A Job-Specific Social Skills Training Program for People with Severe Mental Illness: A Case Study for Those Who Plan to Be a Security Guard

By Cheung, Leo C. C.; Tsang, Hector W. H. et al. | The Journal of Rehabilitation, October-December 2006 | Go to article overview

A Job-Specific Social Skills Training Program for People with Severe Mental Illness: A Case Study for Those Who Plan to Be a Security Guard


Cheung, Leo C. C., Tsang, Hector W. H., Tsui, Christopher U., The Journal of Rehabilitation


Aplethora of literature has documented that people with severe mental illness (SMI) lack the social skills and social competence necessary in the workplace which was a hindrance for them to get and keep a job (Cook & Razzano, 2000; Rudrud, Ziarnik, Bernstein, & Ferrara, 1984; Solinski, Jackson, & Bell, 1992; Tsang & Pearson, 2000; Tsang, Lam, Dasari, Ng, & Chan, 2000; Tsang, Lam, Ng, & Leung, 2000; Tsang, 2003). Several research studies have shown that there was a relationship between social skills deficits and poor vocational outcomes in people with SMI (Charisiou, Jackson, Boyle, Burgess, Minas, & Joshua, 1989a & 1989b; Cook & Razzano, 2000; Johnstone, Macmillan, Frith, Benn, & Crow, 1990; Lysaker, Bell, Milistein, Bryson, Shestopal, & Goulet, 1993; Mueser, Salyers, & Mueser, 2001). Previous research indicated that 75% to 90% of adults with SMI are unemployed (Bond, Becker, Drake et al., 2001; Dion & Anthony, 1987; Mueser et al., 2001; Trupin, Sebesta, Yelin et al., 1997; Unger & Anthony, 1984).

In order to help mental health consumers equip the essential social skills necessary in the workplace and facilitate mental health consumers for competitive employment, both foreign and local studies have shown the potential of implementing social skills training in the vocational rehabilitation context (Mueser & McGurk, 2004; Tsang & Pearson, 2001; Tsang, 2003; Wallace, Tauber, & Wilde, 1999; Wallace & Tauber, 2004). Wallace and colleagues (1999) developed a module which focused on workplace fundamentals and aimed to teach people with SMI how to maintain their jobs and facilitate their job adjustment. Tsang and Pearson (1996) developed and validated a conceptual framework to apply social skills training in the context of vocational rehabilitation for people with SMI. The results of randomized clinical trials showed the positive effect of such efforts to facilitate people with SMI in getting and keeping a job (Tsang & Pearson, 2001; Tsang, 2001; Wallace & Tauber, 2004).

Both Wallace et al.'s (1999) and Tsang & Pearson's (1996) models focused only on social skills which are generic in nature and applicable to various types of jobs. According to the conceptual model of Tsang and Pearson (1996), social skills in specific work-related situation are an important part of the core skills for successful employment. Researchers buttressed that tailoring job development and specific skills training for a specific job to the consumer's job preference is the key to improving the vocational outcomes for consumers (Becker, Drake, Farabaugh, & Bond, 1996; Becker, Drake, Bond, Xie, Dain, & Harrison, 1998a; Becker, Bebout, & Drake, 1998b; Cook & Razzano, 2000; Dauwalder & Hoffmann, 1992; Pratt, Gill, Barrett, & Roberts, 2002; Stuve, Erickson, & Spaulding, 1991; Tsang & Pearson, 1996; Tsang & Pearson, 2001; Tsang, Ng, & Chiu, 2002; Twamley, Jeste, & Lehman, 2003). Pratt, Gill, Barrett and Roberts (2002) suggested that effective vocational services for consumers should focus on the consumers' choice and the skills training should be client-centered and specific to the real work situation. However, there is lack of training module to facilitate consumers to equip the social skills specific to a job (Cheung & Tsang, 2005).

Studies (Tsang et al., 2002; Wong, Chiu, Chiu, & Tang, 2001) showed that service-oriented jobs and clerical-related jobs are the major job categories for people with SMI in Hong Kong. According to these two relevant studies (Tsang et al., 2002; Wong et al., 2001) and statistics from the Selective Placement Division of the Hong Kong Labour Department, six jobs (salesperson, security guard, waitperson, cleaning worker, delivery worker, and clerk) were identified as most commonly held by people with SMI in Hong Kong. Cheung and Tsang (2005) selected salesperson as the pioneering project to identify the factor structure of essential social skills for this job and developed a Job-specific Social Skills Training (JSST) module to help consumers gain employment based on their job preferences. …

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