Individual Placement and Support (IPS) is an evidence-based work rehabilitation program helping people with moderate to severe mental illness to obtain ordinary employment. Although IPS has proven superior to other work rehabilitation programs, in many studies, the majority of the participants remain unemployed. Structured process evaluations of IPS that use mixed methods are scarce, although they could identify implementation aspects that may enhance its effect. The aim of the current study is to assess reach, fidelity, and identify barriers and facilitators to implement IPS.
The process evaluation was conducted alongside a randomized controlled trial including six IPS centers, comparing IPS with treatment as usual in a population of patients in treatment for moderate to severe mental illness. Mixed methods were used in the process evaluation, including focus group interviews with service providers, individual interviews and survey data from participants, and fidelity reviews using the validated IPS Fidelity Scale.
The intervention reached the intended target group. All centers reached fair to good fidelity according to the IPS Fidelity Scale within the project period (range 97–109, SD 8.1) (see Table 5). Certain fidelity items indicated implementation issues related to employer contact, community-based services, and integration with health services. Survey data showed that less than half of the participants regarded their illness as a barrier for participating in IPS and that freedom of disclosure was important. Participant interviews gave further insight into the role of the IPS specialist, emphasizing their availability and consistent job focus.
Indications of implementation challenges across centers during the first year suggest special attention should be given to these aspects in an early phase to ensure higher fidelity from the start and thus enhance the effectiveness of IPS. The IPS specialist played an important role for participants and was described as positive, pushing in a positive way, and encouraging. More knowledge on the characteristics of successful IPS specialists could further enhance the effectiveness of the intervention.
The study was registered on clinicaltrials.gov prior to the inclusion period (reg.no:
, registered 17/07/2013).
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