Charting the Course: Mapping the Career Practitioner Role in Supporting People with Mental Health Challenges

About the study

This project report was developed to identify the best approaches to supporting clients with mental health problems. The report presented findings from key informant interviews, consultations, and surveys of career practitioners and their clients with mental health issues in Nova Scotia.

The project identifies professional development training needs for career practitioners and makes a series of recommendations to the Nova Scotia Career Development Association (NSCDA) regarding the development of educational resources and training tools which can be shared more broadly though provincial and national networks.

What can be learned from this study?

• 91 percent of career practitioners reported that they are working with clients with mental health issues. 57 percent found that an increasing number of mental health clients are comfortable sharing their experiences.

• Most clients using career-counselling services were unwilling to disclose their mental health problems to their employers due to perceived risks, such as discrimination, that were associated with disclosing such information. Clients were also most reluctant to disclose their problems to their colleagues and neighbours. However, 80 percent of clients stated that they would share their experience with their career practitioners because they would have access to supports and services.

• Nearly half of career practitioners surveyed reported a personal history of mental health problems and 86% believed that their colleagues may have a mental health problem.

• Career practitioners emphasized that in order to effectively serve clients with mental health issues, they needed to better understand mental illnesses and learn skills that are specific to helping and motivating clients with mental illness. Clients using these services also felt that career practitioners lacked knowledge and skills to support clients with mental health problems.

• Both career practitioners and their clients believed that people with mental illness can still work. Career practitioners also strongly believed that the fact that a person has mental health problems does not make them less reliable at work.

• Mental health clients faced many challenges to employment, including stigma, discrimination, fear, and rejection. Some mental health clients suffered from multiple challenges, including poverty, addiction issues, health, and more. This affected their career planning process.

• Clients with mental health issues wanted to be treated fairly and with respect from their career practitioners. They also wanted their career practitioners focus on helping them pursue their career goals, not provide mental health counselling.

• While career practitioners referred their mental health clients to mental health services when they they were not able to provide a quality service due to lack of knowledge, many were frustrated with the mental health profession and believed that mental health professionals are discouraging their clients from pursuing employment.

What method(s) did the study use?

Transformational and iterative learning approach, including analyses of informant interviews, consultations, focus groups, roundtable, and two online surveys