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Rehabilitation counseling is a rapidly evolving profession which entered the field of human services about 50 years ago. Early rehabilitation counselors had the general goal of returning the individual with disability to functioning as effectively as possible, in order that he/she could become self-supporting.

In the ensuing 50 years, the country's rapid technological advancements made working with individuals with disabilities more complex. Among the complexities that affected the rehabilitation counselor were technical advances in prosthetic devices, medications, assessment, and therapeutic approaches to counseling. In addition to being influenced by these same developments, individuals with disability were also affected by the increasingly demanding and complex world of work he/she hoped to enter. In the early 1950s, the federal government legislated the provision of services to new populations which included: individuals with mental retardation, individuals with psychiatric disabilities, older adults, and individuals who are economically deprived. Not only did these populations require specialized services, but also caused rehabilitation agencies to develop new goals and broader purposes. The combined effect of these advancements mandated the development of more highly trained rehabilitation counselors.

The modern concept of the rehabilitation counselor is one of a professional individual trained at the master's level from an accredited Rehabilitation Counseling Program who is skilled in individual counseling, assessment, vocational assistance and guidance, and in the use of occupational information. He or she is aware of special medical, social and psychological problems common to persons with physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities, and is skilled in the development of employment opportunities and work adjustment activities. The professional rehabilitation counselor of today is aware of community relations, client advocacy, and other factors that impinge upon the client's full participation in society.

The Scope of Practice Statement for Rehabilitation Counselors has been developed and endorsed by the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA), the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (NRCA), the Council on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC), and the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). The Scope of Practice Statement may be found in Appendix L of the Student Manual.

Graduates of Rehabilitation Counseling may seek employment in State Divisions/Departments of Vocational Rehabilitation, community or institutional settings in mental health or corrections, shelter-care facilities, special workshops for individuals with disability, programs for older adults, schools or hospitals for individuals with mental retardation, and other areas where there is a rehabilitation focus. A considerable number of graduates now enter private practice. Many programs for alcohol and substance abuse also employ rehabilitation counselors. In whatever setting the rehabilitation counselor finds him/herself, the central goal is the mobilization of varied skills and resources to enhance the full independence, freedom, and self-determination of the client.


Where do rehabilitation counselors work? The possibilities are endless and here are some of the most commonly types of employment are for:

  • For State/Federal vocational rehabilitation agencies (for example IL Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), PA Office of Debilitation Services (ORS), Florida Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, Kentucky office of vocational rehabilitation, and Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation Department.
  • Also, some chose to work with Veterans to provide comprehensive vocational services to veterans for re-entry into the workforce following their service.
  • Other social service agencies around the southern Illinois region, many graduates work in community mental health agencies, other social service agencies, substance abuse treatment agencies group homes serving persons with neurological disabilities, , or persons  who have developmental disabilities.
  • Some graduates take their specialized rehabilitation knowledge, skills, and abilities and work in postsecondary institutions. They can work in offices providing student disability services to students with varying disabilities.
  • Some even do some adjunct teachings in rehabilitation and many for on to seek a doctoral degree.
  • Another group of students choose to work in private rehabilitation where they work with injured workers and facilitate their re-entry to employment.
  • Potential employment for rehabilitation counselors is pervasive and well-trained rehabilitation counselors have many opportunities for employment.

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