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What is clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling?

Clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling is a profession that holistically applies counseling skills to assist individuals with psychiatric, developmental, cognitive, emotional, or physical disabilities to achieve their maximum level of independence, integration, and participation in the community and the world of work in accordance with each individual’s personal goals, career aspirations, and perception of quality of life.

A clinical rehabilitation counselor is a highly trained professional who uses client centered approaches to prepare individuals with disabilities in attaining optimal function, including psychological, social, and vocational function in the context of their personal goals, abilities, and perception of quality of life. Rehabilitation counseling will involve eliminating attitudinal and environmental barriers through use of counseling technology, advocacy, and support.

A mental health counselor is an individual that provides professional counseling services, involving the application of principles of psychotherapy, human development, learning theory, group dynamics, and the etiology of mental illness and dysfunctional behavior to individuals, couples, families and groups, for the purposes of treating psychopathology and promoting optimal mental health.

The practice of mental health counseling includes, but is not limited to diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders, psychoeducational techniques aimed at the prevention of such disorders, consultation to individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations, and communities and clinical research into more effective psychotherapeutic treatment modalities.

What kinds of clients might a Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counselor serve?

Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counselors are trained to work with individuals who have a disability which may include the following: developmental disability, psychiatric disability, physical disability, substance abuse and/or dependence.

Although students in the Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling program at the UNC School of Medicine receive training which would enable them to work with individuals in all disability groups, the program offers two areas of specialization: developmental disability and psychiatric disability.

Where do Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counselors work?

A number of settings, including:

  • Private practice, as Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselors (LCMHC) and/or Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC)
  • Mental health facilities, e.g., community mental health organizations, residential treatment care programs
  • Private rehabilitation agencies, e.g., workers compensation or insurance rehabilitation
  • Public rehabilitation agencies, e.g., state vocational rehabilitation or community rehabilitation providers
  • Substance treatment facilities, e.g., residential and outpatient treatment programs
  • Correctional facilities, e.g., pre-release re-entry programs or jail diversion
  • Schools, e.g., transition services for youth, college and career counseling
  • State and federal offices, e.g. state services for the blind or deaf, or federal disability advocates
  • Hospitals, e.g., physical rehabilitation or psychiatric outpatient programs

Examples of employment of recent graduates include:

  • VA Medical Center
  • Supported employment in a comprehensive autism treatment facility
  • Traumatic Brain Injury program
  • Substance abuse treatment facility
  • Public community mental health facility
  • Public rehabilitation agency
  • State vocational rehabilitation program
  • Private Practice
  • Teaching in a community college

What special training do Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counselors receive?

Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counselors take specialized courses in medical and psychosocial aspects of disability, employment, and job accommodations, to be prepared to evaluate and identify individual client needs, develop services, and apply interventions that include adapting the environment and providing needed supports which assist individuals to achieve their optimal functional capacity. In addition, they received specialized training in assessment and diagnosis of mental health disorders, research methods and statistics, social and cultural diversity, human growth and development, individual, family and couples counseling and group work, and professional orientation and ethical counseling practices.

This training enables Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counselors to consider the medical, psychosocial, spiritual, family, and environmental impact of disability on the individual’s ability to function in the environment of their choice, identify and implement interventions to optimize functioning across multiple areas off.

Students in the Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling program at UNC-CH receive advanced training in developmental or psychiatric disabilities (the two specialization tracks available within the master’s degree), depending on the area of specialization chosen. Our program was formerly known as Rehabilitation Counseling and Psychology but as of June 2015 to be in accord with CACREP standards, the program is now titled Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling.

CACREP Accreditation

Our master’s degree program in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). We obtained CACREP accreditation in January 2016 for eight years (through 2023).

For more information on CACREP accreditation, please visit