1. Knowledge of psychological, rehabilitation, and counseling theory and principles.
In earning my master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Kentucky at Lexington, I demonstrated a perfect mastery of rehabilitation counseling and theory as demonstrated by a perfect 4.0 grade point average. In addition, I successfully completed six-months of unpaid training with the Department of Veterans affairs, Louisville Regional Office and Lexington VA Medical Center. During my four month internship in the Louisville office, I received extensive training regarding Chapter 31 and determining the appropriate level of veteran’s services depending on the depth of the service-related disabilities.
While at Louisville, I was taught to make initial evaluations, eligibility determinations and to develop rehabilitation plans. Under the direct supervision of a certified rehabilitation counselor, I acted as case manager for several veterans and provided a wide-range of rehabilitation services.
Because of this training, I have developed the skills necessary to determine what additional services might be required to best assist the client. I have been trained to observe and identify social, economic and environmental factors which may be contributing to a client’s inability to succeed and medical conditions which may require the assistance of some other form of treatment. I also have extensive classroom training in psychology theory and principles. The classes which most directly relate to rehabilitation and counseling theory and principles were: RC520 and RC650and 660.
RC 520 was an introduction to counseling as it relates directly to rehabilitation and focused on the history and philosophy of the practice as well professional concerns and rehabilitation ethics. RC650 and RC660 were designed to provide an overview of counseling theories and how to determine which approach is best given a particular client. The second semester of the class was designed to give the counselor experience in theory application and to recognize commonalities across theories in an effort to provide the counselor with the ability to integrate counseling theories to meet the specific needs of a client.
These classes were then followed by the practicum and internship, both of which were designed to give the counselor experience in a less theoretical atmosphere. With both the practicum and the internship, I was able to work with real world clients and determine their counseling needs under the supervision of a working professional. This helped me to integrate classroom knowledge into real world experience. For example, it helped me to understand the realities of mental illness as it relates to physical disability in more than just a textbook fashion. In seeing clients during my practicum and internship, I was able to evaluate the theoretical in terms of the real needs of veterans.
I was also able to integrate my own service-related disability as a tool in relating to clients. My training and experience allowed me to show others how they could work to improve their situation and what services are available to veterans, regardless of their disability level.
2. Knowledge of the principles and procedures of psychological and vocational testing.
In addition to my educational training regarding psychological and vocational testing, I have had the experience of managing and owning a business to help provide me with a greater understanding of the need for and use of vocational testing. With five years of direct managerial experience, I am well-aware that a person can be a perfectly good person and great employee and still be a horrible fit for the position.
While managing a lease-to-own store, I discovered that not everyone is good at closing a sale. It became very important to have a screening process that can identify those who are capable of completing the tasks associated with the job. A person may have an impressive resume and may even have been successful in a field before and still not have the aptitude for a specific job. I also learned that a person may very well be good at something and not enjoy it at all. I discovered through my experience the value of helping to identify the right person for the job. Some sales people are very good at creating excitement about a product, but cannot close the sale. Knowing this can help the employee to find greater rewards and help the employer to identify the right position for an employee.
In my coursework, I studied both specialized vocational testing for the severely disabled and placement services and techniques. In both of these classes, we discussed and tested various vocational and psychological testing instruments as a manner to identify the employment preferences and capabilities of clients. These classes taught me the different type of evaluation instruments used including those that measure cognitive functions, personality and interest levels to assist in vocational placement.
In addition, during my practicum at the Lexington VA Medical Center, roughly 75 percent of my time was assisting veterans in identifying their fields of interest and helping them to find employment. During this time, I relied heavily on the use of psychological and vocational testing to help me to find a direction to guide clients. Oftentimes, I would find that a person had dismissed their primary interests as unattainable or not economically viable and that with a little guidance they could find employment in a field related to their interests.
While working in Louisville at the regional office, I was also able to make extensive use of psychological and vocational testing during the initial evaluation procedures to determine a client’s eligibility to receive services and what services he needed. Many basic psychological tests were used to determine if a client was suffering from mental illness related to their disability or military service and to determine what services to offer the client. For example, it is not unusual for a client to suffer depression, either clinical or subclinical, as a result of their disability. Through the use of testing, we were able to identify these situations and offer clients access to counseling or medications to combat the depression. In some cases, simply resolving issues such as depression which are identified via testing can have a huge affect on the client’s attitude toward rehabilitation and assist them in finding a new path.
3. Knowledge of the requirements for independent living including resources and services.
As an area of special interest to me, I was able to take a specialized course in independent living in addition to my regular course work regarding rehabilitation counseling. This class, listed as special topics in rehabilitation counseling, dealt specifically with the issues of independent living and a survey of available resources. We paid particular attention to adaptive structures which can be used to make independent living more accessible and to independent living communities, primarily apartment complexes, which allow residents the freedom of their own apartment with easily accessible emergency assistance ranging from bathroom pull chords to larger elevators and better ramps to accommodate wheelchair accessibility.
This course also dealt extensively with the rights of the disabled to living spaces that are easily accessible and the law regarding accessibility in other areas as well. In particular, we discussed the Americans with Disabilities Act and community resources which are available to persons who have been discriminated against based on their disability.
In addition, I studied the current social and economic trends regarding disabilities in RC 760, Contemporary Practices in Rehabilitation. This seminar focused on the manner in which society is adapting to persons with disabilities and how it is reacting to the need and desire for those with disabilities to live independently. This class also helped us to identify local resources for independent living.
Another portion of this class was to identify supported employment opportunities as an integral part of independent living. Many counselors focus on one aspect of independent living over another and this class helped to address a wide range of issues ranging from transportation and day-to-day live and employment.
