Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute FALL 2022 NEWSLETTER Volume 22, Issue 2 August 2022 SERVICE | RESEARCH | EDUCATION

Written by Kyle Walker:

I am a proud Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. It seems trendy to drop vocational from Rehabilitation Counseling. But, I embrace that part of my professional identity unapologetically. Vocational is not a dirty word. Vocational is the heart of what I do and is central to the human experience.  

Vocational comes from the Latin word ‘vocatio’ meaning calling or being called to our life purpose. ‘Vocis’ translates to calling or gaining our voice through finding our purpose. The root word of rehabilitation also comes from the Latin ‘habilitatus’ the past participle of “habilitare” which means to enable or make one capable of fulfilling a purpose. Together, Vocational Rehabilitation is the power to help someone find their calling in life by enabling them to overcome disability related barriers to careers and independence.

I believe my profession faces an existential crisis. As a profession, we are splintered and divided desperately seeking the approval and respect of a general counseling profession that has a unified voice, clear identity, and exerts political power advocating for state licensure, higher education accreditation, and other public policy that is increasingly encroaching on our scope of practice and marginalizing our distinctive specialty. I argue that we must embrace our unique and distinctive value to those we serve to enhance our brand and reclaim our domain. I argue that continuing to allow Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling to be watered[1]down, generalized, and diffused into a general counseling profession does not serve our clients well and surrenders decades of evidence-based efficacy that is the core of our professional identity. I argue that Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling professionals must unify under a common core professional identity with a unified voice that clearly articulates the value of our distinctive brand and the evidence of the effectiveness of our practices. VR Counseling is a distinctive and unique craft and world view not shared by any other profession. Our foundational philosophies, roles, and functions have always been a whole made up of three balanced parts.

Vocational: Human beings thrive when they have a clear sense of purpose that unleashes their passion and aligns with their values, talents, and individual strengths. Work that is personally meaningful allows us to thrive mentally, intellectually, emotionally, and socially, thereby gaining a sense of belonging and competence. The vocational focus helps people discover strengths, adapt to challenges, and find their purpose in the world. Work helps us find our voice. I embrace the word vocational because finding our calling in life is an effective therapeutic intervention that has the power to transform lives in and of itself. Rehabilitation: Human beings thrive when they have a sense of control over their own lives and the world around them. This sense of control, independence, self-reliance, and self-direction is highly correlated with a sense of self-confidence, mental health, and resilience. People with disabilities face a world that creates barriers to a sense of personal control. Disability is a socially constructed concept. It is the world around us that disables us, and the only way we can regain our ability to control our lives is to become enabled. The rehabilitation focus of my profession enables by helping people adjust, adapt, and overcome barriers to their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Rehabilitation focuses on individual genius and strengths when most of the world focuses on limitations and restricted opportunity. I embrace rehabilitation because enabling an individual to reclaim a sense of personal control and resilience is a therapeutic intervention in and of itself.

Counseling: My craft has taught me that human beings best overcome barriers and learn to thrive in therapeutic relationships built on mutual trust, respect, kindness, caring, and focused on learning, change, and growth. My training as a counselor gives me the clinical skills I need to build an effective working alliance to discover a client’s concerns, interests, skills, abilities, capabilities, priorities, world view, passions, and values. Counseling provides supportive reflection where the discovery and creation of a vision for the future happens. My counseling skills enable me to truly and deeply listen, to understand the world from the client’s perspective, and to provide a reflection that allows them to explore who they are and who they are becoming.

I embrace the word counseling because a trusting and caring relationship is a therapeutic intervention in and of itself. When you combine the power of all three effective clinical interventions inherent in the very title of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, you recognize that no other mental health therapeutic intervention, model, or technique equals the transformational power of what we do. I am a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. No other counseling or helping profession does what we do. -Kyle Walker_