Supported Education

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, and that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”  -Nelson Mandela


Education is oftentimes the key to a successful life for many individuals. However, individuals with SMI have disrupted academic experiences that may have prevented typical career development. Supported Education (SEd) services assist individuals with career planning, assessing and accessing educational environments, understanding educational funding, and assisting with identifying academic supports and accommodations (SAMHSA, 2011).


Supported Education is based on a set of core principles (SAMHSA, 2011). The principles of SEd include:

  • Access to an educational program with positive, forward progress is the goal
  • Eligibility is based on personal choice
  • Supported Education services begin soon after individual expresses interest
  • Supported Education is integrated with treatment
  • Individualized educational services are offered for as long as they are needed
  • Consumer preferences guide services
  • Supported Education is strengths-based and promotes growth and hope
  • Recovery is an ongoing process facilitated by meaningful roles


Evidence for the Effectiveness of SEd:

There is evidence to support the important role that education plays in attaining employment. Individuals with more education face fewer barriers to employment and work more hours than those with less education. Individuals enrolled in SE programs are more likely to achieve employment when they have more education. However, there have been few published randomized controlled trials (RCT) to date that have examined the critical features and outcomes of SEd. One RCT that examined the effectiveness of educational supports on retention of postsecondary students with mental health conditions has been completed with reports of these findings on the way.



Click here to learn: What is Supported Education?

This chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illustrates the critical role that education plays in protecting against unemployment and increasing earning potential.

Education Pays: Report from the College Board on the benefits of higher education for individuals and society.

Click here for SAMHSA's toolkit on Supported Education.

Click here to read: Supported Education: Examining the Evidence.

Click here for Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research: Tips and Issue Briefs on Employment Education for young adults with mental health conditions.

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law: Campus Mental Health and Student Rights.

Department of Education: Auxiliary Aids and Services for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities.

Click here for a resource from NJ’s Wellness Institute provides an overview of the eight wellness dimensions, including educational wellness. Worksheets and resources are provided to encourage individuals to begin exploring their wellness in each of the eight domains. 


Role of the MHTTC

The MHTTC is well positioned to assist systems and providers of mental health services in implementing educational supports that promote career development into their current settings. Specifically, we have an opportunity in the northeast and Caribbean region to promote the importance of supported education in accessing valued community roles.

For more information or to learn more about our trainings:

Email: [email protected] or Call: 908-889-2552



Burke-Miller, J., et al. (2006). Demographic characteristics and employment among people with severe mental illness in a multisite study. Community Mental Health Journal, 42(2), 143-159.

Cook, J. A. (2006). Employment barriers for persons with psychiatric disabilities: Update of a report for the President’s Commission. Psychiatric Services, 57, 1391-1405.

Gao, N., Gill, K., Schmidt, L. T., & Pratt, C. W. (2011). Building human capital to increase earning power among people living with mental illnesses. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 35(2), 117-124.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Supported Education: Training Frontline Staff. HHS Pub. No. SMA-11-4654, Rockville, MD: Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services   Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011.

Waynor, W.R., Gill, K. J., Reinhardt-Wood, D., G., Nanni, & Gao, N. (2018). The role of education attainment in supported employment. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 61(2), 121-127.