Developing a worker role: Stories of four people with mental illness

Mary Kennedy-Jones, Joanne Cooper, Ellie Fossey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims: Work plays an important role in adults' well-being, irrespective of health status. Vocational rehabilitation can enable people with mental illness to return to open employment. A narrative approach was used to explore how individuals with a mental illness made sense of their work-related experiences. Methods and results: Four Clubhouse members in open employment for at least 6 months completed in-depth, semistructured interviews, from which narratives were created to reveal events, significant persons and actions that assisted these individuals to resume work. Woven into the participants' stories were four 'impelling forces' contributing to a sense-of-self as a worker. These impelling forces were: support from significant others, the personal meaning of work, experiences within the Clubhouse programme, and the ongoing struggle with illness. Implications for occupational therapy practice are discussed. Conclusion: The findings of this study urge occupational therapists and others to provide opportunities to provide on-going support to people with a mental illness who seek paid employment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-126
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Mental illness
  • Qualitative research
  • Work
  • Worker role

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