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What is Rehabilitation Counseling?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett

Rehabilitation counseling is counseling for people with disabilities that is designed to help individuals achieve their personal and professional goals. Generally, independence and a sense of worth are considered highly valuable by rehabilitation counseling specialists, and the end goal of this type of counseling is to produce adults who succeed by their own standards even though they are disabled. Counselors of this type may work in schools, rehabilitation centers, and private practices, but in all of these cases rehabilitation counselors work with people who have some type of disability. That disability may be physical or mental, mild or severe. Success when working in this field is difficult to determine, because each case is highly individual.

In most cases, rehabilitation counseling is a long process that involves evaluating goals, helping an individual meet those goals, and dealing with problems along the way. For counseling to be successful, the individual must have goals that can reasonably be met in the face of the particular disability. While no counselor wishes to call a dream unreasonable, it is sometimes difficult for a person who has become disabled later in life to accept that goals that were once possible are no longer reasonable. Rehabilitation counseling for people who have gone through accidents is therefore often more difficult than for those who are fully accepting of their disabilities.


Goals in rehabilitation counseling vary, but they usually involve getting an individual to meet his or her vocational and personal goals. This typically includes obtaining a specific type of job and establishing an independent living situation. Other features, like getting involved in a favorite activity or engaging in relationships, are also sometimes covered in counseling sessions. Often, the primary focus of rehabilitation counseling is vocational, because, through vocational success, an individual can often achieve an independent living situation and social connections as well.

Not every individual is destined for the same type of success. Determining what an individual's goal should be depends on the person. For example, a severely disabled person may never live independently in the sense that he or she will never live alone, but even a person with severe disabilities may someday wish to live outside of a familial home. In these cases, a rehabilitation counselor must present viable options and talk through potential problems with those options.

Some rehabilitation counseling specialists are employed to help people succeed in a specific environment, such as a school. The specialist may help facilitate access to materials, housing, and other possible problem areas. As each disability is unique, the specialist must design a program that fits the individual. This way, equal opportunities are available even to people with disabilities.

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