Posttraumatic stress disorder, supported employment, and outcomes in people with severe mental illness

CNS Spectr. 2004 Dec;9(12):913-25. doi: 10.1017/s1092852900009779.


Objective: To evaluate whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is related to outcomes in persons with severe mental illness (SMI) participating in a study of vocational rehabilitation programs.

Background: PTSD is a common comorbid disorder in people with SMI, but it is unknown whether PTSD interferes with the ability to benefit from rehabilitation programs such as supported employment.

Methods: The relationships between PTSD and symptoms, health, quality of life, and work outcomes was examined in 176 clients with SMI participating in a 2-year randomized controlled trial of three vocational rehabilitation programs: supported employment based on the Individual Placement and Support model, a psychosocial rehabilitation program based on transitional employment, and standard services.

Results: The overall rate of current PTSD in the sample was 16 percent. Compared with clients without PTSD, clients with PTSD had more severe psychiatric symptoms, worse reported health, lower self-esteem, and lower subjective quality of life. Clients with PTSD who participated in the Individual Placement and Support model (the most effective vocational model of the three studied) also had worse employment outcomes over the 2-year study period than clients without PTSD, with lower rates of competitive work, fewer hours worked, and fewer wages earned. Employment outcomes did not differ between clients with PTSD versus without PTSD in the other two vocational rehabilitation approaches.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that PTSD may contribute to worse work outcomes in clients participating in supported employment programs. Effective treatment of these clients with PTSD may improve their ability to benefit from supported employment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Employment, Supported*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*