Become a Rehabilitation Counselor – Schooling and Degree Guide [2024 Updated]

What is a Rehabilitation Counselor?

A rehabilitation counselor helps people become more independent. While some people might take their independence for granted, other people struggle with it.

A rehabilitation counselor focuses on helping people lead more independent, self-sufficient lives. They might help someone gain employment, arrange for travel to help someone get to where they need to go or they may just focus on helping someone through a rough patch in their lives.

Rehabilitation counselors help people set goals and establish a plan for working towards them. Those that are disabled, whether temporarily or permanently, might find that working with a rehabilitation counselor can go a long way towards helping them gain much need independence.

More specifically, these professionals work with clients and patients to help them manage the social, personal, and professional aspects of their lives, so that they can experience independent living.

To become a rehabilitation counselor, you need to earn a master’s degree (or higher) in rehabilitation counseling, or a related field. It is important to note that some rehabilitation counseling positions also require a license and/or certification in the field.

What is a Pediatric Rehabilitation Counselor?

While we often think of children as jovial and worry-less beings, unfortunately, this is not always the case. Pediatric rehabilitation counselors work with children experiencing a range of issues.

Children that work with rehabilitation counselors typically have experienced some sort of trauma in their life including rape, violence, divorce, and more. Depending on the counselor’s preferences, they may choose to cater to several populations or tailor a private practice toward a particular population, for example, children that have lost a parent.

These professional counselors help children overcome life issues by assessing the child’s needs and setting specific treatment goals. Depending on the particular situation, pediatric rehabilitation counselors use a variety of methods to address the needs of their young clients.

In addition to working with children who have experienced emotional and psychological trauma, pediatric rehabilitation counselors also work with children with disabilities.

Rehabilitation counselors for children are highly trained specialists. To practice in this field, you will need to complete a master’s degree and become licensed in the state you wish to practice.

Generally speaking, individuals who want to become pediatric rehabilitation counselors obtain a master’s in mental health counseling, counseling psychology, or another related field and then pursue additional certifications, such as play therapy.

What is the Role of a Rehabilitation Counselor?

Rehabilitation counselors work with individuals who have a disability or health condition that impacts upon their ability to work, learn or live independently. They work to assess their clients abilities and needs and evaluate them for provision of assistance services.

Rehabilitation counselors work in close collaboration with other professionals to fully assess and understand the needs of their clients as well as securing them appropriate support from locally available services.

Rehabilitation counselors often act as an advocate for their client when applying for support and provision of services and, subsequently, as a coordinator service to ensure the maximum benefits for their clients.

As well as providing this case-management role, rehabilitation counselors also work closely in discussing issues with their clients. They have an acute understanding of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities and serious health conditions and an excellent awareness of the positive benefits that education and employment can have upon people.

Rehabilitation counselors work with each client to set highly individualized plans for rehabilitation, setting goals to ensure progression towards self-sufficiency or independence. They also provide support to help individuals find appropriate job training opportunities or work placements.

While these schemes are ongoing, the rehabilitation counselor will keep in close contact with their client to establish if there are any issues and to help resolve them. In doing so, this helps the counselor to identify current barriers to employment and allows them to work with their client to find appropriate solutions.

Alternatively, once their client is ready, their role may involve close working with employers to ensure provision for additional needs can be met to allow their client to enter employment.

What Does a Rehabilitation Counselor Do?

A professional in this field might focus on helping someone with a disability, whether that disability involves mental, emotional, physical, social or even employment difficulties. Those that seek this kind of counselor might suffer from chronic pain, mental retardation, deafness, learning disabilities, autism, depression or even substance abuse.

Working as a rehabilitation counselor, you will most likely work with people with a wide range of disabilities including:

  • Physical or mobility issues
  • Mental Illness
  • Brain injury
  • Chronic Diseases
  • Substance Abuse or Addictions
  • Sensory impairments such as deafness or blindness
  • Communication or language disorders.

The role of rehabilitation counseling is expected to grow much faster than the average job growth, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are a number of reasons for this ranging from more insurance companies covering these types of services to more people seeking these kinds of services.

As a rehabilitation counselor, you can make a big difference in someone’s life helping people overcome obstacles that pave the way towards a more productive life.

