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What does a clinical rehabilitation counselor do?

Rehabilitation 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 rehabilitation counselor is a highly trained professional who uses client-centered approaches to help individuals with disabilities attain optimal psychological, social, and vocational functioning in the context of their personal goals, abilities, and quality of life. Rehabilitation counseling involves eliminating attitudinal and environmental barriers through the use of counseling technology, advocacy, and support.

What does a mental health counselor do?

Mental health counselors provide a variety of services that address the mental and emotional well-being of their clients. The primary goal of the mental health counselor is to guide people toward reaching their mental health goals and maintaining optimal levels of psychological wellness. Mental health counselors can work in a variety of settings and can choose from several specializations within the field. In all applications, mental health counselors are dedicated to creating a safe, supportive environment for clients to share their thoughts and feelings openly.

Where do rehab counselors and mental health counselors work?

Rehabilitation counselors and mental health counselors work in a number of settings including:

    • Private practice, as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC)
    • Rehabilitation centers, as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC)
    • Mental health facilities, e.g., community health organizations
    • State Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation
    • Private rehabilitation agencies, e.g., workers’ compensation or insurance rehabilitation
    • Public rehabilitation agencies, e.g., state vocational rehabilitation or community rehabilitation providers
    • Substance use 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
    • 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.

What is the job outlook for rehab counselors and mental health counselors?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both rehabilitation counseling and mental health counseling have promising, faster-than-average job outlooks. The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026 is 13% for rehabilitation counselors and 23% for mental health counselors.

Do I need to take my pre-requisite coursework at UNC-Chapel Hill?

Completion of an undergraduate degree in any discipline at any accredited college or university is acceptable. There are no specific prerequisite courses or requirements for either of the programs.

What are the qualities of a successful counselor?

People who pursue counseling careers generally have an aptitude towards helping others and possess an awareness of the experiences that individuals with mental health conditions and disabilities face.  They are committed to creating opportunities for people with disabilities to improve functioning and pursue goals for work and adult life in the community. Some of the common qualities that we see in successful candidates are a compassion for helping people with disabilities and a commitment to helping others grow and learn to work, live, and function in settings of their own choosing. Successful candidates are able to use knowledge to create opportunities for individuals with disabilities; are non-judgmental and empathetic and hold to ethical ideals that accommodate individual needs. Being self-aware, organized and a hard worker are also helpful attributes.

How large are the UNC-Chapel Hill Clinical Rehabilitation and Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs?

The typical size of an incoming cohort for both the CRC and CMHC degree is 10-15 students in each, or 25 total incoming students in the Fall. There are six permanent faculty and a small number of adjunct faculty.

What is the coursework like?

The coursework in each program is meant to be challenging and stimulating, but manageable. A large component of the programs centers around educating clients about maintaining a well-balanced life, so the same mindset is extended to students. Courses consist of different components including extensive projects, immersive experiences, literature reviews, collaborative assignments, interprofessional experiences, and, of course, exams. All aspects of the curriculum are purposefully incorporated to teach specific skills as designated by CACREP. Please see question “Is a thesis required?” below to find out more about the master’s thesis, paper, or project that is required as partial fulfillment of the requirements for graduation.

Is there an internship component?

Yes, the internship consists of a full-time, 40 hours-per-week placement at a clinical site in the student’s specialty area that matches the student’s interests. Internship is completed during the spring semester of the second year. In addition, students are engaged in a practicum during the fall semester of their second year in which they work 8 to 10 hours per week at a designated counseling site as an introduction to real-world counseling experience.

Is a thesis required?

Students have the choice of completing a master’s thesis, paper, or project. The successful completion and defense of a master’s thesis, paper, or project is required as partial fulfillment of the requirements for graduation.

    • The master’s thesis is an in-depth research project. If a student chooses to complete a master’s thesis, they are required to adhere to the Graduate School thesis requirements, timelines, and guidelines. Those guidelines can be found on the Graduate School website.
    • The master’s paper is an in-depth analysis or extensive review of the literature to answer specific research questions. The master’s paper option does not require the student to conduct their own research.
    • The master’s project is an opportunity for students to create a product that could be used in the real world (such as a new treatment manual or intervention plan). Students use existing research to formulate the new material. More information can be found in section V of the CRMH student handbook.

Do you offer online or night courses?

Students are expected to attend the spring and fall semesters in person. Two summer classes are held online. Class schedules vary across semesters, and typically one or two classes are held in the evenings.

Can I attend part-time?

Yes. Students may complete their coursework on a part-time basis. The program of study for part-time students may last up to four years. Contact the division for more information.

