What does a Rehab Counselor do?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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A rehab counselor helps people with assorted personal challenges get their lives back on track so they can be self-sufficient, functional members of society. He traditionally assesses a client’s needs through interviews and recommends paths that may lead to rehabilitation. His role generally requires him to be an empathetic source of practical solutions for typically complex problems and situations. Counselors often are employed at rehabilitation clinics, hospitals and schools.

The range of problems a rehab counselor’s clients experience is normally diverse. Some clients may have to face multiple problems at the same time. Common difficulties that require the intervention of a rehab counselor include physical, mental and emotional handicaps. These problems are often exacerbated by unemployment, domestic unrest and the stress associated with daily living.

Deciding on the best solutions for a client’s problems generally requires a considerable number of evaluation processes that are typically initiated by the rehab counselor. His first step is traditionally an informal interview with the client. This interaction normally provides him with the basic crux of the problem. Since the root of the problem is generally not self-evident, this stage of evaluation can be difficult.


Once the problem has been isolated as much as possible, the counselor customarily reviews the client’s job, medical and educational histories. When he determines the most likely source of discord, he may contact other professionals who may have insight into the client’s problems and offer possible solutions. These professionals may have had previous contact with the client or experience with similar clients.

Following further analysis of the client’s situation, the rehab counselor ordinarily recommends paths to recovery. These often include job placement assistance, physical or psychological medical treatment, occupational therapy or a combination thereof. Prior to making solid recommendations, the counselor usually talks to the client and his family to get their feedback on the suggestions.

Aside from dealing with clients and industry professionals, a rehab counselor is generally required to maintain detailed records on his clients. He is also typically expected to regularly prepare reports and summaries for management that may affect staffing and funding. Letters of referral are frequently required for his clients to be accepted into certain rehabilitation programs or facilities.

A rehab counselor can be employed by private clinics or hospitals or at publicly-funded facilities, agencies and schools. He commonly has ties to professionals within the community who can facilitate client enrollment into applicable programs and therapy groups. At live-in or long-term care facilities, his job may require him to plan and implement rehabilitative programs for clients and residents.

To qualify for this position, the applicant is typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, rehabilitation or a related discipline. Some employers may require a master’s degree in one or more of these fields. In certain regions, special certificates may also be required to practice as a rehab counselor.


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