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What is a Rehabilitation Counselor?

Have you ever wondered, ‘what is a rehabilitation counselor?’ These counselors are like life coaches who help people with disabilities live full and independent lives.

Have you ever wondered, ‘what is a rehabilitation counselor?’ These counselors are like life coaches who help people with disabilities live full and independent lives. Rehabilitation counselors provide support, resources, and guidance to help their clients succeed.

That’s what one rehabilitation counselor did to help a legally blind woman in Utah start her own at-home business selling cinnamon rolls. The counselor, Janell Jarman, helped baker Leslie Alexander acquire raised buttons for kitchen appliances, a label-reading machine, and a scale that reads weights out loud, according to the KSL-TV. These adaptations helped Alexander find success after losing her vision.

What Does a Rehabilitation Counselor Do?

Perhaps more so than any other branch of counseling, rehabilitation counselors work with an incredibly wide variety of clients with disabilities. This can include people with visual or hearing impairments, developmental disabilities, or those returning from war with injuries. In addition, clients can vary in age.

Depending on a client’s need, these counselors can provide different services, and they often work in conjunction with other rehabilitation-related professionals, such as occupational, cognitive, and speech therapists.

Within rehabilitation counseling, there are two main sub-fields: clinical and vocational rehabilitation counseling. Clinical rehabilitation counselors focus on the psychosocial impacts of disability. These counselors often work is in hospitals, more specifically, rehabilitation centers.

Vocational rehabilitation counselors focus mainly on helping clients enter or return to the workforce, and they often work with governmental rehabilitation agencies, such as the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission or the Veterans Administration (VA). One VA rehabilitation counselor helped U.S. Army veteran Kenny Ringgold earn a degree and eventually a full-time job after he was injured while in the service.

“(My counselor) kept in contact with me throughout the whole process,” Ringgold, who suffered a hip injury while deployed abroad, said via the VA’s website. “If I had any problems, I was told to see them. If I struggled with a class, they asked how they could help — like supply a tutor or whatever I needed — and they did that. And if you feel like you’re not going to make it, they give you encouragement and good advice.

“If it wasn’t for my counselor, I would probably not be where I am now. He was a big influence and encouraged me every step of the way to complete what I started.”

Pull quote: “If it wasn’t for my counselor, I would probably not be where I am now.” - U.S. Army veteran Kenny Ringgold

Career Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected that more than 15,000 new jobs in rehabilitation counseling will be added by 2026. The field’s growth rate is twice the national average with more than 119,000 rehabilitation counselors employed.

The BLS reported that, in 2017, the median annual rehabilitation counselors’ salary was $34,860, but one way that counselors can improve their salary and résumé is with certification. In addition to degree programs, there are certifications that are accredited by nationally recognized boards, such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Being certified by an accrediting board adds value to your résumé and qualifications as a counselor, opening more doors to new jobs and career advancement.

Education Requirements and Desired Skills

As a counselor, you need to become an expert in a number of specific skills, such as active listening, comprehension, organization, and planning. When you combine these abilities, you’ll be able to expertly manage your client’s progress.

At a minimum, rehabilitation counselors are expected to hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a related field, such as psychology. With a degree in psychology, you’ll learn the foundational aspects necessary for providing guidance and mentorship to people who need your help.

Lesley University’s online BA in Psychology is a flexible, online format allows you to complete your education while balancing your busy life, and with transfer credits, you can earn your degree in as little as two years. With small class sizes and affordable tuition, Lesley University is the right place to start your journey to become a rehabilitation counselor.