Supported employment: assessing the evidence

Psychiatr Serv. 2014 Jan 1;65(1):16-23. doi: 10.1176/


Objective: Supported employment is a direct service with multiple components designed to help adults with mental disorders or co-occurring mental and substance use disorders choose, acquire, and maintain competitive employment. This article describes supported employment and assesses the evidence base for this service.

Methods: Authors reviewed meta-analyses, research reviews, and individual studies from 1995 through 2012. Databases surveyed were PubMed, PsycINFO, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts, Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress, the Educational Resources Information Center, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature. Authors chose from three levels of evidence (high, moderate, and low) based on benchmarks for the number of studies and quality of their methodology. They also described the evidence for service effectiveness.

Results: The level of research evidence for supported employment was graded as high, based on 12 systematic reviews and 17 randomized controlled trials of the individual placement and support model. Supported employment consistently demonstrated positive outcomes for individuals with mental disorders, including higher rates of competitive employment, fewer days to the first competitive job, more hours and weeks worked, and higher wages. There was also strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of individual elements of the model.

Conclusions: Substantial evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of supported employment. Policy makers should consider including it as a covered service. Future research is needed for subgroups such as young adults, older adults, people with primary substance use disorders, and those from various cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Employment, Supported / standards*
  • Humans