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David Blustein, Ph.D. Professor Lynch School of Education Boston College.

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Presentation on theme: "David Blustein, Ph.D. Professor Lynch School of Education Boston College."— Presentation transcript:

1 David Blustein, Ph.D. Professor Lynch School of Education Boston College

2 Agenda: Introductions Review the relationship between unemployment and psychological functioning Strategies for self-care Strategies for a reinvigorated job search

3 Setting the stage Introductions and expectations for presentation What do you hope to achieve by participating in this workshop?

4 Guiding Questions What can research tell us about the relationships between unemployment and mental health that can help you manage with unemployment, underemployment, and the job search process? What are the most effective self-care strategies that we can use to help ourselves get back to work and restore our mental health? What are the best job search strategies that have been identified by research and best practices?

5 Where can we find answers? Narratives and memoirs of the unemployed: Staying in touch with the real lived experience Research: Creating the foundation for evidence-based practice Best practices from career counseling and psychotherapy

6 Vignettes from the Unemployed: “Everything gets touched,” said Colleen Klemm, 51, of North Lake, Wis., who lost her job as a manager at a landscaping company last November. “All your relationships are touched by it. You’re never your normal happy-go-lucky person. Your countenance, your self-esteem goes. You think, ‘I’m not employable. New York Times, 12/14/09

7 Vignettes from the Unemployed “Every time I think about money, I shut down because there is none. I get major panic attacks. I just don’t know what we’re going to do.” “After struggling and struggling and not being able to pay my house payments or my other bills, I finally sucked up my pride; I got food stamps just to help feed my daughter.” New York Times, 12/14/09

8 Vignettes from the Unemployed ‘I would say the part I’ve reached now is my career’s over, that’s the part I feel I’ve reached now; and now, you know, it’s over so I just take whatever is around really. You know, I’ve had my chances in employment, I’ve done as well as anyone could, anyhow in what I’ve had to face.’ Narrative from Gabriel et al. (Organizational Studies)

9 Unemployment and Mental Health: What does the research tell us? Marie Jahoda proposed that work provides us with five important life needs: Time structure Social contact Collective purpose Status Activity

10 Paul and Moser’s Meta-Analysis The meta-analysis: Integrated results of 237 studies with nearly half a million participants. Results included the following: People who lost their jobs experienced an increase in mental health problems Once people became reemployed, their mental health improved Journal of Vocational Behavior, 2009

11 Paul and Moser’s Meta-Analysis Mental health problems exist in 16% of the general population and 34% of the unemployed.

12 Paul and Moser’s Meta-Analysis Mental health problems are more pronounced among Men blue-collar workers long-term unemployed

13 William Julius Wilson: When Work Disappears Wilson studied urban Chicago to understand the impact of the loss of employment. The loss of work was associated with increases in family problems, the breakdown of communities (increased crime, substance abuse, etc.) Work creates the link to the greater social community. People suffer individually without work. Communities suffer as well, creating a cycle of poverty and despair

14 Wilson’s Conclusion “In the absence of regular employment, a person lacks not only a place in which to work and the receipt of regular income but also a coherent organization of the present – that is a concrete system of expectations and goals. Regular employment provides the anchor for the spatial and temporal aspects of daily life.”

15 A Contextual Caveat Focusing on the mental health of the unemployed may function to avoid active consideration of the root causes of unemployed. Review and critique the Downward Drift Hypothesis Paul and Moser’s work counters this view. Fryer argues that we need to actively consider that “which is implicitly responsible for the unemployed person’s plight — the social institution of unemployment — as impoverishing, restricting, baffling, discouraging and disenabling.’ (Fryer 1992: 114)”.

16 A Contextual Caveat We need to consider the big picture. Rich Feller’s remark is telling… “The best career counselor is an expanding economy”

17 Shoring Ourselves Up: Effective Self-Care Strategies Assessing Ourselves Self-Care Strategies Accessing Relational Support Reinvigorating the Job Search

18 Assessing Ourselves Assess your current level of functioning. How are you feeling overall? What sort of changes have you noticed in your life since you experienced the major work-based transition?

19 Assessing Ourselves At times, the best intervention is to seek out some professional support…

20 Assessing Ourselves Recall the results from Paul and Moser Unemployment of more than 6 months is associated with marked increases in mental health problems. The loss of work is often akin to bereavement

21 Self-Care Strategies Identify support in your communities. Learn about and nurture support groups in your community One-stop career centers Public libraries Networking groups

22 Self-Care Strategies Stress management Mindfulness to manage the ongoing anxiety and ruminations about the loss of work Letting thoughts and feeling flow through us Develop a compassionate relationship to ourselves and others Meditation Exercise Other adaptive forms of distraction

23 Mindfulness and the Present Kabat-Zinn—”Wherever you go you are there” Our ordinary waking state is severely limited The essence of being alive is in appreciating the present moment Being in the present moment takes practice and discipline

24 A Brief Mindfulness Excursion You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf… Emotional regulation… Think of an issue that you are struggling with. Imagine it and get in touch with the feelings. Observe it from a distance—do not repress it or disavow. Let it exist, but see it as a cloud in the sky

25 Mindfulness Empirical research supports mindfulness-based interventions. For example, significant treatment gains were endorsed among clients with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder (Kabat-Zinn et al. 1992).

