Careers in Rehabilitation Psychology

Many students first become attracted to Rehabilitation Psychology during graduate school. Interest may be piqued by rehabilitation oriented clinical experiences: practicums, internships, or postdoctoral fellowships. Students, early career psychologists, and mid-and later-career psychologists may also become intrigued by Rehabilitation Psychology through research and networking, as well as clinical opportunities and experiences. In fact, for students and practicing psychologists, networking can provide much information about the exciting field of Rehabilitation Psychology. Division 22 hosts the Mid-Winter Annual Conference  – an inviting, friendly gathering of psychologists with whom one can discuss career goals and opportunities. This conference is open to all and offers networking dinners for psychologists at different career stages and settings (e.g. students, early career psychologists, private practice). To get plugged into Rehabilitation Psychology career mentoring, we also recommend joining Division 22, following the Division 22 email list, and contacting the Division 22 student and/or early career psychologist representative. Division 22 also has a specific Mentoring Program for those at any point in the career path (students thru mid-career mentees).

There are an infinite career paths and types of employment in Rehabilitation Psychology. The "What is Rehab Psych?" section of the website highlights the diversity of work settings. Below are reflections from rehabilitation psychologists, who ranged from 2 to 34 years in practice:

I work on a 15-bed, inpatient, acute rehabilitation unit as part of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service. I also work with outpatient veterans with TBI in the Polytrauma Clinic.

I am the supervisory psychologist at the nation’s largest VA outpatient clinic. My training in Rehabilitation Psychology gave me the skills to become an effective leader.

I primarily provide psychological evaluations and counseling on a Neurological-Rehabilitation unit of a small hospital. My work includes competence evaluations on the medical floors and occasional counseling of acute medical patients. In addition, I participate on the Ethics Committee of our hospital.

I am the Outpatient Psychology Director of a regional clinic for spinal cord injuries and disorders, and chief of the country’s largest Geropsychology Section [department].

I am Vice President of Brain Injury Services for a chain of nursing homes spending my time doing program development, supervision of clinical staff across disciplines, marketing, and policy development. I also have a private practice where I employ three other psychologists doing evaluations and therapy for persons with brain injuries.

I have worked in a variety of settings to include private practice, military hospitals and outpatient clinics (both in uniform and as a civilian), non-profit rehabilitation centers, academic psychology departments, and as a government consultant.

I work with adults with new or chronic disabling conditions to learn essential skills to work effectively with the body. These skills help a person function better and to have a better quality of life.

My training and experience in Rehabilitation Psychology has been exceptionally valuable in my work in integrated primary care.

I am the Executive Associate Dean of a college that educates diverse future health care professionals, many of whom will practice in rehabilitation settings. My varied responsibilities include overseeing academic program development and strategic planning and serving as a general resource to faculty and staff. My training and practice in Rehabilitation Psychology provided invaluable lessons about working with diverse team members, overcoming adversity, and delivering care with grace. I continue to apply these lessons today in my role as a college administrator in an academic health science center.

I work in an outpatient neurology clinic providing psychological evaluation and treatment for patients with medical illness or disability. I often collaborate with other treating providers, including medical doctors, physical, occupational, and speech therapists, and social workers.

I have the honor and privilege of working within a VA Spinal Cord Injury Center providing care to veterans and active duty service members who have sustained a spinal cord injury.

I do self-management research with adults with epilepsy and I provide assessment and therapy to teens and adults with vision impairments.
— Rehabilitation psychologists, ranging from 2 to 34 years in practice