Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities to achieve their personal, social, psychological and vocational goals. They counsel people with physical, sensory, developmental and cognitive disabilities and those with mental health or other health conditions that are acquired at birth or resulting from illness, disease, accident, military service and/or ongoing stress. Using interventions and other counseling techniques, they help their clients overcome environmental and attitudinal barriers, obtain needed services and use technology that can assist them.
In addition to working directly with their clients and families, rehabilitation counselors evaluate school and medical reports and confer and plan with physicians, psychologists, occupational therapists, and employers to determine the capabilities and skills of the individual. Conferring with the client, they develop a rehabilitation or treatment plan designed to assist the individual in achieving goals, which may include training to help the person develop job skills or activities to assist the client with living independently.
Rehabilitation counselors work with a variety of clients and in a number of different settings. For example, they may:
- Work in the school system providing or arranging for school-to-work transition services
- Help workers injured on the job
- Assist veterans in achieving employment and independent living goals
- Provide services for elderly people who develop health problems and/or need accommodations as they age
- Assist people with substance use disorders or other addictions
Rehabilitation counselors may specialize in areas ranging from employee assistance programming and job development/placement to mental health counseling and life care planning, among others.
Rehabilitation counselors usually work a standard 40-hour week. Self-employed counselors and those working in mental health and community agencies, such as substance use and behavioral disorder counselors, often work evenings to counsel clients who work during the day.
Rehabilitation counselors may have a range of titles, including counselor, rehabilitation counselor or consultant, independent living specialist, job placement specialist or case manager, among others.
Rehabilitation counselors typically must have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Some positions require Certified Rehabilitation Counselor certification or a license.
If you are interested in a rehabilitation counseling program, you can major in a number of subjects as an undergraduate, including psychology, social work, counseling or psychiatry.
You can search for an accredited master’s degree program on the Council on Rehabilitation Education’s website. A master’s program will typically last 24 months. Clinical training is part of the program and includes supervised internship experience and a practicum. During your master’s program, you will learn about:
- Career counseling
- Case management and rehabilitation planning
- Counseling theory, skills, and techniques
- Environmental assessment
- Individual and group counseling
- Issues and ethics in rehabilitation service delivery
- Job development and placement
- Principles of psychiatric rehabilitation
- Psychosocial and medical aspects of disability, including human growth and development
- Research and program evaluation
- Social and cultural diversity
- Technological adaptation
- Vocational evaluation and work adjustment
In addition, students may enroll in a number of elective courses like marriage and family counseling, substance abuse rehabilitation, psychological testing and stress management, among others.
- American Counseling Association
- American Rehabilitation Counseling Association
- Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
- Council on Rehabilitation Education
- International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals
- National Council on Rehabilitation Education
- National Rehabilitation Association
- National Rehabilitation Counseling Association