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Literature review on the concept of “individualized services” in social services. Please focus some of your work on vocational rehabilitation services/counseling.


Literature Review on Individualized Services

The aim of this literature review is to identify the main themes and research trends relating to the concept of individualized services. It sets out to determine the various issues that researchers have addressed in an attempt to delve into the main thematic areas and approaches in social services. In this literature review, most of the focus is on the issue of vocational rehabilitation counseling.

            One of the dominant themes in this field of academic inquiry is community-based interventions for young people suffering from severe emotional disorders (Burns et al., 2000). Research shows that these interventions are being carried out in both formal and informal contexts (Burns et al., 2000). In both contexts, emphasis is mostly on the need for policymakers, clinicians, and families to have the right information regarding these interventions to enable them to provide individualized services to those who need them most. Some of the factors being put into consideration include costs, cultural competence, training, quality control, and evidence-based practices (Valle, Kim & Leahy, 2012).

Researchers have also expressed immense interest in two major approaches to individualized services: the wraparound process and multisystemic therapy (MST) (Burns et al., 2000; Stambaugh et al., 2007). In the wraparound approach, individualized, comprehensive services are implemented to address the specific needs of youths being affected by complicated multidimensional psychological problems. In other words, the existing services are “wrapped” around the affected individuals as well as their families with a view to address their problems in a holistic manner. The approach is individualized in the sense that service plans are tailored to the needs of specific families in order to ensure that the affected individual is assured of lasting, unconditional commitments on the part of the counselor. The objective of this approach is to ensure that chances of achieving lasting improvements are dramatically increased. On the other hand, The MST approach has been found to be particularly effective in addressing the needs of individuals who are behaviorally deviant and emotionally disturbed (Stambaugh et al., 2007).

In the meantime, it is worthwhile to point out that some mixed findings seem to have emerged from research on the wraparound method. This may be because of the difficulties that researchers encounter in an attempt to study phenomena within controlled environments. In a situation where every treatment plan is individualized, it is virtually impossible to undertake control studies. Another possible reason for the mixed findings is the presence of methodological asymmetries that arise primarily because some individuals have access to treatment while others do not have such access. One area where diversity of findings has been observed is mental illness, where a lot of emphasis has incidentally been on the subject of individualized services (Stambaugh et al., 2007; Twamley, Jeste & Lehman, 2003; Salyers et al., 2004).

Meanwhile, numerous research efforts have been dedicated to the theme of vocational rehabilitation services. In this thematic area, attempts are being made to highlight the main implications of individualized vocational rehabilitation counseling for employment outcomes mainly among disabled individuals (Tremblay et al., 2004; Tremblay et al, 2006; Beveridge & Fabian, 2007; Twamley, Jeste & Lehman, 2003; Cummings, Maddux & Casey, 2000; Salyers et al., 2004; Capella, 2003; Gilmore et al., 2001).This discourses also provides insights into ways of providing individualized services to people facing various problems to enable them to become gainfully employed as well as to achieve vocational success.

            Within the field of vocational rehabilitation, a number of sub-themes may be identified, one of them being the introduction of specialized benefits programs. According to Tremblay et al. (2004), the need for these programs is informed by the understanding that the unemployment rate among individuals with disabilities is higher than that of individuals without disabilities (Tremblay et al., 2004). On that note, it is unfortunate that some individualized programs, especially in the United States, discourage beneficiaries from securing employment for fear of losing access to those benefits (Tremblay et al., 2004). For many of these individuals, lack of information on the opportunities accessible through the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a major contributing factor for the unemployment. These findings indicate that SSA disability beneficiaries need to be exposed to specialized benefits counseling programs that can enable them to make optimal decisions regarding employment.

            Scholarly evidence on disability and vocational rehabilitation counseling indicates that differences in outcomes for various counseling programs tend to occur depending on type of disability (Liberman et al., 2001; Capella, 2003). For example, the challenges that individuals with hearing loss are encountering today differ remarkably from the ones that are being encountered by individuals with other disabilities, and these differences are being reflected through variations in employment outcomes (Capella, 2003).

            The issue of individualizing benefits counseling programs has also been widely discussed in literature. In this regard, the dominant view is that individualizing benefits counseling programs constitute an excellent way of ensuring that benefits screening leads to the identification of individuals who need the assistance most particularly in multicultural settings (Matrone & Leahy, 2005). In benefits screening, the current benefits status of the participants are normally identified and verified. Moreover, the screening officers are able to identify all the benefits that the individual has received and their impact on his rate of social improvement. Moreover, the programs can facilitate the proper management of Management of specialized benefits.

