Rehabilitation Counselor Careers

Man in WheelchairWhat Is Rehabilitation Counseling?

According to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and published by the National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP), there are an estimated 48.9 million people (19.4% of the overall population) living in the U.S. with a disability. An estimated 24.1 million disabled persons are reported to have a severe disability, and 34.2 million experience some type of functional limitation. Disabilities include physical, emotional, mental, or social conditions that substantially limit a persons movements, senses or major life activity. Individuals facing these types of challenges often rely on others for assistance, and benefit greatly from therapy and counseling that helps them improve their independence and quality of life.

Rehabilitation counselors are mental health professionals, who work with disabled individuals to build skills, cope with feelings of anxiety and depression, and find solutions to problems such as employment, chronic pain, mobility, transportation, basic care, and more. The goals and practice of of rehabilitation counseling are similar to many other professions that fall under the categories of psychology, counseling and mental health - a rehabilitation counselor will use tests and other assessment tools to assess and understand a client's problem, develop a treatment plan, and utilize therapeutic techniques to foster a better quality of life for the client.

How Do I Become a Rehabilitation Counselor?

To become a rehabilitation counselor you will need to go through a rather rigorous amount of schooling. This includes obtaining a Bachelor's Degree, then a Master's Degree, and finally entering into a Doctorate or PhD program.

Why Do We Need Rehabilitation Counseling?

Contrary to what some people believe, nearly every person can be a productive and contributing member of society, regardless of their disabilities. Some people, however, may need some guidance on how to become more independent.

Rehabilitation counseling can help point these individuals in the right direction on becoming more independent. Having more independent individuals in our society not only helps the moral of the society in general, but it also reduces the strain on government assistant and other resources.

What Does a Rehabilitation Counselor Do?

”Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”

This quote can be thought of as the motto of the field of rehabilitation counselors.

However, before teaching a person to do anything, a rehabilitation psychologist will first usually need to determine where that person’s strengths and weaknesses lie. A rehabilitation counselor will usually interview his clients first in order to determine what they are capable of doing as well as what their limitations are.

After determining what a client is able to do, a rehabilitation psychologist will then be able to implement an individual therapy and counseling plan that can help them become more independent.

A rehabilitation counselor might help his clients work through several different types of problems that may be holding them back in life. Many times, solving the right problem might also solve several other smaller problems. Problem solving during counseling sessions is often accomplished by setting goals.

Goals are often a big part of rehabilitation counseling. The main goal for individuals in need of rehabilitation psychology is usually to live as independently as possible. This is usually accomplished by setting and working toward several small goals. For instance, counselors working with people with limited mobility might work to help their clients gain access to transportation, such as public transportation. This small step would enable clients to run errands, go shopping, and find and keep a job, making them much more independent.

Where Do Rehabilitation Psychologists Work?

Rehabilitation counselors might work in traditional hospitals, physical therapy clinics, assisted living facilities, independent living facilities, and nursing homes. They can also be found working in social and human service offices, schools, detention centers, disability centers, and unemployment offices.

Like many other counselors and psychologists, rehabilitation counselors can also choose to open private practices.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor?

 Counseling Educational Track
Education Requirements Education Length Available Programs
Undergraduate Work Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling 4 Years Online or Campus
Graduate Work Earn a Master's Degree in Counseling 5-6 Years Online or Campus
PHD or Doctoral Work Earn a Doctorate in Counseling  7-8 Years Online or Campus

The right education is very important when considering a rehabilitation counseling career. Most aspiring rehabilitation counselors will usually start their careers with a bachelor’s degree in counseling. During this time, students should take several courses in their preferred area of interest. If you want to eventually work with individuals suffering from autism, for instance, you should take any courses that deal with this area.

A master’s degree is also usually required for most people looking to start a rehabilitation counseling career. Several schools in the country offer master’s degree programs in this area. After earning a master’s degree, you will most likely also be required to complete a certain number of hours in a clinical setting.

What Is the Median Salary of a Rehabilitation Counselor?

In 2011, the median annual salary of all rehabilitation counselors was $37,070, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Salaries of these professionals is often determined by their experience, area of specialization and place of employment. For instance rehabilitation counselors offering vocational rehabilitation services earned a median salary of $32,890, while those working in general and surgical hospitals made $51,900.