Rehabilitation counselors are professionals who help patients set and work toward goals relating to moving on with life after some type of physical or emotional trauma. Often, the rehabilitation counselor will provide support and counseling to people who must learn to live with disabilities of some type, including offering ideas on vocational training options as well as exploring ways the patient can enjoy at least a measure of independent living. Health care careers of this type often require that the counselor be trained and certified, as well as possess the ability to convey empathy and basic therapy to patients who are working through the reality of their new life circumstances.
In order to work as a rehabilitation counselor, most jurisdictions and employers require some form of education and training. Often, this takes the form of successfully completing an accredited counselor education program. Programs of this nature are offered at many colleges and universities. Degree programs related to rehabilitation counseling typically require two to four years study and may be augmented with an internship or clinical studies. This allows the student to put knowledge acquired in the classroom into practical use while still pursuing the degree.
Along with securing the proper educational credentials, a rehabilitation counselor must also be certified. In some countries, this is accomplished by successfully completing an exam administered by a federal agency. Other countries provide certification via testing that is administered by a local government, such as a state or parish. In order to apply for the exam, the prospective counselor must comply with all the educational requirements established by the agency administering the test.
Once certification is obtained, it is possible for the rehabilitation counselor to work in many different types of counseling jobs related to rehabilitation. Many choose to work directly with patients who are undergoing rehabilitation in a hospital or rehabilitation center. Others choose to work within the insurance industry, evaluating patients who are currently undergoing some form of rehabilitation. Professionals of this type may also be employed with government agencies and provide the function of evaluating individuals before disability benefits are approved. It is even possible for the counselor to establish his or her own private practice, choosing to work with specific types of rehabilitation issues.
Rehabilitation and vocational counseling professionals make a huge difference in the quality of life enjoyed by people who must learn to live with some type of disability. A competent counselor can help patients identify ways to do things for themselves, learn to accept help with things they can no longer accomplish on their own, and even develop new skills that can open the door for a whole new line work. For many, the work of the rehabilitation counselor makes it possible to move on from a past trauma and begin to enjoy life once more.