26 Awareness and Work Learning to stop automatic thoughts can lead to authentic self-exploration. Training one’s capacity to concentrate can enhance work performance and reduce attentional difficulties

27 The Present Moment The present moment refers to fully focusing attention to the present moment and the here-and-now. The ability to experience the present moment as fully as possible decreases worry and anxiety about the past and future.

28 The Present Moment and Work Paradox: Focusing on the present in a clear manner helps to plan for the future Concentrating on the present moment provides individuals with a way to ward off the stress of an unstable work life.

29 Acceptance Acceptance involves recognizing experience without judgment, with a sense of interest and curiosity and kindness toward the experiences and the self. Acceptance does not refer to a blind acceptance of disparity or unstable work environments. Mindfulness aims to help clients gain clarity, better cope with stress, and reduce anxiety in order in order to explore external options and make better informed decisions.

30 Self-Care Strategies Tell the story of your work history to your loved ones; The process of creating the narrative is therapeutic. While the events are often experienced in a deeply individualistic way, the real story needs to include the context. This can form a powerful reframe as well as a story that is ultimately affirming

31 Self-Care Strategies Recall Jahoda’s findings: We need structure in our lives….. Try to plan your day with job search activities, skill building, stress reduction, and social connections Try to experience new accomplishments and internalize previous accomplishments Work hard to actively engage in your lives, which can help to reduce depressive symptoms

32 Accessing Relational Support We know from extensive research that relational support is critical in managing stress and painful transitions. Relational support works in multiple ways for unemployed and underemployed individuals: Emotional support Instrumental support Networking

33 Accessing Relational Support Emotional Support: The loss of connections at work needs to be understood as a major source of psychic distress. It is critical to feel connected to others while you are looking for work. Also, we need the emotional refueling to keep going when faced with significant barriers in life Maximize your time with your loved ones Structure time with people you care about

34 Accessing Relational Support Instrumental Support Other people can help us in very tangible ways. Feedback on job search strategies Review s, cover letters, and resumes Giving us rides to interviews

35 Accessing Relational Support Networking Networking is a critical aspect of the job search. It also provides relational support—it offers multiple advantages. A strategy: Make a list of everyone you know and the kind of work they do. Begin the process of informational interviews with your existing network

36 Accessing Relational Support Expanding your networks: Join a professional networking group at a One-Stop Career Center Explore other networking opportunities. Join organizations related to your field Attend professional meetings Social networking: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook

37 The Power of Shared Experience

38 “Even when someone couldn’t help me out financially or otherwise, just being a sounding board; being someone who can give you psychological help. That has been the biggest help that I have had. Knowing that you’re in the same boat with a lot of other people. Um, but that is, probably the most of what I’ve gotten. Along with that, I know that if my back is to the wall, that I know if they can they will, will help me out.” (Boston College Unemployment Study Participant)

39 Job Search Strategies The best predictor of a return to pre-unemployment levels of mental health is….. A new job!

40 Job Search Strategies Supporting an active, engaged, and creative job search Review latest approaches that are working Networking Assess transferable skills Skills development…..Critical for the 21 st century

41 Job-Search Interventions A recent meta-analysis by Liu, Huang, and Wang of job search interventions concluded the following: Job search interventions, in general, are effective in helping people to obtain work. Job search programs are particularly effective when they blend skills development with motivational interventions

42 Job Search Interventions The effective interventions tended to include the following: Teaching job search skills Improving self-presentation (includes in person presentation as well as written materials) Boosting self-efficacy Encouraging proactivity Promoting goal setting Enlisting social support

43 Job-Search Interventions Lui and colleagues also identified that job search interventions are less effective for long-term unemployed job seekers. They suggest that the complex needs of the long-term unemployed may require: Occupational skills training Interventions that focus on enhancing self-esteem and healthy lifestyle may be an important addition to traditional job search interventions.

44 The Jobs Program: An Intervention Project Price and Vinokur designed a structured reemployment program that combined social support and specific job search strategies. Research evidence indicates the following: The social support of the group is a critical ingredient. The program worked better than self-help efforts (clients following a printed reemployment guidebook). In sum, people benefited from both instrumental and emotional support The groups helped people to find work and to reduce mental health problems.

45 Unpacking the Jobs Club Results What seemed to help? Social support The experience of telling one’s story to an empathic and concerned group. Learning practical job search skills

46 Closing Comments Let’s give an unemployed person an opportunity to conclude…. “I never thought I’d be at this stage now because I, I thought I’d throw in the towel, but I’ve always been a fighter. I come from a strong family. I know strong people and I can’t let myself down. Society has let me down but I can’t let society define me. I can’t let unemployment define me. “ (Boston College Unemployment Project participant)

47 Group Discussion What new skills did you learn in this workshop that you can implement immediately? What other resources might be helpful to you in advancing your job search and enhancing your overall psychological functioning?

48 Questions and Comments Feel free to contact me….


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