Rehabilitation therapists help people overcome physical injuries, mental illnesses, and addictions by providing individualized recovery programs. Physical therapists teach people how to regain strength after debilitating injuries or illnesses, and mental health therapists provide counseling and resources to individuals suffering from developmental disabilities or substance abuse problems. To become a rehabilitation therapist in either specialty, a person must generally obtain at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and pass certain local licensing requirements.
A high school or college student who wants to become a rehabilitation therapist can prepare for his or her eventual career by taking science, health, and psychology classes. Science and health courses provide a basic understanding of human anatomy and physiology, while psychology courses teach the fundamentals of the brain and behavior. In undergraduate courses, a prospective physical therapist usually attends classroom and laboratory courses to learn more about the body's chemistry and functions. A student who wants to become a rehabilitation therapist in a mental facility or treatment center might focus on psychology, counseling, and sociology courses to gain insight into addiction and therapy strategies.
Some people are able to find work as rehabilitation therapists or assistants after completing bachelor's programs, though most individuals choose to pursue advanced degrees. Master's and doctoral degree programs for physical rehabilitation therapists consist of intensive classroom, laboratory, and clinical training. A student learns about diagnosing problems, creating treatment plans, and carrying them out. Upper-level mental rehabilitation coursework consists of classroom instruction on different types of addiction and mental illness, as well as practical internships at hospitals, mental health facilities, or treatment centers. Students who obtain doctoral degrees are usually awarded the most job opportunities after graduation.
A graduate must usually pass a licensing exam which is usually given by his or her state or country to become a rehabilitation therapist and begin practicing independently. Licensing requirements vary between different locations, though most physical therapy exams are designed to test an individual's general knowledge of therapy techniques, ethics, and safety precautions. Mental health and substance abuse rehabilitation therapists are often required to take written and practical exams to become licensed counselors.
Once an individual meets all the the requirements to become a rehabilitation therapist, he or she can begin an important, rewarding career. Therapists give disabled persons the opportunity to regain independence, find work, and restore relationships with friends and family. There is generally a strong demand for skilled rehabilitation therapists in all settings to help others live more fulfilling lives.