Vocational Rehabilitation: The Deeper Issues
Much of what happens in the field of vocational rehabilitation centers on funding, training, labelling of disabilities, and job placement. Perhaps it is the nature of any profession to view issues and activities in terms of itself, but that point of view does not always allow an examination of the most important philosophical and practical underpinnings of the field. It is the purpose of this paper to question and explore the field of vocational rehabilitation in terms of several important issues--its purpose, its methods, and solutions to some of its greatest problems.
Simon Olshansky, the well-known rehabilitation expert, had profound and far-reaching things to say about the field of rehabilitation. A thread that continued throughout all of his writings was that people with disabilities deserve a just and humane life. He scathingly criticized the social neglect of persons with mental retardation and mental illness, and at the same time, he quite honestly felt that in some situations the vocational rehabilitation counselor can be a hindrance to the well-being of the disabled person (Goldberg, 1992, p. 6). He was interested in people who "pass" into normal society, especially mental patients who were able to get regular jobs without disclosing their background of mental illness.
Olshansky warned against counselors feeling too omnipotent, what he called the Albert Schweitzer Syndrome. This particular type of vocational rehabilitation counselor tries to fix everything for the client, a rather self-righteous, arrogant point of view. A counselor who approaches a client in this way, trying to cure the whole person actually may weaken the individual and make him or her dependent upon the bureaucracy. According to Olshansky, no amount of counselor empathy or understanding will take the place of the disabled individual's need for connection with the economy and social fabric of ...