Supported Education Combines with Clinical Programs for Success

Sep 1, 2022

30ish male

LifeWorks NW provides a vital support system to clients addressing mental health difficulties. In addition to clinical services (therapy, skills training, CD Treatment, Etc.), consumers may choose to participate in other programs that support recovery–such as Peer Support, Supported Employment and Supported Education.

Supported Education Services focus on something at the core of most people’s lives – education. Whether that be finally attaining their GED, working towards a certificate or associate’s degree, preparing for an apprenticeship, working towards a bachelor’s degree, or even in some cases working towards a master’s degree, supported education is here to assist students towards their goals. It gives our consumers something to reach for and work toward. It normalizes their experiences and attempts to reduce the stigma often related to mental health by incorporating students into settings they may have otherwise believed were outside their reach. Additionally, Supported Education Services gives the consumer a very tangible place for them to practice the skills that they have been working on with their therapists and case managers and provides a support system to relay information back to the team if additional support is needed.

Joshua connected with LifeWorks NW in 2019, and received support from a therapist, service coordinator, and eventually Supported Education services.

He says “I came to LifeWorks NW because I was tired of feeling unstable. I wasn’t taking medication regularly and just felt lost and overwhelmed. I felt like a prisoner in my own mind. I was diagnosed [with] Bipolar. The mood swings can be kind of a nightmare for myself and for others. I’ve been hospitalized several times.”

According to Jen, before he began working with our clinical team, Joshua had many fluctuations, leading to difficulty maintaining relationships, as well as work and school.

“My student Joshua, (not his real name)” says Jen, Supported Education specialist “connected with Supported Education Services in early 2021 because he had significant difficulty during prior educational experiences. Joshua had made several attempts at higher education in the past and had difficulty maintaining a high GPA due to mental health episodes. He asked for assistance getting re-enrolled at Portland Community College (PCC).”

As part of Joshua’s Supported Education Services, Jen and Joshua discussed scheduling and study skills, work-life balance, and how many credits he could take on without becoming overwhelmed. Jen also helped him connect with resources, such as disability services, to ensure he had the necessary support to do well in classes.

While working toward success at PCC, Joshua also wanted support in keeping track of the process of completing the steps necessary to transfer to Portland State University (PSU) to finish his bachelor’s degree as soon as possible.

Joshua and Jen coordinated with PSU in preparation to transfer. “This included connecting to transfer advisors to plan the classes and GPA to transfer, and ensuring that he had the necessary financial aid in order to pay for his classes. Paying out of pocket was not an option,” says Jen.

Joshua and Jen figured out that if he started in the fall of 2021, he would not only qualify for a Pell Grant, but he would also qualify for a great program that PSU offers called “Transfers Finish Free.” This program covers any costs for tuition and fees that the Pell Grant does not cover (excluding books, supplies and living fees).

“Each term, we discuss class-load and what success looks like,” says Jen. “During spring term, he took 12 credits and passed with two As and a B! With his goal of reaching his bachelor’s degree in sight, he shifted his goals higher!”

Joshua has always had a passion for working with children. When he initially spoke of his dream job, he shared hopes of becoming a school counselor. After looking into this further, Joshua discovered that he would need to attend a master’s level program. At first, this felt like it was somewhat out of reach, but with his recent success and the help of his Supported Education specialist, he’s taken his first steps towards pursuing admission to PSU’s Master in School Counseling program.

“Last week, we attended an information session together and learned about the admission requirements and programs he can participate in to overcome some of his prior difficulties,” says Jen. “He hopes to start in Fall 2023. If he takes nine credits of master’s level coursework prior to applying, it will supersede his bachelor’s level GPA. He is unsure if he will complete all the necessary pre-requisites by the January deadline, but we are highly optimistic.”

“Jen has been amazing and so patient helping me not feel so overwhelmed with returning to school,” says Joshua.

“All his LifeWorks NW team are so impressed with his efforts,” says Jen. “And we wish him the very best going forward.”