The Renaissance of Rehabilitation Counselling


Dr Boris Fedoric is the Chairman of the Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors (ASORC) and the Managing Director of Career Bug. ASORC is a professional body representing rehabilitation counsellors throughout Australasia.

Rehabilitation Counselling, similar to Career Counselling, has a long history, dating back to post WWII support for veterans. The two fields have much in common with regard to providing vocational support.

At present there is an acknowledged need for vocational support due to factors such as Covid-19, a steady increase in mental health injuries (primary and secondary) and the ever increasing body of research regarding psychosocial risks as the largest barrier to return to work and recovery. As such, the Rehabilitation Counselling profession is enjoying a renaissance, thanks to our unique blend of formal training in counselling as well as vocational rehabilitation support skills. Rehabilitation Counsellors are person centred and deliver vocational counselling, decision making counselling, adjustment counselling, motivational counselling, short term supportive counselling with the client. Our counselling has therapeutic benefits however, we are not therapists and we are different to Psychologists.

We appreciate this opportunity to share with CDAA members a bit about what we do, how we do it and what we’re focussing on in the current landscape.

The Rehabilitation Counselling Profession

The profession of Rehabilitation Counselling is grounded in human rights, the value of work, and the importance of community integration for people living with disability and social disadvantage.

Rehabilitation Counsellors are tertiary qualified Allied Health Professionals who combine therapeutic approaches of counselling and use work as rehabilitation. We are specialised counsellors who have a deep understanding of the impact of disability, health conditions and disadvantage on people's lives, and the importance that work and education play in achieving a sense of inclusion, independence, optimism and self-esteem.

In order to practice as a Rehabilitation Counsellor in Australia, tertiary qualification is a mandatory requirement. Several Australian Universities offer degrees, postgraduate and masters courses in Rehabilitation Counselling. Course subjects include: counselling skills, motivational interviewing, rehabilitation services eg mental health, psychological and social dimensions of disability and chronic illness, Human Services: law and social policy, injury prevention and management and working with diverse populations and working with first peoples communities.

What Rehabilitation Counsellors Do

Rehabilitation Counsellors work within a counselling and case management framework, across biological, psychological and social domains. This is known as the biopsychosocial framework.

Using highly specialised knowledge and skills in motivational interviewing, vocational assessment, vocational counselling, vocational training, job placement, case management, injury prevention and management, service coordination and independent living planning, a Rehabilitation Counsellor can provide services that are often not in the repertoire of other Allied Health professions.

Importantly and uniquely, our core practice works within systems and/or schemes and not only provides therapeutic interventions but also assists clients navigate those systems to achieve positive health outcomes. This places us in a unique position within the Allied Health industry whereby we combine social aspects with therapeutic counselling interventions.

Rehabilitation Counsellors support people:

  •  living with acute and chronic pain
  • with disability
  • with a health condition that impacts work/study
  • who have experienced an injury and/or trauma
  • living with social disadvantage

A common misunderstanding: a Rehabilitation Counsellor is NOT the same as a Rehabilitation Consultant

The title Rehabilitation Counsellor refers to a distinct and respected Allied Health profession whilst the title Rehabilitation Consultant is a generic term often used by WorkCover authorities and insurers to describe anyone who purports to deliver return to work and associated services.

This confusion over terminology can often undermine recognition and acknowledgement of the superior qualifications and skills held by Rehabilitation Counsellors which are not necessarily held by a Rehabilitation Consultant.

Where Rehabilitation Counsellors Work

Many Rehabilitation Counsellors work with State and Federal funded vocational rehabilitation providers. These services might be funded under such programs as Disability Employment Services.

There are also a number of Rehabilitation Counsellors employed with private Workplace Rehabilitation providers, delivering services to people who have been injured in a Workplace, Motor Vehicle accident or have a health issue covered by income protection or life insurance under which they are able to claim compensation.

Rehabilitation Counsellors provide services in areas such as Employment Services Assessments (ESA), injury prevention and management, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), disability advice, non-vocational disability services, advocacy and public policy. Some specialise in working with people with particular disabilities or disadvantages, such as people with mental health conditions, drug and alcohol abuse, ex-offenders or refugees.

What we’re focussing on in the current climate

1. Raising awareness of the unique blend of counselling (with therapeutic benefits) and vocational support that Rehabilitation Counsellors are formally qualified to provide

We are taking every opportunity, such as this one generously provided by CDAA, to inform, explain and encourage consideration of how a Rehabilitation Counsellor might be the perfect professional to help someone bridge the gap from mental distress, injury, illness or disability for (re)entry to community connection through work in its many forms.

Furthermore, while Rehabilitation Counsellors have traditionally operated in the reactive space supporting individuals following disability or injury, there is an increasing need for the specialised Rehabilitation Counselling skills to support individuals in periods of career displacement or forced vocational redirection as a result of Covid-19 industry wide shutdowns and also the ever changing ‘future of work’ with new vocations being created and other vocations being ‘phased out’. This is a growing and relatively untapped area for Rehabilitation Counsellors who can bring excellent individual counselling insights to provide early support to those struggling with change and vocational identity loss, to overcome risks of injury or illness sooner.

2. Improving public access to Rehabilitation Counselling services

At present Rehabilitation Counselling services are not readily accessible to the general population, unlike services provided by CDAA members.

We know that, especially with Covid-19, mental health issues are increasing, and will have long lasting consequence for individuals, their families, their employers and society. As such, there is an increased need for Rehabilitation Counselling in the context of biopsychosocial interventions that are work focused as well as close collaborations between the Career Counsellors and Rehabilitation Counsellors, where the former will provide know how in the career development space.

Although small in number compared to other allied health professions, Rehabilitation Counsellors are clearly in demand. As at 2nd August 2021 there were 159 jobs advertised on Seek for Rehabilitation Counsellors. The increasing need for qualified Rehabilitation Counsellors means this profession is struggling to fill vacant positions.

Currently, Claim Agents within Insurance Companies are the main source of referral for Rehabilitation Counselling services. The information provided by Rehabilitation Counsellors is often not well utilised by Claim Agents within Insurance Companies to benefit the claimant, rather it is sometimes used for legal and entitlement purposes.

ASORC, in keeping with current research and initiatives, such as Comcare’s Collaborative Partnership, believes recovery outcomes will be significantly improved by compensable schemes enabling GPs and/or Allied Health treatment providers to refer directly to Rehabilitation Counsellors for vocational rehabilitation support. Treatment providers have the opportunity to first recognise when workers may need vocational rehabilitation and early referral is important for the benefit of client outcomes.

Where to find a Rehabilitation Counsellor

The Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors website has a search function. You can search either by name, company, or services provided here.

Contact [email protected] for more information.


The Rehabilitation Counselling Association of Australasia

 Contact [email protected] for more information.