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What is clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling?

Clinical rehabilitation counseling and clinical mental health counseling are professions that holistically apply counseling skills to assist individuals with a broad range of mental health issues as well as 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 involves eliminating attitudinal and environmental barriers through use of counseling technology, advocacy, and support.

A clinical mental health counselor is a professional who is qualified to provide 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 a broad range of mental health issues and promoting optimal mental health.

The practice of clinical 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 or Clinical Mental Health Counselor serve?

Clinical Rehabilitation Counselors provide comprehensive rehabilitation counseling services, including vocational rehabilitation counseling for people with physical disabilities, psychiatric disabilities and developmental disabilities in a variety of practice settings, including public, private, research, hospital/clinical, or community-based settings.

Clinical Mental Health Counselors work with individuals who have a mental health problem, or experienced a crisis or trauma, or have been diagnosed with co-occurring substance use and mental health conditions.

In addition to receiving entry-level competencies in their specialty area, students in the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling or Mental Health Counseling programs at the UNC School of Medicine  acquire additional specialization to provide state-of-the-art services to individuals with 1. developmental disabilities and/or  2. psychiatric disabilities (dual track choice is also available).

Where do Clinical Rehabilitation Counselors and Clinical 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
  • 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
    • Teaching in a community college

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

Clinical Rehabilitation Counselors and Clinical Mental Health Counselors take several specialized courses, to be prepared to evaluate and identify individuals’ counseling needs, develop service and treatment plans, and apply interventions that include adapting the environment and providing needed supports which assist individuals to achieve their optimal functional capacity. MS in CRC and MS in CMHC students receive 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.

Coursework in specialty areas of CRC and CMHC fully align with CACREP standards and ensure that our students have high qualifications to enter their specialty areas of practice.

Students in both programs at UNC-CH receive advanced training in their specialty track of choice, i.e., developmental or psychiatric disabilities. Students entering the programs will choose the track by the end of the first semester. They also have the option to elect the dual track.