OBJECTIVE. A vocational rehabilitation program (occupational therapy and supported employment) for promoting the return to the community of long-stay persons with schizophrenia was established at a psychiatric hospital in Japan. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the program in terms of hospitalization rates, community tenure, and social functioning with each individual serving as his or her control.

METHODS. Fifty-two participants, averaging 8.9 years of hospitalization, participated in the vocational rehabilitation program consisting of 2 to 6 hours of in-hospital occupational therapy for 6 days per week and a post-discharge supported employment component. Seventeen years after the program was established, a retrospective study was conducted to evaluate the impact of the program on hospitalizations, community tenure, and social functioning after participants’ discharge from hospital, using an interrupted time–series analysis. The postdischarge period was compared with the period from onset of illness to the index discharge on the three outcome variables.

RESULTS. After discharge from the hospital, the length of time spent by participants out of the hospital increased, social functioning improved, and risk of hospitalization diminished by 50%. Female participants and those with supportive families spent more time out of the hospital than participants who were male or came from nonsupportive families.

CONCLUSION. A combined program of occupational therapy and supported employment was successful in a Japanese psychiatric hospital when implemented with the continuing involvement of a clinical team. Interventions that improve the emotional and housing supports provided to persons with schizophrenia by their families are likely to enhance the outcome of vocational services.

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