A sociological perspective on ''the unmotivated client'': public accountability and professional work methods in vocational rehabilitation

L. van Hal*, A. Meershoek, F. Nijhuis, K. Horstman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: This study aims at a sociological understanding of the concept of (un)motivation in order to provide clues for improving vocational rehabilitation (VR) support. Method: (Un)motivation is understood as the product of the interaction between clients and professionals in an institutional context. To gain better understanding of this construction of (un)motivation, in depth-interviews are held with 14 VR professionals. Based on the stories professionals told about their professional practices, we analysed the ways in which they guide their clients during their VR path within the institutional context of the Dutch welfare state. Results: "The unmotivated client" is a judgment that arises in the interaction between professional and client if the institutional goals of VR are not achieved. Two work methods are distinguished in which this judgment takes shapes in various ways, namely "Professional as a Signpost" and "Professional as a Personal Guide". Conclusions: Professionals work in a dichotomous public accountability framework with a strong focus on labour participation. This causes professionals to look for ways out of VR paths in which labour participation is not achieved. The construction of "the unmotivated client" is such a way out. An alternative way out is to explicitly value clients' (intermediary) achievements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-818
Number of pages10
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Accountability
  • professional practices
  • social constructivism
  • the Netherlands
  • unmotivation
  • vocational rehabilitation

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