People with disabilities, whether physical or emotional, often need a particular kind of support to be able to live independently. This is where rehabilitation counselors come in. They help individuals cope with the effects of their disabilities as they relate to independent living. In some places this job is called community disability practitioner. Without the services of these counselors, many people who are quite capable of living on their own would instead be forced to live in some type of a care facility. Research has shown that when people can be supported to live independently they are far healthier, are less reliant on family caregivers, and are more productive members of society as a whole, so a rehabilitation counselor is an extremely important job.
Persons with disabilities can include the elderly, who may be having problems adjusting to new health limitations, or who are generally healthy but experiencing problems with certain functions due to injury or illness. Clients may also be individuals with developmental disabilities, such as fetal alcohol syndrome or muscular dystrophy. Counselors often work with people dealing with specific stressful or difficult situations that have left them temporary challenged, such as injury. This could include veterans coping with physical and emotional effects of military service. Because the rehabilitation counselor works with individuals who are able to live independently and remain active and functional members of society, they often work with older students and young adults, exploring educational and career options. Rehabilitation counselors work with compassion and empathy, but must also find a balance between being kind and gentle and being firm and assertive.