Without a doubt, the most frequently asked question from my readers is “Sooooo…. Natalie…. where can a Rehab Counsellor work and what will I being doing each day.... also, how do I actually get a job and not suck at my career?”
OK, that was actually four questions (you guys are cheeky like that), and each deserves their own special kind of attention.
So today, let’s talk about question number one: what can I actually do with my fancy-pants degree and....
Where Do Rehabilitation Counsellors Work?
I’m glad you asked. Because you’ve been mislead - kind of.
Rehabilitation Counsellors are Allied Health Professionals who work within a counselling and case management framework to assist people who are experiencing disability, a health condition or social disadvantage to participate in employment or education, or to live independently and access services in the community.
Rehabilitation Counsellors are specialist counsellors that understand the impact of disability, health conditions and disadvantage on people's lives, and especially the importance that work and education plays in achieving a sense of inclusion, independence, optimism and self esteem.
Wow. That's enough to make you feel pretty damn good about your career prospects.
Rehab Counsellors are so badass. (I can confirm, but then again I'm a little biased.)
And yet, a quick look at job sites like SEEK suggests that the only place a Rehab Counsellor is welcome is inside a type of setting called “Occupational Rehabilitation”.
Occupational Rehabilitation providers are looking for Rehabilitation Counsellors all the time.
They also employ other allied health professionals like Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists in similar roles.
They might specialise in areas like:
Comprehensive Third Party Insurance (CTP)
Life Insurance and Income Protection
- Or some combination of the above.
(Do you feel like you're taking a mutliple choice exam yet?)
This means you’ll be working with clients who are currently not able to work due to an injury or illness.
As a rule of thumb (there are always exceptions), Workers Compensation clients have been injured at work, CTP clients were injured on the road, and Life Insurance Customers might have become unwell at work, at home or anywhere, really, because they’ve taken out a policy that covers a portion of their income incase they become sick.
You might also see some job ads by providers who specifically work with government portfolios, like people employed by the Department of Defence, as an example.
At this stage, you might be wondering… is that it?
"I thought rehabilitation counselling was diverse, and broad. I thought I’d be helping people do more than return to work, and I didn’t know I’d be working with people who didn’t choose to get help (sometimes, this happens)."
This is especially jarring when you consider that so much of our training as Rehabilitation Counsellors is about working with people who have a developmental or lifelong disability - which frankly you don’t see much of when you’re working with an occupational Rehab Provider.
The result? a silent epidemic of cranky-pants rehab counsellors who hate their jobs.
So what’s a Rehab Counsellor to do?
Well, the first thing is to remember that working inside a Rehabilitation Provider can be really great. That’s what I do right now, and I’m part of a team of the most inspiring and talented people I’ve ever known. I learn every day. I make a difference in people’s lives. We really care about our clients and we only partner with insurers who want the best for their clients too.
The other thing I want to remind you is about why you chose this career in the first place: You believe that everyone can find meaningful, purposeful work, and that where there’s a will, there’s a way (I know you believe this because of all the emails I receive from people like you who say exactly that).
So.. if you’re in a job you don’t like, and you’re not working with clients and customers you love - it’s up to you to do something about it. Nothing is going to change unless we’re brave enough to set boundaries around the kind of work we will and won’t do, and the type of difference we want to make in our clients’ lives.
The Hidden Job Market for Rehab Counsellors
The thing that strikes me the most about Rehab Counsellors who throw their hands up in the air about their job prospects is that… we’re literally trained to do the opposite of that.
Because any decent Rehab Counsellor knows advertised jobs are just a tiny portion of the opportunities that exist for us, right?
I know Rehabilitation Counsellors who work for Lifetime Care and Support, a speciality portfolio that helps people live better lives after a spinal cord or traumatic brain injury.
I know Rehabilitation Counsellors who work with refugees and people from different cultures who have experienced incredible trauma and are trying to build a new life.
I know Rehabilitation Counsellors who have gone on to work inside insurance companies and community organisations, helping them better serve their clients and manage their processes more effectively.
I know Rehabilitation Counsellors who have trained hundreds of other Rehabilitation Counsellors through events and workshops that they’ve developed.
I know Rehabilitation Counsellors who have gone on to work in research, lecture in universities (hey, that’s me!) and help the next generation of Rehab Counsellors think differently about the kind of work we do and why it matters.
That’s a hell of a lot more than SEEK would lead you to believe is out there.
But you won’t get there by passively applying for jobs (though you already knew that, didn’t you?)
You’ll get there by building connections and real relationships with people you excite and inspire you.
It’s incredible what happens when you reach out to people who share the same passion you do. You’d be amazed by the kind of opportunities you can carve out for yourself if you’re brave enough to speak up.
My challenge to you:
- What kind of work excites you?
- Who do you really want to work with?
When you know the answers, you owe it to yourself do some research beyond the job ads on SEEK.
- Which companies already do the work you want to do?
- Who can you email and reach out to, to learn more?
- What opportunities can you create for yourself?
When in doubt, do for yourself what you’d do for your clients.
It’s a big world out there.
Make it yours.
Share with us in the comments below: where would you like to work as a Rehab Counsellor?