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Career Pathways Framework

The Career Pathways Framework (CPF) is a stage model of career advancement towards decent work for individuals with mental health challenges. The CPF is designed to meet individuals at every stage of career advancement towards meaningful work. CPF integrates vocational rehabilitation and vocational psychology  theory. Combined, these emphasize the roles of psychological awareness, education, employment, formal and informal supports, and social and systemic barriers. The CPF considers factors, such as the sporadic nature of mental illness, environmental constraints, and interpersonal connections, in providing essential supports and motivation. 

In CPF, careers are defined as pathways for individuals with mental health challenges to attain decent work with opportunities for progress.  

Career advancement is defined as participation in career progress. For example, engaging in preemployment activities, expanding work options, and developing different skill-sets all demonstrate progress. We designed CPF to be broadly applicable to the population of individuals living with serious mental health conditions, including those with:

  • diverse social identities

  • different age groups

  • those served by public and private agencies

  • those with co-occurring substance use disorders.

It is our hope that with advancements in research and policy, this model will contribute to the improvement of service design, practitioner training, and employment outcomes for this population.

Model Explained

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 Stages of development defined in the CPF are Career Detachment, Career Consideration, Career Exploration, Career Choice & Preparation, and Career Establishment & Maintenance.

  •  Individuals may be at different stages of development. There is an opportunity for intervention to assist individuals to progress in their development of each psychological competency (ie; Self-Efficacy)

  • Successful careers and pathways to decent work follow a developmental process both for the individual and the environment. For individuals, career stories and narratives are important in building their psychosocial competencies (ie; Work Motivation). 

  • Through awareness and connections, individuals develop psychosocial resources to assist them in navigating the complexities and hostilities of environments that are not always ideal for career success. 

the relation between social factors and an individuals behaviors and thoughts

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Progression along each stage is described for each of the competencies on their individual pages

Psychological Competencies

There is substantial need for quality services that are grounded in understanding the individual, environmental, and structural determinants of decent work to address the interrupted career paths of individuals with psychiatric disabilities (Gruhl, 2020). In fact, identifying such factors from the perspective of supported employment services can serve to enhance their applicability, accessibility, and advocacy. In the past few years, there has been increasing efforts to include person-environment fit within the rubric of vocational rehabilitation (e.g., customized employment).


The CPF includes five core psychological competencies that interact with environmental processes to facilitate career advancement among individuals with mental health challenges. These include career adaptability, vocational self-efficacy, environmental awareness, work motivation, and vocational identity.


You may read more about each individual competency below.

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