Type: Non-profit employment services
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Size: 600+ Employees
HappyNeuron Pro user since: 2017
WISE Employment heard of the positive outcomes of cognitive remediation and wanted to incorporate the research into their program.
HappyNeuron Pro has the privilege of being a part of many rehabilitation programs across the America and the world.
WISE Employment, a national Australian non-profit employment support service, recognizes the whole community benefits when everyone is supported to achieve their potential. With their services, they have been connecting and empowering disadvantaged job seekers with employers since 1992.
Mental illnesses, such as depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, significantly affects a person’s ability to find and maintain work, with many people disconnected from their community as a result of unemployment. In 2018, WISE Employment established WISE Ways to Work, a comprehensive vocational rehabilitation and employment support program that provides a seamless continuum of support, assisting participants to transition from skills development to paid employment or other vocations.
Caroline Crosse, Anne Miles and team have adapted an innovative vocational rehabilitation program originally developed in Scotland by Fife Employment Access Trust, called Employ Your Mind. The six-month program has been designed to help people with mental illness build key skills for work and achieve their vocational goals, which for many is finding paid work. Employ Your Mind is WISE Ways to Work’s gateway program and leads on to a range of health management and employment supports.
“Employ Your Mind helps participants to get to know themselves, identify their strengths, interests, values and skills. It helps them to set goals, make plans and build key cognitive and communication skills as well as vocational confidence. Subjective and objective assessments are used to measure progress in cognitive functioning and the individual’s belief in their skills and abilities.” – Anne Miles
Employ Your Mind is delivered in four phases. Participants of the program complete assessments coordinated by occupational therapists, participate in group and individual computer based cognitive remediation sessions, work on individual projects in an area of interest, and conclude with real-world work experience.
During Phase 1 of Employ Your Mind participants work one-on-one with their Vocational Coach for 1-2 hours a week for 6 weeks. This allows participants to get additional support if required and build self-awareness and engagement with the program. The Vocational Coaches learn about a person’s skills, interests, and core values and tailor the support plan accordingly.
HappyNeuron Pro is used during Phases 2, 3 and 4. These phases focus on cognitive skill development via individual and group cognitive remediation therapy. Participants work on their HappyNeuron exercises in the “Thinking Gym”, a small library of computers with sessions facilitated by the Vocational Coaches who assist participants on a one-on-one basis. This enables participants to increase their skill level over the weeks and progress to more demanding exercises over the course of the program.
Anne Miles, BOccThy, MSc
Senior Occupational Therapist,
WISE Ways to Work
Caroline Crosse, AM
Director of Innovation, Mental Health, and Employment
Participants start their session by completing a straight-forward enjoyable warm-up exercise, followed by a workout plan designed by their Vocational Coach and ending with another exercise they enjoy. This allows participants to push themselves while starting and ending on a positive note to prevent a negative experience if they are particularly challenged one day.
Participants also work on a project in an area of interest and give a presentation at the completion of Employ Your Mind which promotes ‘bridging’ by discussing the strategies they used to complete the project. It can also give other participants ideas about strategies they can use for their projects.
Phase 4 includes real-world work experience in conjunction with the program activities. Participants complete a maximum of 20 hours work experience over 4 weeks, ideally in an area that relates to the project they have worked on.
The most significant feature of Employ Your Mind is the program’s ability to help change lives. The WISE Ways to Work team have been helping people living with mental illness to build skills and become more confident and reflective of their own experiences. “People’s self-awareness has improved through the program, enabling them to set achievable goals” reports Anne.
In addition to improvements in self-awareness and confidence, participants report improved attention, focus, and memory. Their testimonials are overwhelmingly positive, as people get their lives back on track and engage with the community. Anne shared the testimonial of one participant who has finally pursued his dream of becoming a chef:
“Employ Your Mind has helped me have confidence to follow my dream and study cooking. It has made me a better person. It has improved my life.” – Employ Your Mind participant
“We really like the way HappyNeuron Pro is broken down into core cognitive domains where every task engages overlapping cognitive skills. The program allows you to have conversations with participants about the specific cognitive domains they are working on.” – Vocational Coach, Employ Your Mind
Using HappyNeuron Pro, the Vocational Coaches can assign exercises according to a person’s plan and view results in real-time. The Vocational Coaches can then access a report of what exercises are completed or not completed by the participant. This can give insight into the cognitive skills they may be struggling with and obstacles they may be avoiding.
“[Using HappyNeuron Pro] is a really great way to understand what is going on with people. We can get information based on what they are working on, what’s important…Exercises that they are responding well to and areas they are avoiding. ” reports Anne.
Having a range of different exercises for participants helps maintain engagement and participation. Seeing their results on the screen after completing an activity is motivating for the participant and shows they are making progress.
All these features assist in tailoring the therapy to focus more on those skills that would benefit from development so that the participant is getting the most out of the session.
HappyNeuron Pro provides cognitive remediation tools that help Vocational Coaches assign tasks to clients. The coaches are able to see automatic progress reports to see where the participant is succeeding and what may still need to be improved. The cognitive domains within the program make it simple for clients to understand the exact skills that they are working on. Through the Employ Your Mind program involving HappyNeuron Pro, clients have experienced positive outcomes.
WISE Employment has partnered with St Vincent’s Mental Health for the program’s evaluation.
The evaluation of the Employ Your Mind pilot in 2017 conducted by Professor David Castle and team at St Vincent’s Mental Health and Melbourne University demonstrated statistically significant improvements in cognitive functioning and vocational confidence in the sample of participants involved in the research.
Check out their research summary here: Evaluation of Employ Your Mind.
To learn more about how HappyNeuron can help set up our program in your practice, contact us. Our product specialist will guide you through the process.
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