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Rehabilitation counseling and placement.

The rehabilitation counselor remains the most clearly identified and competent rehabilitation personnel worker. This phenomenon is supported by a more than 36-year history of legislative support for the profession of rehabilitation, a comprehensive rehabilitation education system, and the assurance of the need for more rehabilitation professionals as indicated by the increasing needs of clients seeking empowerment and independence.

Let's first look at one subset of rehabilitation specialists--those whose roles include job placement activities. They may have degrees in rehabilitation counseling or come from some other discipline, but they can easily fit within the mission of the rehabilitation counselor.

The Role of Job Placement in Rehabilitation Counseling

Placement in competitive employment is the ultimate goal of vocational rehabilitation. Placement is the criteria by which case managers are effectively measured and by which the funding and rehabilitation in both the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors is measured. Yet, for many rehabilitationists, placement is still not something they want defined as part of their job activities. Numerous studies in the rehabilitation literature, including a paper in a recent issue of American Rehabilitation (Volume 16, Number 3, Autumn 1990): "A Research Based Innovative Placement Program" by David Vandergoot and Victoria Wenzel, show the importance of placement in the whole rehabilitation process. Ideally, job placement counselors should be the best paid, most qualified, and the most ideally trained people in rehabilitation settings. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Within some state vocational rehabilitation agencies there are specialists in placement counseling. When this is the case, these professionals often achieve salaries at a higher level than their not-for-profit facility counterparts. In facilities, the focus can either be on placement workers who focus on competitive employment or those who place in the area of supported employment.

Another area for employment in placement counseling is in the for-profit rehabilitation sector. These placement personnel are usually paid at a higher level. Often, additional benefits are offered in these jobs, such as a company car or car expense reimbursement. The focus in the for-profit sector is on return to work and closures which are marked by a job placement or an insurance settlement. Placement counselors in these settings are also valued as an integral part of the rehabilitation case management system. The rapport that develops between the placement worker and the employer in placement counseling is extremely important.

Other places that professionals interested in working with people with disabilities can function as job placement counselors include local offices of the United States Employment Service that specialize in working with people with disabilities, working in university settings on the placement of students with disabilities, and working for various for-profit employment services with a specialization in working with people with disabilities. Other federally funded programs, such as Job Training Partnership' Act (JTPA) programs, are avenues for people who are not actively within the formal rehabilitation setting but want to work in placement counseling settings with people who have disabilities.

Placement as a Stepping Stone

Many job placement counselors move from their job placement activities to other jobs in rehabilitation, such as rehabilitation counselor, rehabilitation case manager, or rehabilitation administrator. Rarely do rehabilitationists make a career of job placement unless they move into the administration of placement activities.

While a vital and important role in rehabilitation settings, job placement seems to be a stepping stone or entry level job in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. This is perfectly acceptable from the writers' perspective as long as rehabilitationists do not forget their "placement roots" when they move up to counseling, administrative, or supervisory positions; do not denigrate the placement workers they hire to replace themselves; and see placement directed towards competitive employment as one of the most valuable activities in rehabilitation counseling.

Whether the rehabilitation counselor becomes actively engaged in placement counseling activities or whether the counselor shares placement activities with a specialist in job placement, the focus must be on the best interests of the client. In some rehabilitation settings in the for-profit sector or when an actual placement is made in the not-for-profit area, rehabilitation workers receive a financial bonus for placement activities carried out beyond their billable hours. This is another incentive and keeps the more active, energetic rehabilitation placement personnel enthusiastic about their jobs.

Preparing for a Career in Rehabilitation

The work of rehabilitation counselors has changed dramatically with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, or PL 101-336). As empowerment has become the goal for consumers, the role of rehabilitation counselors has shifted from the traditional, clinical model to one of promoting self-advocacy and community development.

A master's degree through a program accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) remains the ideal model for entry into the field of professional rehabilitation counseling and allows for the easiest avenue to certification by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).

Rehabilitation counselors are unique in their academic preparation. Coursework in the history of disability, social policy, community resources, medical and technological information, vocational assessment, career development and counseling, and architectural barriers and job modifications is delivered in the context of the experience of disability. This background equips the rehabilitation counselor to function as counselor/advocate/information specialist. The community as well as the consumer has become the target for intervention.

By nature of their training requirements as described in the standards of CORE and its Commission on Standards of Accreditation, rehabilitation counselors educated in CORE programs should be competent professionals eligible for national certification by CRCC.

CORE owes its beginnings to the support of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and the wisdom of some of the earliest university-based rehabilitation educators. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, training grants were given to a coalition of representatives of five sponsoring organizations to establish CORE. These included the Council on Rehabilitation Counselor Education, which eventually became the National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE); the Council of State Directors of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR); the National Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (NARF); the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (NRCA); and the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA). Representatives of these five organizations, working very closely with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, developed a new concept in the area of university-based accreditation, not based on the traditional site visit but validated by traditional site visits.

