A vocational rehabilitation counselor is a licensed professional who helps people recover from physical injury, mental disorders, and substance abuse problems so that they may find meaningful employment or successfully return to their previous jobs. Counselors meet regularly with clients to monitor their progress in recovery, discuss their options, and help them develop and improve their job skills. Many professionals have access to governmental funding information and job placement resources to further assist their clients.
People who are recovering from accidents, addiction, or chronic mental issues often struggle when returning to work or looking for new jobs. Vocational rehabilitation counselors provide encouragement and essential information to such people. A counselor may interview a client to determine his or her vocational goals, skills, and limitations. He or she will explain the options a client may have and support him or her in actively seeking work. A vocational rehabilitation counselor may help a client access career placement resources, organize a resume, fill out applications, and set up interviews.
The type of clients a vocational rehabilitation counselor might work with can vary greatly, from individuals who are experiencing stress or depression to accident victims who have developed severe physical or mental disabilities. A counselor must be comfortable working with a broad range of people and dealing with very different disorders. He or she may be required to research a specific client's condition to better understand what the person is going through and determine the best means of helping him or her recover.
To become a vocational rehabilitation counselor, a person must typically obtain at least a master's degree in counseling. After the completion of a master's degree program, a new counselor can begin working under the supervision of experienced counselors for about two years. A counselor is often evaluated on his or her performance and given advice on how to improve services. After the supervisory period, he or she can take a written licensing exam administered by his or her state or country. Additional certification is not usually required, though some counselors choose to take nationally recognized certifying exams to strengthen their credentials and improve their chances of finding work.
Steady advances in medicine, treatment techniques, prosthetic devices, and workplace equipment require a vocational rehabilitation counselor to engage in continuing education and research. He or she needs to stay up to date on such advances in order to help clients take advantage of every opportunity in recovering from their disabilities and engaging in meaningful work. In fact, some states and countries require counselors to take continuing education courses to maintain their licenses.