How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor
Rehabilitation counselors may need to complete a period of supervised clinical experience as part of a master’s degree.
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 degree program. Master’s degree programs teach students the theories, skills, and techniques that will enable them 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 clinical experience, 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. Students in bachelor’s degree programs learn about issues that people with disabilities face and about the process of providing rehabilitation services. Some universities offer dual-degree programs in rehabilitation counseling, in which students can earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in 5 years.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
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. For example, rehabilitation counselors who provide only vocational rehabilitation services or job placement assistance may not need a license.
Licensure typically 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. To maintain their licensure, counselors must complete annual continuing education credits.
Applicants should contact their state licensing board 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.
Some employers prefer or require rehabilitation counselors to be certified. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification offers the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) certification. Applicants must meet advanced education, work experience, and clinical supervision requirements and pass a test. Certification must be renewed every 5 years. Counselors must complete continuing education requirements or pass a reexamination to renew their certification.
Communication skills. Rehabilitation counselors need to be able to effectively communicate with clients. They must express ideas and information in a way that is easy to understand.
Compassion. Counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations. They must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.
Critical-thinking skills. Counselors must be able to develop a treatment plan to help clients reach their goals by considering each client’s abilities and interests.
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 good working relationships.
Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for rehabilitation counselors. They need to give their full attention in sessions in order to understand clients’ 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 their disabilities.