or to follow the modules in sequence.

Developed by the Integrated Employment Institute at Rutgers University, the training consists of two separate two day trainings (total of four full days), separated by two weeks, for designated peer facilitators. A one hour follow up consultation group will be offered as an option every other month following the conclusion of the trainings. The consultation group will help with the basics of facilitating a group and address any specific concerns that facilitators have regarding their implementation of the PESG approach in their agency setting. Additional individual consultation may also be available.

In 2011, project staff managed the delivery of the two separate two day trainings that were provided by staff from the Integrated Employment Institute at Rutgers University and funded by the Medicaid Infrastructure Grant. Two pilot agencies were selected from the King County Regional Support Network to send their peers to be trained, begin hosting groups utilizing the PESG approach and receive follow-up consultation. Both of the pilot sites found the groups to be helpful “feeders” to their (Individual Placement and Support) evidence based supported employment programs. PESG helped clients become more engaged on the topic of employment and ultimately provided more meaningful referrals to the SE programs of individuals who are ready to actively seek employment now.  

In 2014, project staff were approached by the King County Regional Support Network to serve as the trainers for expanding the PESG approach to all supported employment programs contracting with the King County Regional Support Network. With the kind consent of the Integrated Employment Institute at Rutgers University, the trainings are being planned for delivery by project staff in October of 2014 with a second round later in 2014 or early 2015.

Public Health Relevance: 

The PESG approach affords consumers with psychiatric disabilities the opportunity to meet and share thoughts and feelings about employment; to increase knowledge about self; to increase knowledge of the world of work; to make a decision about working, or not working, based on accurate information; to receive support from other group members; and to develop skills that lead to gaining and keeping employment.Research suggests that human, material, and social capital are essential to employment and economic self‐sufficiency. Social capital is particularly important for people to obtain and maintain jobs as most individuals find their jobs and secure advancement opportunities through their informal social networks. Research to date suggests that peer support is an effective method to increase social capital impacting employment outcomes. Peer support can play a particularly important role in enlarging and diversifying the social networks of individuals with disabilities, and thus increase their access to employment connections and supports available outside of the disability community.

While evidence based Supported Employment, also known as the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model, is now well established, organized efforts and interventions to engage consumers in resolving their ambivalence around employment are less well established. IPS services commence with a consumer verbalizing an interest in going to work and move rapidly to assessment and initiating the individual job search. But, what helps consumers verbalize that interest in going to work? The PESG utilizes best practice readiness development strategies from the field of psychiatric rehabilitation and helps consumers to verbalize an interest in working on an employment goal now.

Evidence Based Practices for Adults