A Workshop for mentally challenged people was the way folks were offered a way to supposedly have a meaningful life. These people needed to spend their time at either doing an activity which would bring them income and higher self esteem, or to spend their time in creating something they could sell, thus bringing income and higher self esteem. My job as a Workshop Coordinator was to come up with ideas that could meet these goals.
I also did vocational testing to help people who were able to work in various community settings. Mental retardation, or mental illness didn't prevent them from holding some jobs. Training was offered in janitorial type services, and various businesses were supportive.
This was certainly a challenging activity for me. I had spent much of my grad school time in classrooms, as well as a graduate assistantship which had me typing with computers 15 hours a week. This was my first job after graduating, suddenly not meeting deadlines for papers, not using various counseling theories, not living in a bubble of a university. These were real people, living in group homes, coming to a workshop location daily to hopefully have a better life.
Unfortunately many of these people wouldn't get better. Their lives would continue to be monitored by taking medications that allowed them to co-exist with others. Mental retardation and many forms of mental illness don't go away, which means expectations of counselors have to be geared toward the realities of these limits.
I learned a lot working with this population. My heart is still wishing that improving quality of life was possible for everyone.
...there are no wrong turns, only unexpected paths.