With funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (Grant No. 90SF0020), the Self Employment Starts with You (SESY) study used qualitative and survey data to understand the experience of current business owners with psychiatric disabilities, and provide useful information to aspiring business owners. Self-employment can offer opportunities for work time self-care, improved earning, choice, and an accepting, supportive, trauma-informed work environment customized to individual needs while reducing employment disparities.

Visit our dedicated self-employment resource:    www.ReclaimingEmployment.net

Visit our dedicated self-employment resource: www.ReclaimingEmployment.net

The people surveyed include 60 self-employed individuals with a history of psychiatric disability who were operating U.S.-based business enterprises with fewer than five employees in 2016.

These three research briefs based on the study findings address different topics in self-employment are designed for the public, individuals with disabilities, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers.


  • Self Employment for People with Psychiatric Disabilities: Advantages and Strategies, Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, coauthored by Laysha Ostrow, Patricia B. Nemec, and Carina Smith.

  • “It Suits My Needs”: Self-Employed Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities and Small Businesses, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, coauthored by Laysha Ostrow, Carina Smith, Darby Penney, and Martha Shumway.

We are currently working with members of the Technical Advisory Panel on additional journal publications with results of the survey and interview data.

Project Technical Advisory panel

The SESY research project benefited from an advisory panel of technical experts from academia, technical assistance, and small business. The Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) provided expertise in disability policy, mental health services research, and vocational rehabilitation practices, and included several individuals who have personally experienced mental health problems. The TAP provided input on research design, analysis and interpretation of the survey and qualitative interview data. Some of the members of the TAP also served as key informant interviewees in the environmental scan. To see the Reclaiming Employment team and advisors, please click here.