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Grant funds of $1 million to cover tuition for 30 Idaho State students

October 14, 2020
 Lee Ann Waldron, Sr. Director Kasiska Marketing

A patient receiving attention from a counselor.

Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling offers unique “full ride” scholarship

MERIDIAN -  Thirty students will enjoy a tuition free, master’s level education at Idaho State University in the next five years. The ISU Department of Counseling will offer a scholarship for students in the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program, funded by a $1 million grant from the United States Department of Education. 

The USDE Rehabilitation Services Administration established the grant in 1954 as rehabilitation counseling programs were being started at several universities across the country. At that time, the federal funds helped recruit students to obtain training in adjustment and vocational counseling, service coordination and job placement to fill staffing shortages within state vocational rehabilitation agencies across the country who served people with significant disabilities and their return to work.

The programs and the profession have evolved tremendously since then. Now, clinical rehabilitation counseling is defined as “a systematic process which assists persons with physical, mental, developmental, cognitive, and emotional disabilities to achieve their personal, career, and independent living goals in the most integrated settings possible through the application of the counseling process. The counseling process involves communication, goal setting, the beneficial growth or change through self-advocacy, psychological, vocational, social, and behavioral interventions.”

In practice, this means mental health professionals collaborate with persons with disabilities, their health care and rehabilitative team members, and employers, to facilitate their psychosocial adaptation and provide support in every aspect of their lives. They may be working with a person who is recovering from a motor vehicle accident who has acquired a traumatic brain injury  in order to help them cope with the stress and changes from the injury. They may be working with a veteran who is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to help them manage their condition. And from their historic roots, they may be working with a person with an intellectual or psychiatric disability to learn transferable skills or restructure an environment and provide supports that will help them achieve and maintain meaningful employment. The goal is simple: enhancing a person’s physical abilities and mental well-being brings improvements to their inclusion, employment, independent living, and overall quality of life.

“In addition to serving adult populations, clinical rehabilitation counselors help youth with disabilities make successful transitions from high school into postsecondary education and into the world of work,” said Randy Astramovich, associate professor of counseling at ISU. “This grant will therefore help the ISU Department of Counseling prepare rehabilitation counselors to champion Idaho’s youth with special needs.”

There is still a large number of people with disabilities in Idaho and nationally. About one in four have a disability and are at higher risk for health-related problems (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Disability and Health Data System, 2017; National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019). According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019), only 30% of people with disabilities were employed in 2018, compared to 74% without disabilities. Training clinical rehabilitation counselors with disability and rehabilitation expertise will address this need.

“This year marks the 30th year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and also the 100th year anniversary of when vocational rehabilitation began as an occupation due to the Smith-Fess Act of 1920,” said Bryan Austin, assistant professor and CRC program coordinator.  “The program and grant intends to meet these ideals and continue to instill the knowledge, skills and attitudes of future counselors to best meet the needs of people with disabilities so they are fully included and part of the economy of our society.”

The job outlook remains excellent for clinical rehabilitation counselors. Employment of rehabilitation counselors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand is driven by the critical staffing shortages in state vocational rehabilitation agencies, an increase in the aging population and with the continued rehabilitation needs of the other groups served by clinical rehabilitation counselors.

“With the addition of the training grant, we can now more successfully recruit masters students across the country, particularly the intermountain west, west coast, and northwest regions of the country,” said David Kleist, chair and professor for the ISU Department of Counseling. “Likewise, now having the CRC specialty program option at the masters level, we are the only counseling program in the intermountain west, west coast, and northwest regions of the US  to offer a CACREP accredited doctoral program in Counselor Education and Supervision along with a clinical rehabilitation counseling specialty. Thus, any prospective doctoral applicant interested in becoming a counselor educator specializing in CRC, can look to ISU to meet their career and professional  needs.”

Besides student tuition and fees, the education department grant will help cover costs for faculty positions, enhanced technology to increase telehealth offerings, and better serve students in the program and their clients. Students are required to perform 400 hours of direct client contact as part of their curriculum requirements, allowing them to perfect their skills. 

If awarded the scholarship, students agree to complete an internship at Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation or state VR agency, and work for a state vocational rehabilitation agency or other approved related-rehabilitation agency for two years upon graduation for every year of funding they receive.

Students interested in applying for the scholarship may inquire with Bryan Austin, project director of the Rehabilitation Long-Term Training Program, bryanaustin@isu.edu or (208) 373-1717.



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