What is Rehabilitation Counseling?

Rehabilitation Counselors: A Unique Specialization

Rehabilitation counselors are the only professional counselors educated and trained at the graduate level specifically to serve individuals with disabilities.

Through a comprehensive and unique counseling process, rehabilitation counselors help individuals with disabilities set and achieve their personal, career, and independent living goals. They are the bridge between the person with a disability and self-sufficiency, helping the individual to live on their own, which typically includes securing, or returning to, productive, meaningful work.

Rehabilitation counseling embodies highly specialized training and a unique counseling philosophy, and spans many areas of specialty, all of which set it apart from all other counseling professions.

Scope of Practice

In 2010, approximately 56 million individuals in America reported having a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Rehabilitation counselors provide individual and group counseling, vocational assessment, case management, job placement, and consultation services to persons with physical, mental, emotional, developmental, and cognitive disabilities. The rehabilitation counseling profession is founded on humanistic values and beliefs that facilitate therapeutic interventions using a holistic approach.

Unique, Specialized Training

The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) recognizes that certified rehabilitation counselors obtain unique, specialized training to specifically serve individuals with disabilities. Proficiencies include:

  • understanding of the medical and psychosocial aspects of various disabilities and disabling conditions;
  • developing and maintaining knowledge of assistive technology;
  • developing and maintaining knowledge of employment laws;
  • providing skilled service delivery through a case management process; and
  • assessing an individual’s abilities and strengths to facilitate a return to work.

Philosophy & Counseling Approach

The specific philosophy and counseling approach of certified rehabilitation counselors emphasize:

  • valuing the relationship between the counselor and the individual with a disability;
  • valuing the rights of individuals with disabilities to live independent, integrated lives;
  • considering education and advocacy as an essential part of the profession; and
  • strongly committing to the concepts of holistic counseling, full inclusion, and empowerment.

Standards of Practice for Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation Counseling utilizes a biopsychosocial model following an integrated program of medical, physical, cognitive, psychosocial, and vocational interventions that empowers persons with disabilities to achieve an optimal level of overall functioning. The profession itself is founded on humanistic values and the belief that each person is a unique individual.

Rehabilitation counselors facilitate counseling and vocational assessment strategies with their clients/consumers that cultivate independence and personally fulfilling, socially-emotionally meaningful, and functionally effective interactions within their environment. The general goals within the rehabilitation counseling process are to facilitate independence and vocational and psychosocial adjustment.

Work Settings & Compensation

The field of rehabilitation counseling has a promising future that offers employment in a variety of settings including, but not limited to: state vocational rehabilitation programs, private for profit rehabilitation agencies, community-based rehabilitation centers, Veterans Administration and military installations, hospital-based rehabilitation units, independent living and residential treatment facilities, psychiatric, and mental health programs, as well as a variety of case management settings.

The 2014 American Counseling Association (ACA) Counselor Compensation Study shows Rehabilitation Counselor’s work settings, as well as compensation compared to other counseling specialties:

Work settings & compensation table (PDF)