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Let'em Work Let'em Live

May 1, 2007
by Sudie E. Back, PhD, A'delle Chellis, MEd, Dace S. Svikis, PhD, and Kathleen T. Brady, MD, PhD
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Workshop sessions can help clients overcome barriers to employment

Employment poses one of the major challenges for addiction clients. Clients oftentimes have criminal histories or have experienced lapses between jobs and have difficulty knowing how best to fill out a job application or speak with a potential employer during an interview. Assisting addiction clients with vocational needs is critical, as research indicates that employed clients typically have better drug treatment outcomes than unemployed clients do.

The Job Seekers' Workshop was developed by Sharon Hall and colleagues1 to address these exact kinds of problems. The JSW demonstrated efficacy across several studies1-4 and was included as an intervention in the National Institute on Drug Abuse's Clinical Trials Network (see http://www.nida.nih.gov/CTN/index.htm for more information). In this article, we describe the objectives, activities, and challenges that can arise in implementing the JSW intervention.

The JSW's main goal is to improve clients' job seeking and interviewing skills. The program consists of three four-hour group workshops delivered weekly, with an ideal number of approximately five participants. There are several things that the JSW is not. It is not designed to motivate clients to gain employment, nor to sell clients on doing something they don't want to do. It is not therapy and does not get into deep discussions about clients' past or their substance abuse history. Rather, the JSW seeks to provide clients with the skills necessary to increase the probability of gainful employment.

In this respect, the JSW is grounded in behavioral theory, as it is focused on helping individuals learn behaviors involved in the process of securing employment—especially performing well in a job interview. “Facilitators” or leaders of the JSW workshops are most often treatment program professionals who have been trained to deliver the intervention. This training usually takes place in one of two ways: 1) the developers or senior trainers of the JSW train professionals to deliver the workshops directly; or 2) professionals who already have been trained by JSW senior trainers then train other professionals in their treatment programs to deliver the intervention, in a “train the trainer” model.

Components of the workshops

Becoming employed is a function of one's ability to seek out opportunities, complete a job application, and present well during the job interview process. Tables 1 and 2 display the JSW daily activities and equipment used to help clients achieve these skills.

As can be seen in Table 1, the workshops are experiential as opposed to didactic. Each workshop builds on the previous one. During the first workshop, the purpose, ground rules, and activities are discussed, and clients are given an opportunity to vent about past work experiences and difficulties encountered with employment. The video interaction sequence, discussed in more detail below, is introduced with the intent of getting clients comfortable with the idea of seeing themselves on camera. Sample job applications are reviewed and clients complete an application “as if” they were applying for a job. The completed applications are reviewed and edited, and then are used as the basis of the final role-play in the video interaction sequence.

Sudie e. back, phd

Sudie E. Back, PhD

Table 1. Job Seekers' Workshop daily activities

Workshop #1

Workshop #1

Workshop #1

  1. Set up the video camera. Have it on when participants enter the room so they can get accustomed to it and to seeing themselves on camera.

  2. Welcome and introductions.

  3. Review the purpose of the JSW.

  4. Review the activities to be covered in the three workshops.

  5. Review any ground rules (e.g., turn off cell phones) and answer any questions.

  6. Break (10-15 minutes).

  7. Let participants vent briefly about past work experiences.

  8. Initial role-play using the video interaction sequence. This first role-play is conversational and not a job interview, but more a chance for clients to get used to the VIS and see how they present themselves.

    1. Welcome and answer any questions from Workshop #1.

    2. First job interview role-play using the VIS. This role-play is structured as a job interview, and problem areas and concerns are discussed.

    3. Break (10-15 minutes).

    4. Job applications are completed.

    5. Break (10-15 minutes).

    6. Review job leads.

    1. Answer any questions from Workshop #2.

    2. Finish completing job applications if necessary.

    3. Final job interview role-play using the VIS. Completed job applications are the basis for this role-play. Make it as realistic as possible and be sure to cover problem areas.

    4. Break (10-15 minutes).

    5. Practice making phone calls to potential employers.

    6. Break (10-15 minutes).

    7. Résumés are reviewed if necessary.

    8. Summarize the three days of workshops and what clients have learned and accomplished.

    9. Hand out certificates of completion and congratulate clients for their successes.