On the other hand, numerous challenges are being encountered by vocational rehabilitation counselors in their attempts to promote the concept of individualized services (Liberman et al., 2001). For example, they encounter difficulties in an attempt to reach out to people within rural areas. In this regard, the concept of individualization is being discussed at the macro level. Similarly, consumers encounter numerous difficulties in their attempts to travel to vocational rehabilitation centers in far-flung areas in order to avoid missing their appointments. The difficulties to be encountered are particularly overwhelming to persons with disabilities in rural areas, who, as a result, tend to be greater disadvantaged in terms of access to resources compared to their counterparts living in urban areas. One suggestion to this problem is the adoption of the concept of tele-counseling, which should be introduced to supplement traditional counseling services (Riemer-Reiss, M. (2000). In tele-counseling, counselors should be ready to travel long distances to reach out to disabled persons at a central location within the rural areas (Riemer-Reiss, M. (2000). Other ways of individualizing vocational rehabilitation counseling include the use of technological systems, telephone reassurance programs, and individual feedback sessions that are conducted through distance communication.

Another major theme relates to employment outcomes. In this case, it emerges thatthe desired employment outcomes are yet to be achieved despite ongoing efforts to provide individualized counseling services, especially for individuals with psychiatric disabilities (Tremblay et al., 2006). Nevertheless, this does not mean that the counseling programs are not helpful particularly when they are integrated into employment support programs executed within the context of the Social Security Administration. Indeed, congruence between individualized vocational rehabilitation counseling goals and employment outcomes has been seen to be a major predictor of vocational satisfaction among participants (Beveridge & Fabian, 2007). At the same time, it is worthwhile to note that employment outcomes also tend to be influenced heavily by disability category and educational attainment. For example, individuals with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia tend to have very low employment outcomes, and this is a pointer to the need for such people to be prioritized on in the provision of individualized vocational rehabilitation counseling services (Twamley, Jeste & Lehman, 2003).

            Finally, literature on this debate also address the question of transition programs for students with various disabilities as they prepare to enter the job market Cummings, R., Maddux, C. & Casey, J. (2000). Although the dominant position is that the transition should begin as early as during early childhood years, the most common practice is one where most students are as old as 14 years when they are inducted into the transition plans. Such practices are in contravention of basic principles of evidence-based practice (Bond, 2004; Salyers et al., 2004).


Beveridge, S. & Fabian, E. (2007). Vocational Rehabilitation Outcomes: Relationship between Individualized Plan for Employment Goals and Employment Outcomes. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 50(4), 238-246.

Bond, G.(2004). Supported employment: Evidence from an evidence-based practice. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 27(4), 345-359.

Burns, B., Schoenwald, S., Burchard, J., Faw, L. & Santos, A. (2000). Comprehensive Community-Based Interventions for Youth with Severe Emotional Disorders: Multisystemic Therapy and the Wraparound Process. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9(3), 283–314.

Capella, M. (2003). Evaluating Differences in Demographics, Services, and Outcomes for Vocational Rehabilitation Consumers with Hearing Loss versus Consumers with Other Disabilities. (Hearing Loss vs. Other Disability Groups). The Journal of Rehabilitation, 69(3), 41-56.

Cummings, R., Maddux, C. & Casey, J. (2000). Individualized Transition Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities. The Career Development Quarterly, 49(1), 60–72.

Gilmore, D., Schuster, J., Zafft, C. & Hart, D. (2001). Postsecondary Education Services and Employment Outcomes within the Vocational Rehabilitation System. Disability Studies Quarterly, 21(1), 1-9.

Liberman, R., Hilty, D., Drake, R. & Tsang, H. (2001). Requirements for Multidisciplinary Teamwork in Psychiatric Rehabilitation. Psychiatric Services, 52(10), 1331-1342.

Matrone, K. & Leahy, M. (2005). The Relationship between Vocational Rehabilitation Client Outcomes and Rehabilitation Counselor Multicultural Counseling Competencies. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 48(4), 233-244.

Riemer-Reiss, M. (2000). Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling at a Distance: Challenges, Strategies and Ethics to Consider. The Journal of Rehabilitation, 66(1), 1-24.

Salyers, M., Becker, D., Drake, R., Torrey, W. & Wyzik, P. (2004). A Ten-Year Follow-Up of a Supported Employment Program. Psychiatric Services, 55(3), 302-308.

Stambaugh, L., Mustillo, S., Barbara, B., Stephens, R., Baxter, B. & Edwards, D. (2007). Outcomes from Wraparound and Multisystemic Therapy in a Center for Mental Health Services System-of-Care Demonstration Site. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 15(3), 143-155.

Tremblay, T., Smith, J., Xie, H. & Drake, R. (2004). The Impact of Specialized Benefits Counseling Services on Social Security Administration Disability Beneficiaries in Vermont. The Journal of Rehabilitation, 70(2), 31-50.

Tremblay, T., Smith, J., Xie, H. & Drake, R. (2006). Effect of Benefits Counseling Services on Employment Outcomes for People with Psychiatric Disabilities. Psychiatric Services, 57(6), 816-821.

Twamley, E. Jeste, D. & Lehman, A. (2003). Vocational Rehabilitation in Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders: A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 191(8), 515-523.

Valle, R., Kim, M. & Leahy, M. (2012). Best Practice Models of Effective Vocational Rehabilitation Service Delivery in the Public Rehabilitation Program: A Review and Synthesis of the Empirical Literature. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 12, 12-19.

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