Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Strengths and Challenges of Intervention Research in Vocational Rehabilitation: An Illustration of Agency-University Collaboration

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Strengths and Challenges of Intervention Research in Vocational Rehabilitation: An Illustration of Agency-University Collaboration

Article excerpt

The benefits of intervention research in which new technologies, strategies, or procedures are developed and tested under field conditions have long been heralded in the psychological and rehabilitation research literatures (Frank & Elliott, 2000; Rappaport & Seidman, 2000). The processes, however, can be challenging, as the degree of control researchers have over recruiting participants or introducing the independent variables can be limited by the particular context in which the intervention is introduced (Devine, Wright, & Joyner, 1994).

Many individuals with disabilities rely on Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services for assistance in attaining relevant employment, educational, and independent living goals. Therefore, VR counselors have a unique opportunity to facilitate active consumer involvement in the rehabilitation process and foster the development of relevant personal competencies (Balcazar & Keys, 1994). Although most professionals working in rehabilitation agree that active consumer participation and collaboration in the rehabilitation process is desirable, there is little agreement on how to best facilitate their involvement and promote independent functioning. Rehabilitation psychologists can play an important role in developing effective intervention strategies to promote consumer involvement. The purpose of the present study was to examine an intervention research process designed to promote goal attainment among VR consumers. The intervention was implemented by VR counselors in collaboration with university researchers.

Tucker, Parker, Parham, Brady, & Brown (1988) argued that meaningful involvement of VR consumers in their own rehabilitation requires counselors to develop empowering relationships with consumers, and reinforcing their personal power to select the vocational goals and services they need. Dowdy (1996) asserted that the purpose of VR services is to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve gainful employment consistent with their strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, and abilities.

Balcazar and Keys (1994) identified goal-setting and help-recruiting skills as two competencies that counselors can help consumers develop to promote and maintain independence and self-reliance. Counselors often find that consumers of rehabilitation services do not have clear vocational goals and struggle to find what it is they really want to do with their lives (Frank & Elliot, 2000; Roessler, 1980). Another common issue is that even when consumers have a clear goal in mind, they do not have a clear understanding of the specific steps they need to take in order to achieve it (Waterman, 1991). Rubin and Roessler (1995) concluded that meaningful participation in the rehabilitation planning process should not only help consumers identify potential goals but also help them evaluate the relevance and practicality of each goal in order to prioritize which goals to pursue. They added that "consumers should also understand what specific counseling and/or training steps are needed to reach their goal(s), and follow through on the plan" (p. 269).

Previous research indicates that goal attainment is optimally realized when consumers are actively involved in the goal-setting process and when goals are defined in concrete terms (Webb & Glueckauf, 1994). Goal setting is necessary to lay the foundation for participation and critical reflection about the direction of rehabilitation efforts (Balcazar & Keys, 1994). In effect, when consumers are actively involved in the goal-setting process, they often take greater control over their rehabilitation and in other aspects of their lives as well (Hope & Rice, 1995). This construct was later supported in a qualitative study (Majumder, Walls, & Fullmer, 1998) in which 104 VR clients were asked about their degree of involvement in the goal-setting process. The researchers reported that consumers with greater involvement appeared to achieve better employment outcomes. …

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