A Career in Vocational Rehabilitation

What is VR?

In the opening sentences of their seminal work ‘Vocational Rehabilitation: what works, for whom, and when’, Waddell, Burton and Kendal make the point that Vocational Rehabilitation “is an idea and an approach, as much as an intervention or a service.”

What do VR practitioners do?

VR practitioners will all in some way support people to recover in, remain in, return to, or reach for work.  They may be employed in large organisations (such as the NHS or large organisations that provide VR) or they may be self-employed, possibly working as ‘associates’ for other companies. Alternatively, they may set up their own companies and employ others to deliver VR services.

Practitioners will typically have these skills –

  • assessment of function and work ability.
  • goal setting and intervention planning.
  • Coaching, motivating, guiding
  • provision of health advice and promotion, in support of returning to work.
  • support for self-management of health conditions.
  • making adjustments to reduce the medical and psychological impact of a disability.
  • case management, referral, identifying stakeholders, and service co-ordination
  • psychosocial interventions.
  • career counselling, job analysis, job development, and placement services.
  • functional and work capacity evaluations.
  • Identifying and measuring outcomes
  • appraisal, programme evaluation and research
  • leadership management
  • programme/service improvement and redesign

Who are the people who deliver VR?

VR belongs to no single discipline, but the approach has been adopted by a wide range of services. This means that VR benefits from the influences of many different practitioners, sectors and disciplines including (but not limited to):

  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Psychology
  • Occupational Health
  • Rehabilitation Counselling
  • Supported Employment
  • Employability
  • Career Guidance
  • Individual Placement and Support
  • Coaching
  • Case Management
  • Nursing
  • Sports Rehabilitation
  • Social Work

You can find VR practitioners working in many sectors including:

  • Life and Health Insurance
  • Independent Practice
  • DWP programmes (Employability, Welfare to Work etc.)
  • Charities
  • Private VR Companies: as an associate or employed
  • Case Management Companies
  • Medico legal services
  • NHS VR and Rehab Services
  • Occupational Health Services
  • Research and Education

Many people practicing VR started somewhere else and found themselves drawn into VR because it offers the possibility of not only helping people recover physically and psychologically, but also helps them recover their work ability and all the benefits that flow from being fully reintegrated into the world of work. See some life-affirming case studies from VR practitioners about how and why they ended up in VR.

The strength of VR is that it can take many forms. Each VR practitioner uses their professional skills (whether in counseling, case management, OT etc.) to help people back to work. This is the unifying principle that underlies their actions, and it is what we mean when we say that VR is really an idea and an approach, rather than a particular practice or process.

Routes into VR

Because VR belongs to no individual profession, there are a number of routes into VR and your entry point will likely depend upon your current area of practice. Currently, there is not a single professional designation or training programme for VR practitioners, but if you are looking to enter the field, there are a number of options for you to develop skills and experience that will be relevant to practicing VR.

One option is to study in a relevant professional field such as Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Occupational Psychology etc. If you wish to train in one of those disciplines there is more information below to guide you about this route via the links on the VR courses page.

These programmes generally provide a solid foundation for vocational rehabilitation, but most entrants into VR will acquire their specific VR skills on the job, in the form of in-house training and mentoring, and informal ‘apprenticeships’, working for services who deliver VR.

There are also training courses in specific areas or skills of Vocational Rehabilitation that are run nationally or locally. Other academic institutions also run related courses, graduate programmes and private training courses on specific aspects of VR, including vocational assessments, e.g. functional capacity assessments, ergonomics, career redirection, coaching. These training courses are designed to give you greater skills in these specialist areas.

So, depending on your transferable skills, experience and training you may choose one or more of the routes available to begin working in VR.

Find out more about VR training and CPD here.

Find VR opportunities on our vacancies page here.

Specific guidance on career in IPS employment support (one approach to supporting people with mental health issues) is here – external link.