Psychological resources and mental health among the difficult-to-employ: Can a pre-employment training program make a difference?

Georg E. Matt, Lara Bellardita, Gene Fischer, Scott Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psychological distress and resources were examined in an ethnically diverse sample of low-education, unemployed, and difficult-to-employ persons who participated in a three-week pre-employment training program (STRIVE). Compared to the general population, applicants to the program exhibited significantly higher levels of psychological distress. Men showed significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety, less self-esteem, and more dysfunctional attributions than women. Caucasian applicants showed higher levels of depression and anxiety and lower levels of self-efficacy and self-esteem. The gender differences in depression and powerful other attributions were moderated by ethnicity. Graduates of the program showed the strongest improvements with respect to self-esteem (d=0.65) and self-efficacy. Self-efficacy increased more for Latino (d=0.79) and African-American (d=0.52) than Caucasian participants (d=0.34). Graduates showed significantly higher levels of internal attributions (d=0.42), lower levels of chance attributions (d=-0.16), and less depression (d=-0.38) than when they applied to the program. A subsample of graduates completed follow-ups between 2-8 months after graduation, showing persistent though smaller improvements compared to baseline. These findings suggest that pre-employment training programs can play a potentially important role in reducing psychological distress and strengthening psychological resources in difficult-to-employ and ethnically diverse populations trying to reenter the labor market. Limitations of this study and future direction for applied psychological research in the large and growing population of hard-to-employ persons are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-43
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Mental health
  • Pre-employment training
  • Psychological resources
  • STRIVE program

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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