Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling Therapies

dog with rehabilitation patient

By Andrew Monko

If you're considering a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling, you may already be familiar with a range of methods to help people in rehabilitation programs, especially if your bachelor's degree was in a subject such as psychology, nursing, sociology or social work.

As a rehabilitation counselor, you'll be guiding individuals to become more independent and employable—those struggling with personal, work or social problems due to sickness, disease, accidents, birth defects or the pressure of daily living. With a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling and the proper training, you might become one of the many who incorporate different therapies into treatment programs.

First, Get Your Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling

Though  some employers will hire rehabilitation counselors with only a bachelor's degree, it is becoming the norm to earn a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. Once you have achieved this, you can pursue national certification (CRC) from the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. This designation is required by many state agencies and provides a professional identity and insurance of ethical and educational standards having been met by the certificant.

What Kind of Therapies Exist?

Now it's time to think about the different therapies involved in rehabilitation counseling, and which of these is right for you. As a rehabilitation counselor with a master's degree you can choose from any number of therapy practices, some of which may include:

  • Animal-assisted therapy (AAT)
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Play therapy
  • Exercise therapy
  • Art and/or Music therapy

Therapies Defined

Animal Assisted Therapy

Using animals as an integral part of a person's treatment is called animal-assisted therapy, or AAT. A wide range of animals are used in therapy, including dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, lizards, dolphins and elephants. The range of problems that AAT can address is similar in scope to rehabilitation counseling—physical, emotional, social—but the goal of recovery is the same.

Biofeedback Therapy 

Biofeedback therapy helps treat anxiety and worry as well as pain. Biofeedback is the process of understanding your different body functions and ultimately being able to take control of them. It has proven to be effective for those who have suffered head injuries and spinal cord injuries, as well as individuals plagued by anxiety, depression, autism and learning disabilities, among other health problems.

Play Therapy

Play therapy uses play to help people with disabilities or dependencies, and is often used in working with children in order to help them achieve better growth and social integration. It is also used in rehabilitation counseling to treat and rehabilitate various sensual, mental and cognitive, or kinetic disabilities that affect children and adults.

Exercise Therapy

Exercise therapy uses movement to improve the way a person's body functions. Therapeutic exercise can help improve the way the body is moved, helping repair incorrect movement that may have caused the injury or pain in the first place. Exercise therapy is often recommended for injury rehabilitation and future prevention.

Art Therapy

Like its sibling, music therapy, art therapy helps to improve cognitive abilities and relationships that disabled people have with family and friends. Art therapy has been proven to help people deal with stress and trauma, and while it allows the individual to become comfortable with his or her own self-expression, it also helps the counselor by increasing awareness and insight into the problems at hand.

Though each of these therapies utilizes a different approach to rehabilitation, the desired outcome remains consistent. Rehabilitation counselors strive to help patients achieve the following: 

  • Self-esteem
  • Motivation
  • Well-being
  • Rapport-building
  • Range of motion
  • Sensation
  • Endurance
  • Social interaction 

If you are pursuing a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling or another health-related or mental health counseling diploma, you may want to consider expanding your training to include one of these therapeutic practices.

Sources: allaboutcounseling.com; deltasociety.org; ingentaconnect.com; latimes.com; bls.org.