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The Value of Work in Recovery

Stephen C. Schultz, BS, CAC
Scott C. Schultz, J.D., MBA
Jared C. Schultz, PhD

Work. It is a part of life that has an immense impact on everyone. It plays a significant role in our identities, our happiness, and our feeling of being connected in our communities. In most cases, people tend to wander a bit through their teenage years, trying a variety of jobs, and refining their interests and vocational goals. We have found that for adolescents involved in therapy or receiving residential treatment, this “traditional” way of establishing what they want to do is disrupted.

Often these teens, while bright and intelligent, find themselves becoming disenfranchised with school prior to their involvement in therapy. They lose sight of a college education and gravitate to thoughts and behaviors contrary to their family values. Sometimes there is a tendency to use substances, eating or lack thereof and sex to escape the emotional pain that soon follows. Parents intervene and start the teen in therapy. Most of the time there is a positive outcome and the teens are reinserted into a healthier parent/child relationship.

The interesting thing is that work during adolescence plays a powerful role in their development. Though the therapy and recovery efforts are positive, in essence, they have reduced access to one of the most positive opportunities for emotional growth. There may also be developmental or emotional concerns such at ASD, ADHD, Anxiety and Depression that play a role. Often "Special Needs" make it difficult for short term experience in the workplace and long term planning by the family.

So, my brother Jared and I created Vocational and Career Evaluation (VCE) to assist adolescents and young adults to engage the process of vocational and career development. The following points are critical to our process of career evaluation and planning.

Individualize Assessment and Planning

The process of finding a vocational and career direction is more complex than simply picking a job. We begin with an assessment process that includes gathering any clinical information, psychological testing and general insight from parents. We then meet with the student to determine interests, abilities, values and we do a  work related social skills assessment. These standardized assessments are supplemented by a semi-structured interview with the individual, and collecting additional information regarding her or his preferences for work environments, personal temperaments, academic performance and interests, and willingness to invest in training activities.

Match is the Key to Success

The key to success in any vocation or career is the extent to which it matches a person’s interests, abilities, aptitudes, and preferences. We take the results from the standardized assessments, and the contextual clinical information collected, and identify a career cluster with multiple jobs that may become a goal for the individual. With the information we collect we are able to calculate a Job Match Index, or the extent to which the suggested job matches the interests of the individual. Not only does this provide the highest chance for success, but can also provide areas of competence the individual can explore on his or her own, or with a counselor.

Requires Effort

This process still requires the individual to invest energy and effort to have a positive outcome. The individual needs to take responsibility for her or his own vocational future by following through on the plan that is developed, completing assignments, and continually evaluating her or his own progress.

Support All Stakeholders

Vocational and career success in a person’s life is the result of many people. Our approach is to provide recommendations for the individual, family members, therapist, educational consultant and other professional support staff who may be working with the student. Everyone has a role. Everyone can have an impact. The chances for success increase as everyone with an interest knows their roles, knows what to do, and can support each other.

A Lifespan Approach

Our approach is not about getting a job. It is about building awareness and focus on long-term vocation and careers. We do this by teaching the process of work identity development, and planning for natural transitions and changes that will occur throughout the individual’s life. We believe that if we teach this process to individuals and their families, then when the transitions and changes happen (and they will) everyone will be prepared to work together and navigate them well.

I have provided some links below to assist in learning more about the process of obtaining a career evaluation.

Connecting to Careers - Short Video


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