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Shannon Ruane
Nov 22, 2011

A Rehabilitation Counselor…Not by any Other Name

Standing with some colleagues in a crowded restaurant one night, a group of shirt & ties inquired our occupation. 'We're Rehab Counselors,' we shouted over the cheers of the Phillies’s game. Confused, they glanced at each other, ''re drinking!?' as we responded, "Umm, yeah, and...?" Did we put down our Miller Lites and make a dash for it? Nope. We explained what it was that made us unique and awesome - that 'rehab' in our title didn't necessarily mean we worked with (or were) alcoholics.

Rehabilitation counselors are trained in a unique sector of counseling to assist people with disabilities in overcoming barriers to leading productive lives. To most, a productive life means being gainfully employed and a contributing member of society. Not only do rehabilitation counselors need to be trained in all aspects of mental and physical rehabilitation, they need also to have counseling techniques to empower, support, and most of all - produce successful outcomes by helping others reach their goals.

Hardly do most realize our little known field has such a large impact. Now, more than ever, rehabilitation counselors are needed. With the economy hanging by a thread and jobs scarce for everyone, people with unique challenges and disabilities are at even more of a disadvantage than ever before. Rehabilitation counselors help newly disabled individuals return to the workforce. They help developmentally disabled individuals who have never worked become trained and gain skills that will enable them to do so. Rehabilitation counselors educate individuals and their families about accommodations, disability rights, and assistive technology. They provide outreach and support to companies who employ or are considering the hire of someone possibly in need of extra assistance in the workplace. Military veterans returning home from service with physical and emotional challenges have been relying heavily on the rehabilitation services of not only the VA, but also their state and local rehabilitation agencies.

The rehabilitation field attracts not just the typical 'do gooder' personality that is abundant in the counseling arena, but often people with disabilities themselves that have an empathetic role to offer based on their own challenges they've overcome or continue to struggle with. Too often, rehabilitation counselors don't receive the accolades they frequently earn and greatly deserve. Recently, I caught wind of a fellow rehabilitation counselor introducing herself as a 'social worker' at a conference. "It's just easier," she lamented, "Nobody gets who we are or what we do!" Time to change that, right? Before I propose a national 'Hug a Rehabber!' day, I figured I'd start small, spreading the word, and reaching out to the ones likely to have the most impact in our recognition and growth- the counselors of the ACA! There you have it - my first blog - more to come!

Shannon Ruane is a counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor in private practice in Philadelphia, PA. Fluent in American Sign Language & a fan and practitioner of hypnotherapy; Shannon can be found at

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