November 8, 2010

Research: Solution Focused Techniques Help Improve Mental Health and Employment Outcomes

Can Solution Focused Techniques Help Improve Mental Health and Employment Outcomes?

Authors: Wells, Alyson; Devonald, Melanie; Graham, Victoria; Molyneux, Rebecca

Solution Focused Techniques have their routes in therapy and have evolved into a broader framework for facilitating lasting change and improving psychological health. The Solution Focused Approach explores future possibilities with a person rather than finding out about their past and focusing on their problems. Instead the focus is on finding a person's resources and exceptions to the problem they are having. This piece of research aimed to test the hypothesis that applying Solution Focused in the context of an employment agency, such as Jobcentre Plus, would improve not only the mental health, but also employment/activity outcomes for unemployed people.

A team of Work Psychologists working for Jobcentre Plus were trained in Solution Focused Techniques and delivered up to 6 Solution Focused Sessions to a total of 82 customers, all of whom were long-term unemployed customers of Jobcentre Plus and who were experiencing common mental health problems. Pre and post measures were taken of customers' psychological health and wellbeing, self-esteem, confidence to seek work, actual job seeking activity, and progress into work. 

Results were encouraging
. Customers who had taken part in the sessions reported significantly decreased anxiety and depression (mean difference in HADS Scores = 4.1 (depression) and 3.6 (anxiety) p>0.001). In addition, their self perception, self-esteem, self-belief, and feelings of control in their lives all appeared to have improved over the period of the study (mean difference in CSES Scores = 8.0 p>0.001). More specifically, customers reported feeling more positive about their ability to work, more positive about the skills they have, more positive about being able to present themselves to an employer and more positive about their ability to sustain work (mean difference in Barriers to Work Questionnaire = 10.6 p>0.001). On follow up, it was found that at least 64% of customers participating in the study were later engaged in either paid work or a range of activities that might support their return to the work place including voluntary work, government programs such as work preparation, and training programmes. A discussion of the implication of these findings for more effective ways of working with people with common mental health problems is presented, along with a critique of the current study and suggestions for further research.

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