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The National Rehabilitation Counseling Association.

History and Philosophy

The National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (NRCA) is the oldest and largest professional organization representing rehabilitation counselors. It was founded in 1958 as the first professional division within NRA (NRCA Constitution, 1958). The founding rehabilitation counselors envisioned an organization that would advance rehabilitation counseling as a profession emphasizing the counseling relationship as the basic component of rehabilitation services. This philosophy distinguishes NRCA from other rehabilitation associations.

Entering the 21st century NRCA's membership roots have broadened to reflect the expansion of rehabilitation counseling beyond the state-federal program. Today this membership is comprised of rehabilitation counselors who work in a myriad of settings which include private for profit, private non-profit, public sector, and self employment. Despite this expansion of membership the philosophy that led to the chartering of NRCA still holds true: Rehabilitation counseling is a profession, rather than a particular skill area within the context of general counseling or guidance, that transcends the variety of employment settings, for example, state-federal, mental health, drug, and hospital programs.

While NRCA is proud of its distinguished history, it recognizes that it must also build on that history in order to flourish. This is the continuing challenge to the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association and the basis of its accomplishments.

Purpose and Mission

The Preamble to the original constitution states that the purpose of the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association is to provide standards of professional conduct and performance for its members (NRCA Constitution, 1985). Through the years this role has expanded to meet the changing needs of a maturing profession, and to consolidate accomplishments in meeting the professional agenda. There are four major landmarks in the history of NRCA and the professionalization of rehabilitation counseling: The establishment of (1) the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC), and (2) the Council On Rehabilitation Education (CORE); and the development of (3) the Code of Ethics and (4) the Scope of Practice statement.

CRCC was developed in 1973 as a joint venture between NRCA and the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA) (McAlees, 1993). Their aim was to establish professional standards in order to enhance the quality of service delivery to people with disabilities. CRC certification demonstrates attainment of a specified level of knowledge and supervised work experience relevant to the practice of rehabilitation. Since the founding of CRCC by NRCA and ARCA--the two major organizations representing rehabilitation counselors--a variety of other rehabilitation organizations have joined in support of CRCC and become members of its governing body (McAlees, 1993 & CRCC Certification Guide, 1981).

NRCA was one of five major rehabilitation organizations that provided the impetus for the development of CORE. Established in 1971 and incorporated in 1972, CORE provides accreditation of Rehabilitation Counseling Education Programs (CORE, 1994). NRCA maintains representation on the Council, and affirms its continuing commitment to the policy that graduate preparation be considered prerequisite for entry level positions in the profession of Rehabilitation Counseling. CORE's mission is to ensure that graduates attain the requisite knowledge and skills to deliver quality professional rehabilitation services to people with disabilities, promote programs for professional self-improvement for rehabilitation counselors, and help meet employment needs of public and private rehabilitation agencies through providing graduate training.

NRCA, ARCA, and CRCC jointly established the Rehabilitation Counseling Code of Ethics and Scope of Practice Statement. These documents set requisite ethical and professional conduct and practice guidelines for the rehabilitation counseling profession (Patterson, 1988).

In 1993 NRCA began revisiting its values and mission statement to ensure that the purposes of the association continue to effect actual needs of the membership and the professional rehabilitation counseling community. The association's efforts culminated in the development of a five-year strategic plan ratified by the 1993 NRCA delegate assembly. This plan predicates that the purposes of NRCA are to (1) advance the professional practice of rehabilitation counseling through establishing standards of education and practice, and (2) initiate support programs to enhance the ability of persons with disabilities to become as self-sufficient as possible, in order to maximize opportunities for fulfilling their role by right to become fully contributing members of society (NRCA, 1994).


As a professional association NRCA seeks to improve rehabilitation counseling effectiveness through providing training experiences, holding professional meetings, encouraging and supporting research and publications, and by formulating a strategic five-year plan to address current issues facing the rehabilitation counseling profession. The five-year plan highlights the following goals: (1) Membership Satisfaction and Growth, (2) Professionalism, (3) Advocacy, and (4) Quality Management (NRCA, 1994).

Membership goals reflect NRCA's intention to provide quality services to members of the association. Opportunities are provided to professional rehabilitation counselors for active and diverse involvement in leadership roles on campus, city, state, region, and national levels, thus fostering communication between the organization and the membership (NRCA, 1994).

With respect to Professionalism NRCA intends to identify and promote excellence in the provision of rehabilitation counseling practice to people with disabilities. Specific components supported by NRCA enhancing professionalism include adherence to the profession's ethical standards; promotion of required educational and experiential requirements for rehabilitation counselors, establishment of supportive professional organizations that credential rehabilitation counseling and protecting this process, installation of continuing educational opportunities for professional development, and insurance of continued support for the development of accreditation of rehabilitation counselor education programs (NRCA' 1994).

Advocacy goals include promoting a proactive posture on legislation affecting the practice of rehabilitation counseling, and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities to full participation in the complete range of society's opportunities, comprehensive services, and benefits (NRCA, 1994).

