Your doubts about open employment, and how the recovery approach can overcome them

In Flourish Australia, one of the things we do is talk about recovery by using strengths based language. Alas, we can all get into the habit of expressing doubts, especially about moving into open employment. If we confront these doubts, we may find them pointing towards strengths that we can and will develop.

The doubts which supported employees often express about moving into open employment, seem to fall into three categories: 1) The welfare system, 2) their mental health issues and 3) lack of confidence. By far the most common reasons cited are in the third category!

These common doubts might be holding you back from being the best that you can be, not to mention earning a wage that matches your strengths, rather than any perceived limitations.

Panorama Employment will look more closely at these doubts in coming issues. First up, let’s start with a brief summary of some of the doubts we encounter. Then we will look at the strengths that we can develop to overcome them.

The doubting comments on the next page are often used to end a conversa­tion about open employment. On the contrary, we think they are merely the start and we hope that conversation will lead to the development of the strengths shown below.

What sorts of doubts do supported employees have about open employment?

Doubt number one: Lack of confidence


  • ‘Outside my comfort zone’
  • ‘Happy to stay in supported em­ployment’
  • ‘Not ready yet’
  • ‘I lack confidence’
  • ‘I’m scared of open employment’
  • ‘My boss won’t understand’
  • ‘I won’t fit in’
  • ‘Too much pressure’

These thoughts are experienced by most people entering employment. Getting a new job is one of the most stressful experiences (or at least it was until job hopping became a social norm) and everyone who has ever entered open employment has been subject to doubts to some degree.

Similarly, all of these doubts can be overcome. One of the tenets of recovery is ‘citizenship.’ This means participating in society just like everyone else. The desire always to remain in our poverty stricken comfort zones holds us back from full citizenship.

What these ideas really signify is a fear of the unknown. These are fears shared by everybody. Just because a doctor has given us a diagnosis does not mean that it must become a dominant, permanent characteristic that determines the whole course of our lives. That is why Panorama Employment is going to be looking at all of these doubts to see if we can’t substitute in each case a strength that you can develop.

When you take the ‘recovery approach’ you talk about strengths and what you are good at. The same applies to employment. Perhaps if we look at those doubts that we think to be our weaknesses, we will find hidden strengths lurking!

And now for a few statements that can help you to REALITY CHECK a lack of confidence…

Examples of personal resilience:

  • ‘I have worked hard at my
    recovery and come a long way’
  • ‘I learned how to be more
  • ‘I have helped others in their
    recovery journeys whenever
    I could- and they have helped
  • ‘I have demonstrated that I am
  • ‘I am able to plan things.’
  • ‘I am able to work towards goals
    in work and study.’
  • ‘I know when and how to get
    help and work as a team. ‘
  • ‘People are likely to accept me
    because I have learned to accept
  • ‘I have practiced ways to deal
    with pressure.’
  • ‘If something worries me, I ask
    questions about it and that often
  • ‘If somebody misunderstands
    me, I try to explain it some other


Doubt number two: Doubts stemming from mental health issues


  • ‘I will have a relapse’
  • ‘I hear voices’
  • ‘I’m too anxious’

From a recovery perspective, none of these things automatically prevent a person from taking on open employment. On the contrary, work seems to mitigate against ‘relapses.’ A person with severe agoraphobia, for example is likely to deteriorate (that is, become less able to achieve their goals) as a result of withdrawing from the things they fear.

There are techniques you can learn for dealing with anxiety. Besides, anxiety is a feeling which is as much a part of being human as any other emotion. Yet many employees talk about their own feelings as if they were disease symptoms which can only be controlled by a psychiatrist. Emotions, from sadness to anger all relate to how we live and are not quite as far beyond our control as some people seem to believe.

Hearing voices, having delusions and even ‘being odd’ are sometimes cited as reasons for not venturing into open employment. Yet most of our readers will know people who experience all these things (and more!) yet hold down jobs. Some of then have quite highly paid jobs. Being ‘unemployable’ is often a fallacy or fear and not a fact.

And now for a few statements that can help you to REALITY CHECK the doubts that can stem from having a mental health issue…

Knowing the details of our mental health


‘I have learned a lot about myself and others through experiencing mental health issues.’

‘I have learned how to monitor my feelings, thinking and behaviour.’

‘I have learned how to deal constructively with unpleasant emotions such as sadness , anger or nervousness.’

‘My new boss might learn a thing or two about what people with disabilities can do!’


Doubt three: Doubts about the welfare system


  • ‘I will lose the DSP’
  • ‘My mum will lose her carer’s pension’
  • ‘I will lose benefits (concessions etc.)

Even a low paid job will put a person into significantly better financial position than the Disability Support Payment. This is true even when we include the loss of the monetary value of concessions, free services and other benefits.

There is a commonly expressed fear that once off the DSP a person can never return to it. This is the result of constant attempts by governments to try to reduce the number of people on welfare. In fact, you CAN return to the DSP within two years.

It is sad that people feel compelled to look at the issue of work in this way, as a potential catastrophe rather than an opportunity to earn what you deserve and achieve independence from welfare.

We hope that some of the articles we have published and will publish on open employment in future will encourage people that it might not be such a catastrophe after all!

And now for a few statements that can help you to REALITY CHECK how you’ll always be better off if you try to reach further by working…


‘Having been on a low income, I have learned to budget and use money responsibly.’

‘To get back control of my money from the protective commissioner, I had to prove that I am responsible.’

‘I know the value of teamwork and the importance of supporting one another in tough times.’

‘My mum doesn’t need a carer’s pension now – my new salary covers her expenses!’


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