Other job duties might include providing group or individualized counseling, evaluating client’s abilities or experience, developing treatment plans, consulting with psychologists or other mental health professionals or even arranging for a client’s medical care or other type of service. You might be working with people from all walks of life from a veteran to someone with physical or mental impairments.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor?

In order to become a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, better known as a CRC, you must obtain a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a similar field of study.

Most master’s degrees programs require at least 2-3 years of school beyond the typical bachelor’s level covering areas such as assessment, career development and treatment planning and things like counseling theories and strategies. Accredited programs should incorporate extensive clinical experience that is also supervised.

Licensure requirements will vary according the state you live in. A good reference to check with for state requirements is the National Board for Certified Counselors.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor?

Typically, it takes 6-8 years to become a rehabilitation counselor, including the time spent completing your undergraduate degree, master’s degree, supervised experience, and obtaining state counselor licensure. Its is important to note that the exact time frame can vary depending on your individual circumstances or any specific requirements in your state.

What Skills and Qualities are Needed for a Rehabilitation Counselor?

The role of the rehabilitation counselor is to work closely with people who have disabilities to promote an independent lifestyle. The work can be challenging as they may encounter people at particularly stressful times in their lives. Therefore, in addition to the educational qualifications needed for this role, a particular skill set and personality traits are required to be effective.

Rehabilitation counselors must be:

  • Compassionate – they must be able to understand the difficulties others are facing and approach dealings with them in a positive, patient and respectful way.
  • Excellent communicators – they must be able to listen well to others, picking up on subtle details and asking appropriate, insightful questions to truly grasp their client’s situations. They must also be able to convey solutions to their clients in a clear and concise way.
  • Observant – clients may have difficulty explaining their situation and the counselor must be able to observe efficiently to ensure they are truly understanding the difficulties faced.
  • Able to think critically – they should be able to look at different options and solutions, analyze each of them in turn and make an informed decision after considering the benefits and drawbacks of each.
  • Efficient problem solving – their work will be unique on a case by case basis, they should be able to see individual problems and find innovative solutions to maximize the benefits to each client.
  • Effective decision makers – for each situation they are trying to overcome for a client, there may be several solutions. They must be able to consider the costs and benefits of each before confidently arriving at a decision.
  • Persuasive – they must be able to convince others of the benefits of their solutions and encourage clients to adopt them.
  • A true passion for their work – finding a solution for a particular situation may be time consuming and difficult, without a true passion for helping others in this way, it may be easy to become discouraged.

What is Salary and Job Outlook for Rehabilitation Counselors?

According to ZipRecruiter, as of February 2024, a rehabilitation counselor on average earns $61,313 a year, which averages to approximately $29 an hour. Top earners in this field on average make $102,000 per year.

Job outlook is good and anticipated to grow at at a rate of 11% from 2021-2031. As a rehabilitation counselor you fill an important role in the fact that you are helping people overcome limitations and disabilities they may be struggling with.

With so many people in need, this is a very rewarding field if you pride yourself as being a kind and compassionate person.

What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling?

Careers you may be able seek with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling:

Mental Health Counselors

With a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, you may be able seek employment as a mental health counselor. Mental health counselors help clients and patients cope with mental illnesses, psychological disorders, and relationship/friendship/family issues.

These health professionals assess the mental health and well-being of clients by asking questions, and listening carefully to the responses. The goal of a mental health counselor is to help clients and patients recognize triggers, address issues, and employ healthy problem-solving and coping strategies, so they can improve their lives.

Occupational Therapists

You may also be able seek employment as an occupational therapist with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. An occupational therapist treats clients and patients, suffering from illnesses, chronic health conditions (i.e. mobility-related), injuries, and/or disabilities. They also aid in the recovery process by teaching these individuals how to work, and perform daily functions, as they heal.

Social Services Managers

Another career that you may seek with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling is a social services manager. These professionals typically work at hospitals, shelters (i.e. homeless and domestic violence), churches, camps, social services/government agencies, rehabilitation treatment centers, etc.

Social services managers provide emotional and physical support, resources, and services to clients and patients. The goal of these managers is to improve the clients’ and patients’ quality of life.

24-Hour Crisis Specialists (Phone & Online)

This may sound odd, but with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, you may seek employment as a 24-hour crisis specialist. Crisis specialists provide psychology-related services, both on the phone, and on online. These crisis services include: suicidal prevention, crisis resolution, bereavement support, and substance abuse resources.

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