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Rehabilitation Counseling Specialization


The Rehabilitation Counseling doctoral specialization at Utah State University offers students a unique combination of:

  • extensive collaboration with faculty
  • direct experience in research, teaching, counselor supervision, and grant writing
  • focus on preparing outstanding rehabilitation counseling service providers

This specialization prepares graduates to be highly effective university faculty and agency administrators in rehabilitation counseling.  Graduates significantly improve the lives of persons with disabilities through research, teaching, and program administration.


Doctoral students gain experience in teaching both traditional on-campus and technology-mediated distance courses in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Counseling Master's Program, which is ranked among the top 15 in the nation.  The department's projects such as the EmployAbility Clinic  provide outstanding opportunities for doctoral students to gain applied experience in conducting research.  Students are also encouraged to pursue their own research interests.


Required coursework is a blend of broad multidisciplinary courses and focused specialization courses.  Core coursework, common to all areas of disability disciplines, includes multidisciplinary courses that bring together diverse perspectives on disabilities, effective services, and research methodology.  Specialization courses provide deep coverage of current developments in rehabilitation counseling research and practice.

Core Coursework

Course Title / Description Credits (17/19)
EDUC 6570 Introduction to Education and Psychological Research
Introduction to research methods including identifying research questions, conducting research literature reviews, and design and implementation of research projects. (Students should enroll in the section of this course that is designated for full-time doctoral students.)
EDUC 6600 Measurement, Design, & Analysis
This course integrates concepts in measurement, research design, and statistical analysis for research in psychology and education. (STAT 5200 is an acceptable substitution.)
REH/SPED 7820 Seminar: Special Topics
In-depth study of special topics in special education and rehabilitation. Seminars examine historical aspects, relevant research, and theoretical positions on selected topics.
1 (3)
SPED 7400 Multicultural Issues in Disability
This seminar will focus on the juxtaposition of disability and ethnic/cultural/linguistic diversity. Three broad areas will be presented. The first area will focus on the ethnic/cultural/linguistic demography of disability. The second area will focus on the prejudice, discrimination, and handicapism and the ways in which these forces impact upon an individual who has a disability and who is a member of an ethnic/cultural/linguistic minority group. The third area will focus on practice applications, translating the concept of the first two areas into practical suggestions for professional practice.
SPED 7920 Doctoral Orientation Seminar
Orients new students to the doctoral program including career planning, program planning, fundamental concepts of scientific research and literature review, and knowledge of the available facilities and faculty members.
SPED 7940 Journal Reading Group
Under faculty direction, students read and discuss published research. Students learn to critique empirical and theoretical papers as well as current research findings in important areas of Disability Disciplines.
SPED 7820 Evidence-Based Practice
This seminar explores evidence-based practice as a framework for providing the most effective possilbe services to persons with disabilities by linking research and practice. Students will learn processes for posing appropriate clinical questions, systematically and critically reviewing research, and developing formal practice quidelines.
USU 6900 Research Integrity
The purpose of this class is to provide an underpinning of ethical conduct for students entering the research enterprise at USU. The course is designed for graduate students based on regulatory requirements from federal funding agencies. Subjects covered are ethical treatment of human participants in research, conflicts of interest, ethical care and use of animals in research, collaborative science, data ownership, management and sharing, mentor/trainee relationships, authorship and publication practices, research misconduct and peer review.

Rehabilitation Counseling Coursework

Course Title / Description Credits (10/11)
REH 7740 The Sociopolitical Construction of Disability
This course introduces students to the theoretical issues related to the societal understanding of disability. Students will learn the historical, political, and socioeconomic forces that maintain existing values regarding disability. Other related topics to be covered in this course include: sociopolitical processes (oppression, prejudice, discrimination, etc.), interpersonal processes (identity, self concept/esteem, authenticity, mental health, and basic behaviors), and the value and meaning of work, including a review of the underlying assumptions regarding human ability and the manifestation of ability versus disability in societies.
REH 7940 Journal Reading Group
Under faculty direction, students read and discuss published research. Students learn to critique empirical and theoretical papers as well as current research findings in important areas of rehabilitation.
1 (2)
REH 7730 Disability Policy
The purpose of this course is to examine, describe and discuss public and private sector policy as it impacts individuals with disabilities. Students will review key statutes and cases that reflect historical and current concepts in disability policy. Students will learn about the legal rights of people with disabilities and the role and function of community advocacy. Other topics that will be covered in this course include: philosophy and legal aspects of rehabilitation and independent living, the state-federal vocational rehabilitation program, benefit systems (i.e., SSI and SSDI), workers compensation, and employer-based disability management.
Various Additional Research Methods
Students in the Rehabilitation Counseling specialization will also be required to complete 6 additional credit hours in research methodology and/or statistics. Suggested electives include the following: EDUC 6770, EDCU 6780, SPED 7700, or SPED 7710.



Preliminary Exams

Preliminary exams are conducted after approximately one year of full time study (or the equivalent) and provide a focus for students to attain foundational skills in research design and critique, and disciplinary knowledge. This three part exams is completed across a three day period. Components of the exam are:

  • Foundations of Rehabilitation Counseling. Specific questions focus on key foundational knowledge of rehabilitation counseling.
  • Design of Research. The student outlines the design of a research project on a given topic relevant to rehabilitation counseling.
  • Critique of Research. The student critiques a manuscript reporting research within rehabilitation counseling.

Professional Products and Internships

A set of professional products and internships provide opportunities for mentored experience in critical professional skills.


The dissertation is the capstone experience of the doctoral program. The student plans, carries out, analyzes, and interprets substantial original research that contributes to the advancement of their field of study.


Dr. Trent Landon
Assistant Professor

Dr. Brian Phillips
Assistant Professor

Dr. Kat Oertle
Associate Professor

Dr. Tim Riesen
Research Associate Professor

Dr. Michelle Lizotte
Assistant Professor

Dr. Michael Gerald
Assistant Professor