The Positive Benefits of Employment
Barriers to Employment
Although employment has been identified as one of the key priorities for people with substance use disorder, they still encounter many challenges to finding and keeping employment. Barriers to employment could include:
- Lack of transportation
- Probation or treatment program requirements
- Limited work history
- Limited education or skill sets
- Criminal history
- Stigma or lack of employers understanding
Vocational Rehabilitation Strategies
Consider using these VR strategies to best support people with a substance use disorder find and maintain employment:
People with a substance use disorder who are employed are more likely to complete treatment and successfully recover from the disorder. Given this, it is important that all involved agencies and service providers openly communicate and collaborate to better support clients in both recovery and reaching their employment goals.
Interest inventories, aptitude tests, or personality tests can be used to identify employment that maximizes job-seekers’ skills and abilities.
Job Search Services
Many people with substance use disorders have limited work experience histories. Providing support to prepare for interviews and respond to questions related to employment gaps or training deficiencies could be beneficial.
Education-focused interventions could help establish skills for people with long histories of unemployment.
Soft Skills Development
Soft skill development could include time management, meeting deadlines, communication, problem solving, and decision-making.
Purchasing needed supplies, such as work uniforms, providing resources for housing and income needs, and supporting community engagement activities could all lead to long-term employment outcomes.
People with substance use disorders could face stigma from both employers and in the community. Advocating to reduce disability-related stigma could increase employment and quality of life outcomes for job seekers.
On-the-Job and Natural Supports
On-the-job supports could enhance job retention for people with substance use disorder. These supports could include:
- Job coaching to help clients develop work skills and competencies to meet their employment goals.
- Using a place-and-train model to ensure the worker has sufficient training to complete job-related tasks
Natural supports could come from support groups, family members, social networks, or community-based organizations.
Potential Job Accommodations for Workers with Substance Use Disorders
Provide leave or allow for flexible scheduling so employees can attend medical and treatment-related appointments.
Develop a self-paced workload with flexible daily scheduling.
Stress and Fatigue
Exposure to Alcohol or Drugs
Recommended Resources from TACQE and Partners
- Substance Related Disorders 101 – TACQE U
Explore a diagnostic overview of substance-related disorders, examine the psychosocial factors essential when working with individuals affected by these disorders, and delve into vocational rehabilitation considerations.
- Substance Use Disorder 101 – TACQE U
Gain a better understanding of what Substance Use Disorder, including its prevalence, signs and symptoms, available assessments, and intervention and treatment options.
- Tips and Tools for Employment Specialists Working With Individuals with Co-Occurring Brain Injury and Substance Use Diagnosis - TACQE
Learn how employment professionals can incorporate brain-injury informed strategies and techniques to enhance recovery for both brain injury and substance use related challenges.
- Predictors of VR Service Outcomes in People with Substance Use Disorders During COVID-19 - TACQE
Get an overview of the demographic and VR service predictors of employment outcomes (achievement of competitive employment, hourly wage, and weekly hours) among individuals with substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- What is IPS? – The IPS Employment Center
Learn about Individual Placement and Support (IPS), an evidence-based supported employment approach that helps people living with behavioral health conditions work at regular jobs of their choosing.
- The ADA, Addiction, Recovery, and Employment – The ADA National Network
Addiction and recovery in the employment setting is a complicated area of the ADA due to continuing changes in state laws – both marijuana laws and disability discrimination laws -- and developing court cases. Get guidance from the ADA National Network.
- Addictionary® – Recovery Research Institute
Learn about language to reduce stigma around substance use disorders.