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Q & A on Supported Employment: An Overview for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury

by Katherine Inge, Ph.D.

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Supported employment is one service that has been used to successfully assist individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) in returning to work or becoming employed post injury. Supported employment services are provided in the community and the belief is that everyone is able to work. This brief Q and A is an introduction to supported employment and is intended to provide information to individuals with TBI who may want to obtain these services.

What is supported employment?

Supported employment is a service that provides employment supports to individuals with disabilities. A job coach works with you to identify what type of job that you would like to have. Then, assistance is provided to find a job. Once the job is identified and you are hired, the job coach is available to train you on the job. Depending on the supports that you may need, the job coach can be there 100% of your work day until you learn all of your job duties. After you are independent, the job coach will leave the job for longer periods of time until you are on your own. This is called "fading." Once you are working on your own, the job coach will check back in with you at least twice a month to see if you have any issues or need additional training and support.

Can you explain more about what a job coach does?

A job coach is also sometimes called an employment specialist. A job coach or employment specialist may come from a variety of different backgrounds to include teaching, rehabilitation, or business. He or she can serve as your advocate with the employer. This might include talking with you about how to disclose your disability to the employer during an interview. Or, the job coach may help you identify accommodations that you will need to be able to do the job that you want. He or she can then advocate with the employer on your behalf for the accommodations or explain in detail your support needs. The job coach is your partner! Here are some things that the job coach might do with you.

Spend time with you in the community to learn about you as a person.
Gather assessment information such as developing a list of your interests and skills.
Help you complete an on the job assessment known as a situational assessment to determine what you might want to do.
Identify businesses where jobs may be located that you want to do.
Assist you to getting and going to job interviews.
Attend interviews with you if you need the assistance.
Provide on the job training and support.
Help you become part of the workplace where you are hired.

Can a job coach help me return to a job that I had prior to my injury?

Yes, a job coach can assist you in returning to a prior job. In this case, he or she may serve as your advocate with your previous employer. The primary responsibility may be to observe the work that you did before and help you identify ways to complete the tasks based on your current skills. This could include the identification of accommodations or assistive technology for doing tasks that may be difficult due to your disability. The job coach might also help you re-learn your job if you need that assistance.

What if my job coach suggests that I work in a job that I am not interested in doing?

When working with your job coach, it is important to be clear on your interests as well as skills. Some job coaches are better than others in helping you match your interests and skills to a job. Ask to meet with the job coach and his or her supervisor if you are having any difficulties. In most cases, discussing your needs and interests can be worked out!

What if I have a difficult time interviewing for a job and never seem to get one?

The job coach can actually go with you to a job interview if you need assistance. Plan on how you will present your needs for accommodations to be a qualified applicant. The employment specialist can also help you develop a resume to present your skills and why you are a good job candidate. Once you have an interview planned, it is always a good idea to learn something about that business prior to the interview. Employers are always impressed by individuals who know something about their companies!

If you still are having a hard time in interviews, your job coach might suggest that you have a working interview. In a working interview, you actually spend time doing the job that you are trying to get. The employer then has the opportunity to see that you are a qualified applicant. These interviews are usually brief for example a few hours. It should not be a situation where you are doing work for the company that someone else is paid to do. Ask your job coach if you think this strategy might work for you.

Who pays for supported employment services?

The primary funding source for supported employment services is vocational rehabilitation. You must be a client of the state vocational rehabilitation agency in order to receive this service. To learn more about how to become eligible for services, you may want to review the following fact sheet:

After you are a vocational rehabilitation client, your counselor will work with you to determine if supported employment services are what you need. However, it is a good idea to understand what supported employment is so you can discuss the service with your counselor. You may want to request the service if you have had a difficult time finding a job or maintaining work since your TBI. Have more questions? You may contact the author of this fact sheet, Dr. Katherine Inge at

Virginia Commonwealth University, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment of People with Disabilities (VCU-RRTC) is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution providing access to education and employment without regard to age, race, color, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, veteran's status, political affiliation, or disability. The VCU-RRTC is funded by the US Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, grant #90RT503502. If accommodations are needed, please contact Dr. Inge at 804-828-1851 or


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