How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor
Most employers require rehabilitation counselors to have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field.
Rehabilitation counselors typically need a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. Some positions require certification or a license.
Most employers require a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s-level program. Master’s degree programs teach students the theories, skills, and techniques to provide effective mental health counseling. These programs also train students in evaluating clients’ needs, formulating and implementing job placement strategies, and understanding the medical and psychological aspects of a disability. They typically require a period of supervised experience or training, such as an internship.
Although some employers hire workers with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and disability studies, these workers typically cannot offer the full range of services that a rehabilitation counselor with a master’s degree can provide. Bachelor’s degree programs teach students about issues that people with disabilities face and about the process of providing rehabilitation services.
Licensing requirements for rehabilitation counselors differ by state and by type of services provided. Those providing counseling services to clients and patients must attain a license through their state licensing board. Other services provided by rehabilitation counselors, however, may be exempt from state licensing requirements. Rehabilitation counselors providing only vocational rehabilitation services or job placement assistance, for example, may not need a license.
Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education credits. Applicants should contact the state licensing boards for information on what services or counseling positions require licensure. Contact information for these state licensing boards can be found through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification website.
Some employers prefer or require rehabilitation counselors to be Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC). Applicants must meet advanced education, work experience, and clinical supervision requirements and pass a test. Counselors must complete continuing education requirements or pass a reexamination to renew their certification. For more information, contact the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.
Communication skills. Rehabilitation counselors need to be able to communicate with clients effectively, expressing ideas and information in a way that is easily understood.
Compassion. Counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.
Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for rehabilitation counselors, who spend most of their time working directly with clients, families, employers, or other professionals. They must be able to develop and maintain a good working relationship.
Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for rehabilitation counselors, who need to give their full attention to clients in order to understand their problems, concerns, and values.
Patience. To help people learn new skills and strategies, rehabilitation counselors must have patience as clients struggle to learn about and address the impact of their disabilities.