Inactivity and loss of productive function commonly accompany severe psychiatric disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, other psychotic disorders, mood disorders, PTSD). Yet, surveys (Becker, 2002) indicate that more than 75% of people with these disorders wish to return to some kind of productive activity. However, when they attempt to return to work, they often have no access to appropriate employment. Presently, there are vocational programs for adults but none that allow these individuals to continually practice interviews in order to gain the skills necessary to perform well, determine when and if they should disclose their disability, and how to answer difficult questions regarding their personal histories. SIMmersion LLC, in cooperation with Dr. Morris Bell, proposes to address this issue by expanding the Phase I prototype of a computer-based, interactive, role-play training simulation to improve interviewing skills in individuals with psychiatric disabilities. Performing well in job interviews is the first step to obtaining paid employment. Allowing individuals to practice interviews in a simulated environment is a low-cost, easily accessible way for individuals to prepare for interviews by reducing anxiety, emphasizing their employment strengths, and negotiating appropriate working conditions, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will be able to obtain jobs they can keep. To evaluate the efficacy of the system and to measure skill increases, Dr. Bell and Applied Behavioral Research LLC will conduct a single-blind Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT) with experimental and active control conditions, including eighty participants with psychiatric disorders. Measures will include a baseline and two post-measure videotaped job interview role-plays. Simulated Job Interview Training for People with Psychiatric Disorders is expected to significantly improve the training and the depth of programs available to adults with psychiatric disorders hoping to reenter the workforce. We fully expect the outcome of this SBIR grant to include enhanced interview skills among adults with psychiatric disorders and increased rates of employment among that population.

Public Health Relevance

Improving access to employment for people with psychiatric disabilities is of great societal benefit. It provides clients with monetary and psychological benefits and reintegrates them into mainstream society. Society benefits from regaining the productive potential of people who may otherwise be marginalized and from increasing the diversity of our nation's workforce.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase II (R44)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-C (10))
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Haim, Adam
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Simmersion, LLC.
United States
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Smith, Matthew J; Bell, Morris D (2016) Response: Importance of Virtual Reality Job Interview Training in Today's World. J Nerv Ment Dis 204:800
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Smith, Matthew J; Ginger, Emily J; Wright, Katherine et al. (2014) Virtual reality job interview training in adults with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 44:2450-63