Rehabilitation Psychology

Rehabilitation psychology is a field of psychology. It is the study of how psychological teachings and principles may be applied to individuals who have physical disabilities either due to an injury or illness. In order to become a rehabilitation psychologist, you will need to earn a doctoral degree in psychology and take the rehabilitation psychology specialization. If you want to pursue a career in this field and want to learn more about the job requirements and qualifications required to enter this profession, read on.  

What Does a Rehabilitation Psychologist Do?

Rehabilitation psychologists are concerned with using the principles of psychology to help improve the quality of life of individuals who have disabilities, whether they are from an injury or an illness. It is a very broad specialty area within the field of psychology and covers an expansive range of psychological problems. A rehabilitation psychologist can choose to specialize in a specific area of this field and therefore deal with a very specific type of patient.

Broadly speaking, rehabilitation psychologists:

  • Assess patients to determine the extent of their disabilities and how they may be affecting their lives. This assessment process involves lengthy observations, interviews, and tests.
  • Arrange interventions with patients and their family and loved ones. These are carried out in order to help all the parties involved cope with the disability in the best way possible.
  • Recommend a specific course of treatment to help patients cope with their disabilities.
  • Provide therapy. This can take many forms such as one-on-one therapy, physical therapy, or group therapy.
  • Work alongside a team of other professionals in order to help a patient cope with their disability.

How do you become a rehabilitation psychologist?

Rehabilitation psychology is a profession which requires a doctoral degree. Individuals interested in pursuing rehabilitation psychology will have to earn all of the relevant educational qualifications in order to get to the stage where they are certified at the doctoral level.

The general path to becoming a rehabilitation psychologist is as follows:

Steps to become a rehabilitation psychologist:

1. Get an undergraduate degree in psychology
2. Get a master’s degree in rehabilitation psychology
3. Get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a specialization in rehabilitation psychology
4. Get relevant training and experience in a healthcare setting


5. Get  national board certification from the American Board of Rehabilitation Psychology

Master’s degree in rehabilitation psychology

The M.S. degree in rehabilitation psychology is designed to help individuals meet the professional standards of the two national accrediting boards for rehabilitation psychology, CORE (the Council on Rehabilitation Education) and CACREP (Council for the Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs).

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered
M.S. in Rehabilitation Psychology 2 years
  • Trauma Counseling
  • Medical aspects of rehabilitation psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Diagnosis and treatment planning

Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Psychology

The Ph.D. program in rehabilitation psychology is based on building an understanding of human behavior as well as the role of a rehabilitation counselor. Students will learn about the cognitive, affective, and biological bases of behavior, as well as individual variances. They will then learn how to analyze statistics, carry out research, and measure these functions. Much of the degree is also focused on understanding counseling and intervention techniques, how disabilities affect human behavior, and the professional issues which arise in rehabilitation psychology.

Students will also have to undertake supervised clinical experience and a dissertation.

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered

Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Psychology

2-4 years
  • Measurement, Statistics, and Research Design
  • Biological basis of behavior
  • Advanced research methodology in individuals with disabilities
  • Advanced social psychology 

Board Certification

Many healthcare settings require individuals to have a national board certification, which is provided through the American Board of Rehabilitation Psychology, or a member board of the American Board of Professional Psychology.

In order to get this certification, you will first have your credentials reviewed for eligibility. Then, you will need to submit samples of your practice as well as go through an oral examination.

Job Prospects and Salary

There are no specific salary figures available for rehabilitation psychologists. However, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) illustrates that psychologists earned a median salary of $72,580 in 2015.  Furthermore, between 2014 and 2024, the profession is supposed to see a 19% growth rate in terms of employment, which is much higher than the average rate of 11%.

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