Community integration: Definition, experience, and process from the perspective of six individuals with significant psychiatric disabilities

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


Steven J. Taylor


Community integration, Psychiatric disabilities

Subject Categories

Education | Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Student Counseling and Personnel Services


This study explores the meaning and process of community integration for individuals with significant psychiatric disabilities. The intent of this study was to identify influences on developing a sense of community and to describe commonalities in the process of creating a community life as a person with a significant disability. Over a period of two years, qualitative interviews and participant observation were conducted with six individuals with significant psychiatric disabilities who considered themselves and were recognized by others as fully experiencing community participation and belonging.

This research expands on discussions in the community integration literature to date by focusing on dimensions of community integration beyond those that connect community to an outcome of professional intervention or service. Congruent with the current literature, the findings of this study indicate that community presence, individual skill sets, and community roles held do contribute to the creation of a community life for individuals with significant psychiatric disabilities, but only do so through a complex interaction with other factors. The process of becoming an active community member is also affected by other significant influences including, individual conceptions of self beyond labels of psychiatric disability, the availability and establishment of relationships with differing levels of intimacy and reciprocity, complementary support found in on-line contexts, chance or planned happenstance, and the opportunity structure available to individuals in a particular setting. Implications for rehabilitation and human services practice and recommendations for future research are offered in reference to these findings.


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