Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Improving Employment Outcomes through Quality Rehabilitation Counseling (QRC)

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Improving Employment Outcomes through Quality Rehabilitation Counseling (QRC)

Article excerpt

If any confusion ever existed about the primary goal of the state-federal rehabilitation system, it was cleared up in the 1992 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. Competitive employment for people with disabilities is clearly the primary objective of rehabilitation services. To make this point unequivocally, legislators replaced the term "employability" in past amendments with the term "employment." Employability is no longer either an outcome or a prerequisite for rehabilitation services (Weber, 1994).

Along with an emphasis on employment, the 1992 Amendments mandate rehabilitation counselors to serve more people with severe disabilities. People with severe disabilities are deemed as individuals experiencing significant disability-related limitations in one or more life functions (Rubin & Roessler, 1995). This mandate comes at a time when funding for rehabilitation services is described, at best, as level or, more realistically, as shrinking when inflation is taken into account (Schriner, 1995).

To respond to the employment "mandate" in the 1992 Amendments, rehabilitation agencies are in the process of "reinventing" or "reengineering" their service delivery programs. In discussing changes needed in state agency programs, Jackson (1995) called for quality rehabilitation counseling services that result in increased employment outcomes and customer satisfaction (i.e., satisfaction of people with severe disabilities and employers). To define quality rehabilitation counseling (QRC), this investigation explored, in a qualitative analysis, the perceptions of 11 exemplary field counselors in vocational rehabilitation regarding the following issue: "What is Quality Rehabilitation Counseling (QRC), i.e., what do exemplary VR counselors do to help people with severe disabilities become employed?" Pertinent to provision of quality rehabilitation counseling, results from these interviews are organized in terms of the concurrent counseling model developed by Wachler and Lenox (1994).

Portraying the counseling process as discrete activities occurring simultaneously in varying degrees (Wachler & Lenox, 1994), the concurrent counseling model contrasts with the traditional stage model which depicts counseling as proceeding from initial counselor-client contact to termination in sequential steps. Rather than occur as a sequence, relationship building (e.g., establishing rapport), assessment (e.g., exploring, understanding, and defining problems/needs), goal setting (e.g., making decisions, setting goals), intervention (e.g., counseling, coordinating, and consulting), and termination (closing the case) occur throughout the counseling process. For example, relationship building and maintenance are important throughoUt counseling. Moreover, counselors and clients discuss issues related to successful termination in even the earliest phases of counseling. Hence, in addition to providing categories useful for presenting the observations of the 11 exemplary counselors, the concurrent counseling model underscores the fact that different phases of counseling are occurring throughout the engagement of counselor and client.


Using a qualitative research method (Heppner, Kivlighan, & Wampold, 1992; Hoshmand, 1989), this study focused on the insights of exemplary counselors (N=11) regarding factors that affect achievement of employment outcomes for people with severe disabilities. The methods of the present study were designed to discover questions, processes, and relationships rather than test them (Wolcott, 1990) and to enable the investigator to pursue patterns and theories as they emerged in the data (Marshall & Rossman, 1989).


The sample was theoretically derived (Miles & Huberman, 1994), i.e., selected in reference to a conceptual question rather than on the assumption of "representativeness." To address the question of what VR counselors do to meet the employment outcome mandate, researchers interviewed two types of exemplary counselors. …

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