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Monday, January 29, 2018

Rehabilitation Counseling Program Changing Lives of People with Disabilities

Tonetta Smith is Making a Difference
Do you like to work with children, families, and people with disabilities?

Then, the Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling at the College of Education is a path you need to take to get certified as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).

That is the path that Tonetta Smith is taking. She is a master’s student in the Rehabilitation Counseling Program with an LPCC concentration, who is also pursuing the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Certificate.

Smith said she chose this field because she is a student with disabilities and has a son with a disability as well.

“It made sense to give back to a system that has assisted me,” Smith said, adding that “my son has a disability and I was frustrated over people telling him what he couldn’t do so I was charged by making a difference in youths’ lives.”

As part of her studies, Smith visited Nigeria last summer—her second trip—and planned to give a presentation at the University of Lagos, which was considering establishing vocational rehabilitation program. Smith prepared her presentation, but when she arrived in Nigeria, she learned that the requirements, laws, and expectations of university officials were different than what was included in her presentation.

While there, Smith adapted her presentation to reflect the University of Lagos’ needs and culture so that they could develop a program that would work best for them.

Smith did not give her presentation as planned but did provide an oral summary to university administrators with the expectation that she would incorporate additional information via email. Smith said she hopes to continue consulting with them as Nigeria now occupies a special place in her heart.

However, she said, during her trip, she got to learn about her culture—she is African America—and she also got to meet people with disabilities who shared their experiences with her.

“I got to meet with professionals who work with those with disabilities. I met with disabled individuals to tell me about their struggles in their country with society, employment, and school,” she said.

The Rehabilitation Counseling Program empowers people to make informed choices, build viable careers, live independently and pursue meaningful lives.

The primary focus of career preparation in rehabilitation is developing counseling skills, acquiring knowledge of disabilities and demonstrating respect and sensitivity of people with disabilities.

U.S. News and World Report ranks the College of Education’s RCP in the top 10 rehabilitation counseling programs in the nation.

Students who complete the program and get their LPCC license, typically work with the California Department of Rehabilitation, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, community programs and other non-profit or private agencies that provide rehabilitation services, according to Dr. Marjorie Olney, a faculty member of the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education at San Diego State University.

Counselors get to work with wounded warriors from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, teenagers with disabilities transitioning from school to adult life and persons who experience physical or sensory disabilities through injuries or illness.

Still not convinced the Rehabilitation Counseling Program and the LPCC path is the right one for you?

Smith says she also hesitated at first, but now she feels she is “home.”

“(At first) I wasn’t sure if it was the right program for me and it took me a while to make my mind up to commit to such a program,” Smith, a mother of four said.

“When I arrived at the welcome orientation, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was home, a warm and caring atmosphere where those are genuinely concerned about my success,” added Smith. “I choose the LPCC concentration because I cannot imagine not being able to practice counseling on this level.”

More information can be found on the Masters of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling website.