Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 507–532 | Cite as

Does Employment Promote Recovery? Meanings from Work Experience in People Diagnosed with Serious Mental Illness

  • Javier SaavedraEmail author
  • Marcelino López
  • Sergio Gonzáles
  • Rosario Cubero
Illness Narratives


Employment has been highlighted as a determinant of health and as an essential milestone in the recovery process of people with serious mental illness. Different types of programs and public services have been designed to improve the employability of this population. However, there has not been much interest in the meanings attributed to these experiences and the negative aspects of work experience. In this research, we explored the meanings that participants attributed to their work experience and the impact of work on their recovery process. Research participants lived in Andalusia (Spain), a region in southern Europe with a high unemployment rate. Two versions of a semi-structured interview were designed: one for people who were working, and one for unemployed people. Participants’ narratives were categorized according to grounded theory and the analyses were validated in group sessions. Apart from several positive effects for recovery, the analysis of the narratives about work experience outlined certain obstacles to recovery. For example, participants mentioned personal conflicts and stress, job insecurity and meaningless jobs. While valid, the idea that employment is beneficial for recovery must be qualified by the personal meanings attributed to these experiences, and the specific cultural and economic factors of each context.


Serious mental illness Schizophrenia Employment Work experiences Recovery Narratives 



This study was conducted thanks to the financial backing of the European Social Fund of the European Union and the Andalusian Employment Service of the Regional Government of Andalusia (Cod: 2006000910)

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

All authors, Javier Saavedra, Marcelino López, Sergio González y Rosario Cubero declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval and Informed Consent

All procedures performed in this article involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards and Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Javier Saavedra
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marcelino López
    • 2
  • Sergio Gonzáles
    • 2
  • Rosario Cubero
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of SevilleSevilleSpain
  2. 2.Andalusian Foundation for the Integration of People with Serious Mental IllnessSevilleSpain
  3. 3.Department of Developmental PsychologyUniversity of SevilleSevilleSpain

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