Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling

Understanding the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Concentrations

The American Counseling Association defines counseling as: A professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.

The VCU Department of Rehabilitation Counseling serves as a national leader in the professional preparation of Licensed Professional Counselors and Certified Rehabilitation Counselors who will exercise skill and competence on a high technical and ethical level.  Department faculty conduct active programs of research and service, and maintain high levels of teaching competence.  In partnership with students, community agencies, and consumer and professional organizations, the Department endeavors to enhance the personal, social and economic well-being of the clients they serve, regardless of disability or other life circumstances.

The Master’s in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling at Virginia Commonwealth University has two concentrations in which students are able to enroll. The concentrations are in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. While both concentrations lead to licensure in Virginia as a Licensed Professional Counselor, there are some distinct differences in these concentrations. Concentrations are considered areas of specialization – the opportunity to achieve an advanced skill set in a particular counseling specialty area.

Our program is dedicated to providing an inclusive education that focuses on the intersections of people's identities, and interweaves a mental health and disability focus into all coursework. The concentrations mainly differ at the clinical experience level, allowing for the advancement of specialized counseling skills focused in one of the two areas.

Clinical Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC) use counseling to assist people with disabilities to achieve their goals and realize their full potential in their chosen communities and environments. Rehabilitation Counseling is defined by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) as “a systematic process that assists persons with physical, mental, developmental, cognitive, and emotional disabilities to achieve their personal, career, and independent living goals in the most integrated setting possible through the application of the counseling process. The counseling process involves communication, goal setting, and beneficial growth or change through self-advocacy, psychological, vocational, social, and behavioral interventions.” (

This concentration will allow graduates to be eligible for the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor certification immediately upon graduation. This concentration meets all academic requirements to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling skill sets include but are not limited to: individual and group counseling; conducting career and work-related assessments; engaging in job analysis, work site modification, and transferrable skills analysis; assisting people to develop job readiness and work preparation; advocating with people who have disabilities and chronic illness; conducting diagnostic interviews and mental status examinations; using symptom inventories, psychoeducational, and personality assessments; gathering biopsychosocial histories; assessing assistive technology needs; and conducting assessments for treatment planning

Clinical Mental Health Counselors (CMHC) use counseling to both prevent and treat a broad range of mental health issues. Mental health counselors treat the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional aspects of mental health and substance use conditions. They work with individuals, families, couples, and groups in a variety of community-based, residential, outpatient, and private settings. Clinical Mental Health Counseling skill sets include but are not limited to: individual and group counseling; intake interviewing; conducting mental status, biopsychosocial, and mental health assessments; caseload management; diagnosis and treatment planning; developing interventions for the prevention and treatment of a broad range of mental health issues; and interfacing with integrated behavioral health care professionals. This concentration meets all academic requirements to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Typical Clinical Sites

These two professional specialties utilize many of the same skill sets and knowledge domains to accomplish their objectives. However, the nature of their work and way that counseling skills are employed will depend on the type of job setting, client population, and other contextual factors.  

Typical clinical sites for students specializing in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling may include but are not limited to: state agencies such as Virginia Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired or Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services, community-based employment services organizations, university offices of services for students with disabilities, and evidence-based service programs of VCU’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center.

Typical clinical sites for students specializing in Clinical Mental Health Counseling may include but are not limited to: hospitals with psychiatric inpatient units, state mental hospitals, addiction treatment facilities, municipal behavioral health authorities, nonprofit organizations providing mental health services, and Community Services Boards which provide outpatient mental health services in Virginia.

Individual Professional Identity Development

Professional identity development is a lifelong process, not a single event. Professionals continue to develop and grow in their knowledge, skill sets, and professional identity.  The concentration that a student chooses should be a reflection of the interest of the student at that time in their professional journey. However, the selection of a concentration at the time of graduate education is a professional starting point, not a final decision. Students graduating from the Department of Rehabilitation Counseling are prepared academically in areas of rehabilitation and mental health, and are poised to explore additional areas of training and specialty areas post-graduation.  Continuing education, professional training, supervision, and consultation are important areas for professional development over time and are encouraged throughout career journeys.

Visit the Program Objectives and Outcomes section to learn more about how our program prepares students to work in these fields.


Through Virginia Commonwealth University’s M.S. in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling program, graduates become qualified for a wide range of employment opportunities, including:

  • community services and crisis intervention
  • job placement
  • private practice
  • hospital-based counseling and consultation
  • disability services
  • college counseling centers
  • outpatient or inpatient addictions counseling
  • vocational rehabilitation
  • career counseling centers
  • and many more...

For more information, Commissions on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification released a salary report (2021) on occupations and wages for certified rehabilitation counselors.


Rehabilitation and mental health counseling involve more than classroom work and training — we encourage our students to embrace a philosophy that is interdisciplinary and inclusive.

Counseling is an empowering process in which persons exercise control over their lives. Basic philosophical underpinnings of the counseling profession include the concept of the holistic nature of people, wellness, and equality of opportunity.

Holistic nature of people - Counseling focuses on the whole person, within an ecological context, instead of solely on limitations or deficits. A holistic and ecological perspective includes the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the person as well as the relationship to his/her family, schoolwork and the total environment. 

Wellness - Wellness is a state of physical, mental and emotional health.  Even though an individual may experience severe illness and/or disability, the characteristics of optimum health and wellness are promoted.

Equality of opportunity -  All individuals have the right to access all of society's opportunities and benefits. Counseling supports individuals to participate in a meaningful way in society, including though employment.