Supporting Business Owners with Psychiatric Disabilities: An Exploratory Analysis of Challenges and Supports

Supporting Business Owners with Psychiatric Disabilities: An Exploratory Analysis of Challenges and Supports

Published: Dec 01, 2021
Publisher: Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, vol. 44, issue 4

Laysha Ostrow

Jane K. Burke-Miller

Morgan Pelot


Self-employed individuals with psychiatric disabilities may face unique challenges to running small businesses. This study aims to identify business-related challenges and examine whether supports designed to alleviate those challenges are associated with positive business milestones and self-employment satisfaction.


Data were collected via a survey of 60 participants with a history of psychiatric disability who were operating a U.S.-based small business. This exploratory study used descriptive statistics to look at the relationship between business challenges, business development supports, business milestones, and satisfaction with self-employment.


Although most participants reported experiencing business challenges and using supports, relatively few supports were helpful in the context of specific challenges. The number of challenges was positively correlated with the amount of supports used. Respondents used interpersonal or informal supports more often than help from organizations or institutions and tended to find these more helpful. The satisfaction of owning a business was generally high and positively correlated with the age of the business. Satisfaction was not necessarily tied to normative reasons such as business gross or percent of income.

Conclusions and Implications for Practice

In this study, self-employed individuals with a psychiatric disability appear to prefer—or have greater access to—informal or interpersonal support, compared to institutional support. This may indicate that these owners have different needs for support, or that they do not use mainstream institutional resources that facilitate sustainability and growth, and therefore targeted efforts to provide formal support may be needed.

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