Addiction is a chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry that negatively affects the mind, body and other aspects of life. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that less than 60 percent of Americans living with a substance use disorder (SUD) maintain long-term recovery. This figure demonstrates the need for highly individualized and evidence-based treatment. A critical part of a successful treatment program is relapse prevention which is typically incorporated through various interdisciplinary strategies. The Office of Vocation Rehabilitation, also known as OVR for short, is one such strategy that can significantly increase the ability to maintain sobriety while drastically improving quality of life.
What is the OVR?
OVR is a valuable resource for individuals living with a variety of different disabilities. As a result, the assumption is that it only assists people with physical or mental disabilities. In reality, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation can help those overcoming addiction as well as individuals living with a co-occurring disorder. A co-occurring disorder is the presence of both mental illness and addiction, regardless of which was diagnosed first. OVR’s main goal is to help its clients enter the workforce. With intensive vocational services, it is capable of assisting individuals with reaching a higher level of independence, confidence and ultimately, a better quality of life. OVR’s range of services does not stop at employment opportunities though. It also offers mental health services, coaching, and various training opportunities.
OVR and Recovery
For those struggling with addiction, achieving a higher quality of living can feel like a distant goal. Finding and maintaining employment is a frequently a major concern in the recovery process. In addition to this, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) discussed the presence of stigma among individuals living with addiction. (2) Many employers may be hesitant to hire someone with a SUD or criminal background associated with their disease. These obstacles make it challenging for people overcoming addiction to find meaningful employment and may demotivate them as a result.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), stress is a well-known cause of relapse. Stress can create cravings for substances such as alcohol and drugs, especially in individuals who have not yet maintained long-term sobriety. In order to successfully prevent relapse, stressors must not only be addressed but kept to a minimum. OVR services work towards reducing stress by making vocational training and employment opportunities attainable for individuals that are serious about recovery. However, not everyone may qualify for OVR services. Participants are selected on a case-by-case basis and the OVR office works with vendors such as recovery centers. If you are currently in treatment or have completed a treatment plan, you may receive help from your provider to apply for OVR services. Completing an application for participation is easy. You may request help from a qualified vendor or complete an application online. An interview phase may be required to determine eligibility. Once approved, you can expect to participate in a few different things.
What to Expect
If you qualify for services through OVR, you will be assigned to a trained counselor. The first step is to determine your vocational goals through face-to-face interviews with your counselor. He or she will consider preexisting employment history, education and skill set, and overall career goals. Determining your goals is a critical first step towards matching you with the right services for your unique needs.
Next, your counselor will devise an Individualized Plan for Employment (IEP). This usually consists of a clear and concise vocational goal in addition to recommended services and providers. In some cases, a Financial Needs Test (FNT) is necessary. This process is used to determine whether or not a client will be subject to pay out of pocket expenses for certain services. However, most services are provided free of charge. The following ORV services are included at no cost:
- Counseling and coaching
- Diagnostic services
- Educational materials
- Job development
- Job placement
The OVR has a diverse range of services all geared towards helping clients achieve reliable employment and more independence. Along with resources for those in recovery for a SUD, it also offers mental health help. Locating the right kind of therapy, providing psychiatric help and conducting medical tests are just some of the services available for mental health. In addition to this, OVR also offers vocational counseling which utilizes positive therapeutic techniques to empower clients, help them reach their full potential, and develop successful habits to maintain a career. In some cases, OVR may also assist with the following:
- Room and board
- Transportation expenses
- Occupationally related costs (tools, licenses or special equipment)
- Personal care
- Job-site modifications
Since OVR specializes in vocational assistance, you can look forward to a variety of tasks related to the goal of achieving sustainable employment. Coaching is a core service used by the OVR to help client’s stay on track for reaching their desired career goals. Whether you would like help with industry-specific job training or would like to go to college, OVR counselors are available to help you find the right program or school and get started. In addition to this, basic training is offered to serve as a starting point in your career. This may include computer and software training in addition to employment best practices such as interview strategies.
Job placement is another area of expertise. Your counselor will work with you to find the best strategy for your career goals. Helping to locate jobs, applying for them and preparing for an interview are all offered. OVR also works with job clubs, hiring programs and employers with tax credits and other incentives. Your counselor will match you to potential jobs based on the following characteristics:
- Learning capacity
- Tolerance level
- Communication skills
Once you have completed training, counseling and have gained employment successfully through OVR, your case will be reviewed to determine whether or not you will continue to receive services. Since the goal is to help individuals find stable work, most services will end upon completion of this. However, some people may require ongoing support from a counselor or mental health services. Your counselor may recommend that you stay active in OVR on an ongoing basis to monitor your progress and ensure that you stay on track for goals.
It is important to keep in mind that OVR is not a treatment format for addiction but rather, a supplemental service. However, it can serve as a guide for ongoing treatment and can connect you to therapists, recovery groups, and community-based programs. Staying active in these areas are proven to reduce the risk of relapse. Another option that may be recommended is sober living. This is a type of residential housing offered to individuals in recovery who have maintained some level of sobriety and who have completed a treatment plan through an inpatient or outpatient program. Sober living homes provide a safe and supportive environment as well as 24/7 monitoring. Many homes incorporate on-site counseling, coaching, and host their own meetings that incorporate strategies found in community-based organizations such as 12 step groups. Sober living homes may also provide transportation to and from OVR services, mental health appointments, and work.
Transitioning out of support services is a gradual process for those in recovery. Cutting off support entirely is typically not beneficial because it can leave those in recovery feeling overwhelmed. Therefore, community-based organizations, sober living homes, and ongoing therapy are critical for long-term success. These options can all serve as a source of encouragement and help maintain motivation and accountability for your well-being.
If relapse should occur, DrugAbuse recommends using relapse as a learning opportunity instead of giving up entirely. One way to start this learning opportunity is to examine the factors that lead to relapse in the first place. Once you are able to identify the trigger, you can take action to prevent it from occurring again. While relapse is a common part of the recovery process, it can leave many people feeling discouraged and confused as to what to do next. The best decision is always to seek out professional help whether it is from a recovery center or through your OVR counselor. They can help you get back on track. Many people find that detoxing after relapse is a useful starting point. This is because detox is capable of flushing harmful toxins out of your system safely and effectively while helping you cope with withdrawal symptoms.
Recovering from a substance use disorder gets easier day by day. With support from programs such as OVR, you can stay motivated for achieving independence and working towards goals. If you feel like you would benefit from this program, don’t hesitate to act.
For individuals transitioning out of treatment for a substance use disorder, finding employment and getting back on track for a successful independent career can feel overwhelming. The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) can help. With a variety of different services tackling various challenges, OVR works with you to outline a clear employment plan and help you reach your goals. Learn more about it today to see if it is a good option for your needs!