Which licensures can I apply for once I graduate?

Licensures and/or credentials may be attained based on the interests of the student and based on the degree obtained. CMHC students can apply to become a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) after taking a national counseling exam.  CRC degree students can apply to become a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC), and/or National Certified Counselor (NCC) after taking a national counseling exam, and to become a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) in 16 states. For more information please see this link. Other licensure for both degrees include Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist (LCAS).

Can I transfer credits from another institution?

We do accept transfer credit hours, but there are stipulations. The course must be a graduate-level class, the grade for the course(s) you wish to transfer must be a B or higher, and the course(s) cannot be a pass/fail class. We do not accept more than 20% of the total credit requirements for the program from another institution (approximately 4 classes). Pending your acceptance into the program, the faculty would need a copy of your official transcript and the syllabi for the courses that you would like to transfer to evaluate the objectives and learning outcomes of those courses to make sure they meet the requirements for this program.

Can I work while attending school?

Many students in our programs work part-time while attending school full time. It takes good time management skills and organization, but it is possible.

When is the deadline to apply?

The deadline to apply for admission is December for the CMHC degree and April for the CRC degree. The specific dates are listed on the CRMH website.

What materials are expected from me in my application?

Some of the materials expected for the CRMH application are the same as those required by the graduate school, which can be accessed on the Graduate Admissions site. The program also requires additional essay questions as a supplement to the standard application.

Are there any GPA/GRE requirements?

The Graduate School requires a 3.0 GPA or higher. This admission requirement is not absolute and other attributes such as work or volunteer experiences may be factored into admissions decisions. The GRE is not required for admission.

I have been out of school for a long time, and I am not sure my professors will remember me. Do you accept recommendations from other references?

You may use employers or professional contacts who can speak to your character and potential to succeed in a graduate degree program. These may include clergy, teachers, mentors, supervisors, coaches, community leaders, or politicians.

What is the acceptance rate for the program?

The rate of acceptance varies according to the number and quality of applications received. To maximize your chance of admission, be sure to submit your completed application before the absolute deadline.

How do I apply for financial aid?

Many of our students take advantage of student loans, which are administered through the Office of Student Financial Aid. Students seeking loans should be sure to submit their FAFSA forms by the appropriate deadline.

Are there any additional scholarships or funding opportunities that I can apply for?

    • The Division of CRMH currently has two RSA-funded training grants that provide students with $6,000/semester. Please contact the division to learn more about this funding opportunity.
    • Each year, the Division of Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling offers fellowship, assistantship, and scholarship awards to students. The number of awards given each year depends on the funds allocated to the division. If you are accepted into the program, we will send out more information as these funding opportunities are available.
    • Decisions on division awards for incoming students are made at the time of admission. For priority consideration for financial aid, applicants should submit their completed applications as early as possible.
    • Students can be considered for departmental awards and fellowships and privately funded division scholarships by completing the Department of Allied Health Sciences scholarship application, usually due in May. For more information, visit the financial assistance page.

The North Carolina Forgivable Education Loans for Service is an excellent opportunity for students looking for funding. Full-time graduate students are awarded $5,000 per semester for pursuing a degree in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling. Students may not have to pay back the loans if they agree to work in North Carolina for a certain period of time to work off the debt. For more information, please see the College Foundation of North Carolina’s website.

How can I find housing in the area?

There is graduate student housing available; visit the UNC housing site. There are also resources for graduate students needing family housing. In some cases, it may be cheaper for students to consider off-campus apartment complexes in the area.

What is parking like on campus?

Parking is limited and students rarely acquire parking permits. In most instances, students either park in commuter lots and travel by bus to campus or take buses from their apartments to campus. These buses are free to UNC student riders. There are private lots on the edge of campus which can be costly but permit student parking within a reasonable walk to campus.

What transportation is available to and from campus?

Many people bike in Chapel Hill and surrounding towns, and many streets have bike lanes. There is also a free bus system that runs in Chapel Hill and Carrboro and stops right in front of our building. GoTriangle buses also stop in front of Bondurant Hall. Parking is limited on campus but is available in Park-&-Ride lots, e.g., 54 lot across from Friday Center where shuttle buses take commuters to and from campus.

I have a disability and will need some accommodations. How do I arrange this through UNC?

Every student has the opportunity to voluntarily self-identify with the University as having a disability or medical condition that may impact access to the programs and activities of the University. Self-identification is available online through C-TOPS (Carolina Testing and Orientation Program) to graduate/professional students through Continuing Studies and Summer School. Self-ID forms are also available on the Accessibility Resources & Service Website.