During my practicum and internship, I was also able to work with the rehabilitation counselors that were my supervisors and gain additional exposure to the resources available for independent living. As part of my assigned duties, I was identifying the needs of veterans in gaining independent living status and was able to approach my supervisors for direction when I observed a need that I was unsure how to address. For example, there are several national services which will provide books on tape for the sight-impaired and some local agencies which will assist with rehabilitation services for their local veterans. In Illinois, for example, the state’s Department of Rehabilitation Services will provide housekeeping assistance and other services for those desiring o live independently. It also helps employers adapt a job to make it easier to employ the disabled with items like large view computer screens for the sight-impaired.
Learning to coordinate these resources to make it possible for the disabled to live independently and to identify the assistance needs of these individuals was a large part of my internship. Often, it is the little things like housekeeping assistance and shopping assistance which are overlooked. Between my training and the experience during my internship, I have discovered that there were many issues that I had previously not considered including simple questions like reaching the stovetop and cooking from a wheelchair. Most stoves are designed in with the burner switches behind the burners. For a standing person, reaching over the hot surface to turn it off is done without thinking about it; not so for a person in a wheelchair.
As a portion of my internship, I also wrote several individual independent living assessments and completed the appropriate evaluations and reports.
Knowledge of the career development process, career development theory, and job placement.
It is my undergraduate degree that gives me the most extensive and complete understanding of career development and job placement. As an undergraduate, I studied business administration at Sullivan University, earning a perfect 4.0 grade point average while studying all aspects of business administration. Like any business student, I took several courses in business management and career development.
In addition, my experience in sales and management has given me a firsthand look at the process of career development and job placement.
I then supplemented this basic knowledge with advanced courses while studying for my master’s degree including the use of my job placement skills during m practicum. At that time, I spent the majority of my time securing employment opportunities for veterans and developing additional opportunities. My position required me to meet with prospective employers and discuss what opportunities that might have for job development and how those positions could be adapted to offer opportunities for disabled veterans.
The classes that I took which directly relate to career development were RC630 and RC640. RC 630 was Placement Services and Techniques in Rehabilitation Counseling and emphasized the development of the skills necessary to view a certain job and see how it could be adapted to be a supportive work environment for the disabled. The class covered topics including the philosophy of career development and career placement and pre-placement analysis. We also discussed job development and job engineering as well as employer attitudes and determining employee readiness for the job. This training also included analysis of social security disability and its impact on veteran’s assistance and rehabilitation.
RC640 was designed to help counselors understand the interaction between rehabilitation and business. It taught me how to develop a professional relationship with employers and assess their importance in the career development process. This class also demonstrated how to identify employers that would help veterans develop careers instead of just providing a job.
Between the two classes, I also learned career development theories and began to understand the current demographic changes in employment as opposed to previous generations when a person spent a lifetime in a specific field. These classes demonstrated the importance of transferable skills and the value of learning career basics, rather than over specializing.
I was able to practice the skills I had learned in my practicum, where I worked specifically with job placement and identifying career opportunities for veterans. These classes gave me the background to know what questions to ask of an employer and how to identify long-term relationships for the employee and the department. Combined with my earlier business classes, they gave me a complete understanding of the relationship between individual jobs and career choices.
Based on this integrated learning, I feel confident in identifying job placement opportunities and career options. Additionally, as manager at Aaron’s Sales & leasing, I garnered firsthand experience in identifying those who were looking for an opportunity to develop a career and those who were looking for a job that would provide them with their basic needs. This differentiation is an important one in rehabilitation counseling as many people will arrive simply looking for assistance in finding a job that provides for basic survival needs.
Ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing with individuals from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.
Virtually any college education requires that the graduate have a cursory knowledge of written communications and my degrees were certainly no exception. In addition to the standard basic written communications classes which are required, I have also taken courses in business communications which are designed to show the student how to communicate effectively through written reports, letters and other forms of business correspondence.
In addition, my military training as non-commissioned officer emphasized the importance of being able to communicate with those in my command. As a non-commissioned officer, it is very important to be able to speak and communicate effectively with new recruits regardless of their background and with officers as well, so my training emphasized the ability to communicate with anyone regardless of their background.
Any good non-commissioned officer will say that learning how to communicate effectively with rank and file troops and with officers can be the hardest part of the job. In particular this can be difficult when dealing with new recruits who are destined for officer training. There is an art to giving orders to a soldier who will be your superior officer in a matter of months.
My sales background also indicates my good communication skills. To sell a person anything, you must be able to communicate their need or desire for the object you are selling. Generally, people will not buy from someone whom they believe to be “talking down” to them or someone that cannot effectively demonstrate the usefulness of the product. In many ways, sales is the ultimate communication test. If you can sell, then you are able to communicate.
The time I spent at Aaron’s Sales and Leasing is particular evidence of my sales ability. As general manager there, I was expected not only to be able to sell the products myself, but also to train my staff to sell as well, requiring me to be able to communicate well to the staff and teach them to do likewise. The clientele at rent-to-own stores can come from diverse socio-economic points, depending on the location of the store. Many clients cannot afford to buy an item outright and are therefore choosing the rental option; others, such as students, need the item for a limited amount of time and do not see the value in a purchase. These varied clientele with very different needs mean that to be an effective manager I had to be able to speak effectively with any of these clients as well as my staff and the store’s corporate management.
Between my work history, my military career and training and my college education, I have developed the ability to communicate effectively with almost anyone. I can communicate formally through the standardized reports required of me professionally as a non-commissioned officer and in the business environment and I can discover a common ground to communicate orally with almost anyone.
As part of my practicum and internship, I also developed several written plans for rehabilitation efforts including individualized independent living plans and individual written rehabilitation plans among others.