How to Become a Rehab Therapist
Rehab therapists or counselors are people who help people with disabilities to live full and independent lives. Rehab therapists also help those people to accomplish their personal goals. Whether clients hope to return to a much-loved job or move into an apartment, rehab therapists help them acquire the skills and strategies they need to succeed. Rehab therapists also play an important role in raising public awareness about disability issues and achieving social justice for this undeserved population of people.
Rehab therapists quite commonly work with a wide range of people including:
- People with a mobility impairment
- People with a mental illness
- People with traumatic brain injury
- People with chronic disease
- People with addiction and substance abuse
- People with impairment such as blindness and deafness
- People with language and communication disorders
Rehab therapists understand the social, emotional, and occupational barriers their clients face. To help people with disabilities especially those with addiction and substance abuse, rehab therapists need to explore what they need and prefer. In many cases those people with addiction and substance abuse need sobriety and ways to stay sober. Once that goal is identified, rehab therapists, work together with their client to develop necessary strategies of staying sober. This might involve role-playing, learning new coping skills, job modification and so much more. As needed the counselor connects the client with helpful organizations and community resources such as 12 step programs or outpatient programs. Rehab therapists also will work with employers to help them accommodate to on the job needs of people with disabilities.
So how do you become a rehab therapist?
- Most vocational rehabilitation counselor jobs require a master’s degree in vocational counseling, rehabilitation counseling, or counseling psychology. A bachelor’s degree in social services, counseling, or psychology is a good foundation for this career choice. Graduate coursework leading to a master’s degree in rehabilitative counseling can typically be completed in two years. Courses will include disability studies, the theory and practice of counseling, psychology, rehabilitation, case management, and educational and community services. Before enrolling, students should check to see if the university or online program is accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). A degree from a CORE-accredited program opens up more career options.
- After completing their coursework, vocational rehabilitation counselors put in at least 600 hours of clinical training with a qualified rehabilitation counselor. Many schools help to arrange an internship or counseling job for their students.
- Counselors can find employment without having a professional credential, but will broaden their opportunities by obtaining a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) or Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential. Most state and federal rehabilitation programs will only hire CRC counselors, as will be the case with other select programs.
- Another option is to be certified as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). This involves qualifying to take a state licensing exam (usually a master’s degree and a specified number of hours of supervised clinical experience) and passing it. Be sure to check licensing regulations for counselors in the state you plan to work as they vary greatly from state to state.
- Good communication and problem-solving skills are required in order to work in counseling jobs, as well as empathy and the desire to help people fulfill their goals. Counselors must also have good listening skills, compassion, and patience while working with clients.