How Do You Become a Rehabilitation Psychologist?

If you are exploring different career possibilities in psychology, you might be interested in learning how to become a rehabilitation psychologist. Rehabilitation psychology is a challenging and meaningful specialty within the field, as such psychologists work with people of all ages who are disabled or who suffer from chronic illnesses. The field originally started when it became clear that veterans often needed psychological help as they dealt with mental and physical issues brought on by the stresses of their service, but it has stretched now to include helping clients who hold a variety of rehabilitative needs. This could include young or old people who have suffered an accident or been diagnosed with a debilitating illness.

Education Needed to Prepare for This Role

A great deal of education is needed to become a rehabilitation psychologist. According to Division 22, an organization where professional rehabilitation psychologists come together and network, a doctorate is a necessary degree for this important role. In addition to getting a doctoral degree, psychologists in this area need clinical training both before and after they obtain their degree. They also must become board certified so that they can be listed among practitioners with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. All of this training and certification will help them to become licensed wherever they practice, which is also necessary. In order to get a doctorate, of course, you will need to first hold a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, so you could be looking at a number of years of study in order to enter the field. In addition to coursework at the master’s level, you will likely work in practical internships that help you to gain some of the skills you need.

The Importance and Complexity of the Role

All of the academic and practical, clinical training may sound like a lot, but it is necessary because the role of the rehabilitation psychologist is so important and complex. Rehab psychologists work with a variety of people facing a tremendous amount of complex issues, some of which may be physical, mental, emotional, social or neurological. They may help people who have cognitive issues, memory problems or sensory issues. The goal of the profession is to help people dealing with difficult issues related to disability become more independent and whole. Sometimes, rehab psychologists work with people in individual counseling and sometimes they help their clients with their familial relationships by providing family counseling.

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It’s possible that your training at the master’s and doctoral level could become quite specific if you decide that you want to work primarily with a particular type of client. For instance, you might work with children dealing with developmental issues or aging patients struggling with strokes or chronic health issues connected to aging. If you feel drawn to a certain kind of patient, it might be a good idea to connect with rehabilitation psychologists already at work. You can learn more from them about ways that you might shape your internships, networking and coursework so that you can become a rehabilitation psychologist who is well skilled and thoroughly prepared.