NRCA's Quality Management goal aims to foster the future of the association through creative management practices, by instituting effective short and long term planning and quality leadership development, while maintaining a stable expanding base of financial support (NRCA, 1994).

A critical issue for NRCA is counselor licensure. NRCA is committed to the policy that Rehabilitation Counseling be recognized as a licensable profession rather than a subset of skills of generic counseling. NRCA works to ensure that rehabilitation counseling be specified accordingly in counseling licensure laws. At this point in time, some states have recognized rehabilitation counseling as a licensable profession and the CRCC exam as criterion for licensure.

A second critical issue facing NRCA is membership of professionals and students entering the field of rehabilitation counseling. NRCA provides a forum of benefits for students in their participation in professional activities.

Membership and Benefits

There are six different membership statuses within NRCA. To become a Professional Member requires a master's degree from an accredited institution in rehabilitation counseling and one year work experience in a rehabilitation counseling setting, or a master's in a related field appropriate to rehabilitation counseling and two years work experience in a rehabilitation counseling setting, or certification by CRCC. Consistent with NRCA philosophy professional membership requires graduate training in rehabilitation counseling as the minimum standard (NRCA, 1988 & Mundt, 1986).

Member status is granted to those with a minimum of a Baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university, and work experience in the field of rehabilitation counseling. Student member is granted to students enrolled in a full-time accredited program in rehabilitation counseling. Affiliate member is offered to those employed in supporting, ancillary, or helping capacity in support of rehabilitation counseling practice. Emeritus member is given to retirees from professional practice who formerly were members, and who now apply for membership without continuing dues. Lastly, life member is available to anyone who meets the aforementioned criteria (NRCA, 1988 & Mundt, 1986).

Members of the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association enjoy a variety of benefits. The Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling (JARC) is a respected professional journal featuring articles at the cutting edge of current thinking about the profession. Practicing rehabilitation counselors are encouraged to contribute research and practical skill-based articles. The Professional Report (NRCA Newsletter) is published quarterly to keep members up-to-date on association activities? professional issues, approaches to practice, innovations in the field, and legislation affecting rehabilitation counseling (NRCA, 1988).

NRCA provides a comprehensive professional liability insurance plan with reasonable rates and excellent coverage available only to members. Membership in NRCA also enables one to participate in the Association's Certification Maintenance Plan. This plan allows counselors to participate in a number of professional growth and development activities and receive CRC, CIRS and NCC maintenance hours through pre-approval programs, and provides assistance with individual applications for attaining credits without customary cost.

NRCA provides opportunities for fellowship with peers and resulting professional growth. A wide range of professional growth activities and awareness programs are available to NRCA members at the state, regional, and national levels. Awareness programs include public relations and public service programs as well as organized legislative and other government affairs activities. A successful Professional Development Symposium, sponsored by NRCA each year, provides unique opportunities to learn new techniques, obtain cross training, and associate with colleagues from a multitude of employment settings.

Recognition programs at the state, regional, and national levels honor counselors whose achievements are outstanding. Several award categories have been established to recognize excellence. These include "Counselor of the Year," National Citations, Distinguished Service, and Rank of Fellow. Scholarships are given to rehabilitation counseling students to attend the NRA Governmental Affairs Conference. Membership privileges include membership in affiliated branches on the state and regional levels, along with participation in their meetings and activities. All members who are CRC's are eligible to hold office and serve on the national Board of Directors (NRCA, 1988).

Members are provided with a permanent presence in Washington to propose, track, and testify on legislation affecting the profession of rehabilitation counseling. NRCA is actively working with Congress, the Executive Branch, and the courts on vital issues affecting the profession. Membership dues help defray costs of the legislative effort, 4nd the provision of important information to the membership on how to make their professional commitments count at the highest policy levels.

Organizational Structure

The National Rehabilitation Counseling ASsociation is governed by a Delegate Assembly, whose membership is based on one delegate per ten members in each state. The Assembly meets annually for the purpose of conducting business of the Association and installing officers (NRCA, 1988).

The results of the elections are certified and announced. Ballots are mailed in early summer, and are counted at the conference site prior to the convening of the Delegate Assembly. Officers officially begin their term of office on January 1 of each year.

Board meetings and Executive Committee meetings are held at the annual NRA conference and immediately prior to the Professional Development Symposium. The on-going affairs of the Association are conducted by the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee. The Board of NRCA consists of its elected officers, including the immediate past President, three Board Members-at-large, the President and Presidents-Elect of each Regional Branch, the NRCA Representative to the NRA Board, and two student Board Members. The Executive Committee is comprised of the President, President Elect, the immediate Past President, the Secretary/Treasurer, two Board members selected by the president with board approval, and the NRCA Representative to the NRA Board (NRCA, 1988).