CORE now recognizes 77 accredited programs nationally. RSA continued funding CORE from 1972 until 1978, at which time the responsibilities for funding rehabilitation accreditation were turned over to the supporting organizations and the universities themselves. CORE is currently financially self-sufficient but would certainly be eligible for continued RSA funding in terms of research and development activities as it was at its inception. Now 20 years old, CORE is the guarantee for quality education for rehabilitation counseling. This profession is well defined by this accreditation program, an established certification process through CRCC, and a 36-year history of providing qualified personnel to work with disabled people in the United States.

CORE Content

Rehabilitation counselors learn a variety of concepts, facts, and techniques in a CORE accredited program. They learn the history of the rehabilitation movement and its legislation and are apprised of current developments in legislation and practice. They learn how to be ethical towards clients and peers. They learn about the psycho-social aspects of disabling conditions and how to help disabled people adjust to independence and employment. They learn about the medical aspects of disabilities. They learn about vocational evaluation and how to assess the vocational needs of clients. They learn how to place clients in jobs and to train them in job-seeking skills. They learn about labor market developments and projections and job analysis.

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) supports the rehabilitation training program by providing the means for researchers to produce innovative ideas which can then be translated into research utilization programs. Graduates of CORE Accredited Programs learn how to utilize this research. This is something that is rarely taught in onthe-job training. Graduates of CORE Accredited Programs have extensive practice hours with rehabilitation clients supervised by certified rehabilitation counselors before they actively enter the field. They have a minimum of 700 hours spent in one-to-one contact with people with disabilities under appropriate supervision doing evaluation, placement, and counseling activities. Rehabilitation counselors from CORE Accredited Programs understand the needs of people with disabilities and are empathic in the interaction of theory and practice that we like to call the Boulder Model, or the scientist/practitioner model, that allows them to facilitate their clients' progress to the next step.

Specialized Education

Specialized graduate programs, such as those in supported employment and rehabilitation technology, are embedded in traditional programs in rehabilitation counseling. These programs address all of the important aspects plus specialized training, such as in supported employment, understanding the place-train model, and how to interact as a consultant and mediator with employers of severely disabled people whose work follows a nontraditional model.

CORE-Based Professional Preparation

Rehabilitation counselors from a CORE Accredited Program can become efficient vocational evaluators, placement personnel, or supported employment specialists in rehabilitation. They have the broad base of rehabilitation knowledge to serve people with disabilities and they also have the ability to counsel, support, and deal with their clients from a humanistic, holistic, team approach.

Future Needs/Demands of Consumers

Consumers and rehabilitation counselors will become partners in promoting state accessibility legislation, in monitoring accessibility compliance, and in educating the public regarding adaptable and universal housing design. Rehabilitation counselors will join forces with consumers in educating employers about the requirements of ADA, the demands of the worksite, the uniqueness of the consumer, and the necessity for organizational change.

Consumers and rehabilitation counselors will combine to advocate for inclusion and integration within the public education system. School psychologists, school counselors, and special educators will require retraining in fundamental concepts such as determination, physical and programmatic access, assistive technology, and independent living. The new Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (or IDEA, formerly known as the Education for all Handicapped Children's Act) adds rehabilitation counseling to the related services needed by children with disabilities and specifies independent living and community participation as a goal of transition services. To meet these new guidelines, school personnel must become acquainted with consumers who are active, productive members of the community. The provision of rehabilitation counseling to promote the self-advocacy and self-esteem of school children with disabilities will further these transition goals.

Personalization of Services

As technical assistance becomes more accessible and affordable, the importance of personalizing decision making and supporting the decision makers during an adaptation process will become evident. Technicians are needed to design equipment, and rehabilitation counselors add psycho-social and vocational expertise to the utilization of assistive technology.

Rehabilitation counselors have a range of marketable skills which will be sought in the "post ADA era." The movement of the state-federal VR system toward an entry-level standard requiring academic preparation of a professional nature will transfer the state agency setting into a professional service. The VR system will grow in attractiveness as the employer of qualified rehabilitation counselors. Other agencies, such as mental health, mental retardation, and schools, will also seek qualified rehabilitation counselors as they strive to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Post ADA

With the full provisions of ADA in place, employers, and American society at large, will sit up and pay attention to the issues of access, equal opportunity, transportation, and the like for people who have disabilities. There may be some uncertainty, unfamiliarity, and fear on the part of employers and business people when they are required to address these issues, but counselors can, and must, take a lead role in encouraging, educating, and helping to make employers and others aware that people with disabilities have a wide range of valuable skills and abilities. Rehabilitation counselors will be expected to provide this education and awareness to prospective employers, as knowledge of the law, worksite demands, and client abilities become critical factors. Rehabilitation counselors will also need to provide this education regarding rights and responsibilities to people with disabilities as well, so that they may be empowered to claim their full access and integration into all aspects of society.

Dr. Schiro-Geist is the Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a past president of the Council on Rehabilitation Education. Dr. Walker is Coordinator of the Rehabilitation Counselor Training Program at Kent State University in Ohio and is also the current president of the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association. Ms. Nunez is Rehabilitation Supervisor for the New Jersey and New York office of Continental Rehabilitation Resources and is the immediate past president of the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association.
COPYRIGHT 1992 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Careers in Rehabilitation
Author:Nunez, Pat
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Jun 22, 1992
Previous Article:Working with people who have severe psychiatric disabilities.
Next Article:Vocational evaluation as a career.

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