Program Activities

Emphasis is placed on student recruitment and retention. Student recruitment has been enhanced by the creation of a handbook to help rehabilitation counseling programs form student chapters. Student chapters get students involved immediately in NRCA and provide a forum for developing professionalism. A number of programs exist at the state and regional levels to assist students financially to attend national and regional conferences. Every year at the NRCA Professional Development Symposium students' research papers are highlighted and awards are given to the three best paper presentations at the masters level, and the three best doctoral level paper presentations,

A major yearly activity is the NRCA Professional Development Symposium. This symposium provides rehabilitation counseling professionals and other professionals (for example, evaluators, job placement specialists, and substance abuse counselors) the opportunity for intensive training at minimal cost. NRCA is committed to ensuring that participants obtain high quality training without interference of committee meetings and other activities which may conflict with attendance at training sessions (NRCA, 1988).

Of prime importance is the partnership between NRCA and ARCA. As noted above, NRCA and ARCA have worked together in the past on a number of crucial issues affecting rehabilitation counseling, particularly CRCC, CORE, and the Code of Ethics and Scope of Practice statements. Now, a new formal initiative has been undertaken by NRCA and ARCA to work together on similar concerns in mutual efforts in the areas of leadership, development, ethics, governmental relations, public education, and professional development. This effort has lead to the Alliance for Rehabilitation Counseling.

The Alliance for Rehabilitation Counseling was created in October 1993 as a formal organizational structure by the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association and the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association boards to marshal the strengths of both professional organizations into a powerful, meaningful, unified professional voice for rehabilitation counseling! This partnership simultaneously kinds the respective groups together while respecting their unique heritage and autonomy.

Because national certification and accreditation of training programs directly impact on the professionalism of rehabilitation counseling, NRCA remains active in both CRCC and CORE. NRCA actively affirms that graduate preparation be recognized as the minimum level of preparation for entry level employment as well as licensure and certification.

Finally, multi-culturalism constitutes a major initiative of NRCA. NRCA is committed to the inclusion of all races, ethnic groups, and communities. Of particular importance is providing training to enable counselors to improve services to ethnic minorities with disabilities. NRCA is committed to the recruitment of diverse populations into the NRCA professional organization, into the profession of rehabilitation counseling and, particularly, into NRCA leadership roles.


NRCA represents the interests of the rehabilitation counseling profession and remains committed to the following tenets:

(1) that Rehabilitation Counseling is a vital profession in the field of rehabilitation,

(2) that the Rehabilitation Counseling profession speak with a unified voice through the Alliance, and

(3) that the NRCA relationship with NRA is a partnership in order to properly fulfill NRCA's mission.

NRCA values striving for continued excellence in the delivery of the rehabilitation counseling services in the context of the diverse practice settings in which rehabilitation counselors actually find themselves. NRCA believes in helping members develop excellence as rehabilitation counselors. NRCA is committed to consumer advocacy and social activism as crucial aspects of professionalism. NRCA believes in the human worth and dignity of all people, including people with disabilities, in working out their unique life goals in the context of their right to full and equal participation in society.


CORE. (1994). Accreditation Manual. Council on Rehabilitation Education: Chicago, Illinois.

CRCC. (1981, revised 1994). CRCC Certification Guide, Rehabilitation Counselors, Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification: Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

McAlees, D. (1993). A personal perspective. 20 Years of Achievement, Excellence, and Leadership, CRCC, Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification, 10-12.

Mundt, P. (1986). The National Rehabilitation Counseling Association. The Journal of Rehabilitation, 52(3), 51-53.

National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (1958). Constitution of the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association, Inc.: Asheville, North Carolina.

National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (1985). Constitution of the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association, Inc.: Manassas, Virginia.

National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (1988). Policies and Procedures Manual: Manassas, Virginia.

National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (April, 1994). 5 Year Strategic Plan: Manassas, Virginia.

Patterson, J. B. (1988). The chair reports. Certification Updates by CRCC, Vol. 5, 1.

Faith Kirk, M.ED., C.R.C. is a Public Affairs Specialist with the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. She has been involved in the rehabilitation field for over 25 years as a rehabilitation counselor, rehabilitation supervisor, executive director of a governor's committee on employment of people with disabilities, program manager, policy maker, employment advisor, and advocate. She currently serves NRCA as the NRCA Representative to the NRA Board and as Legislative Council Chair. During her 25 years as an NRCA professional member she has held many offices and committee positions at the state, regional, and national levels. Kirk has her B.A. from American University and her M.ED. from the University of Pittsburgh.

Jan La Forge, Ph.D., C.R.C., is an Associate Professor in Rehabilitation Counseling and Chair of the Department of Human Services at Wright State University. She has been involved in rehabilitation for over 18 years as an educator, vocational evaluator, work adjuster, research associate, and private rehabilitation specialist. She is currently President-Elect of NRCA and has served on the Executive Board as well as other NRCA committees. During her 18 years as an NRCA professional member she has held many offices and committee positions at the state, regional, and national levels. La Forge has both her masters and doctorate in Rehabilitation Counseling from The University of Michigan.
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Title Annotation:Special Anniversary Issue 1925-1995: National Rehabilitation Association
Author:La Forge, Jan
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Date:Jul 1, 1995
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