Allied Health Rehabilitation Professionals

Practitioners of rehabilitation care are valuable health care workers who provide care and treatment for the purpose of enhancing and restoring a disabled or impaired patient's functional abilities as well as preserving his or her quality of life. Rehabilitation therapists use their skills to help patients with physical, mental, or social impairments to regain their strength and quality of independent life to the greatest extent possible. If a return to full function is not possible, these workers use their training and some creative thinking to teach patients ways to modify their environments or approaches to life activities to make the most of their lives after an illness or injury.

There are many types of highly skilled rehabilitation professionals working in one or more specialty care settings. In a specialty care setting, these therapists often receive referrals from medical professionals of patients who have suffered an injury or illness that has affected the patient's ability to function. They often work collaboratively with physicians and others to create a detailed care plan with stated goals that can be measured and reassessed as the patient moves through the rehabilitation program over time. For example, some of these therapists work in a corrective environment, such as a physical therapy, occupational therapy, or athletic training setting. These workers use a range of techniques to assess and implement individualized plans of care to address specific deficits caused by trauma, strokes, illnesses, or birth defects. A physical therapist commonly uses heat, cold, exercise, electromodalities, ultrasound, and aquatic therapy to improve the deficits as much as possible. An occupational therapist assists individuals with physical and/or emotional disabilities by teaching daily living or activity skills or other related life skills. Occupational therapists are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers whose innovations lead to helpful ways to modify life and recreational activities to make necessary functions possible. A certified athletic trainer works primarily with physically active populations, caring for injuries and also taking steps to prevent injuries among those involved in school-related, amateur, and professional athletics. They use modalities similar to those of occupational therapists and, in addition, are well respected for their emergency care and assessment skills.

physical therapist

A clinician skilled in the assessment and treatment of physical injuries.

occupational therapist

A clinician who assists individuals with physical and/or emotional disabilities by teaching daily living or other related life skills.

certified athletic trainer

A health care professional who specializes in preventing, assessing, and treating musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses.

Patients who have lost all or a portion of a limb owing to trauma, disease, or a birth defect can benefit from the skills of an orthotist or prosthetist, an individual who is highly skilled in fitting patients for braces, supports, and artificial limbs. These individuals take the time to assess each patient's needs and limitations to ensure that the correct device is chosen, built, and properly fitted, and they then help to educate the patient on the use and proper care of the device for the best possible outcome over time.


A clinician who measures, designs, fabricates, or fits an orthosis for a patient.


A clinician who measures, designs, fabricates, or fits a prosthesis for a patient.

A speech-language pathologist works with both children and adults who are diagnosed with speech or language impairments. Whether the impairments are the result of a brain injury, birth defect, developmental delay, Parkinson's disease, or Alzheimer's disease, these therapists see patients of all ages who suffer from a wide range of impairments from the very mild to those that are severely limiting. They are also helpful to those with voice disorders and swallowing difficulties, especially patients who are dealing with the aftereffects of some types of stroke and cancer. An audiologist is a doctoral-level trained professional who works with both children and adults with hearing impairments, from a variety of causes, evaluating their hearing and fitting hearing aids when needed. They may also work with people with balance problems. This growing profession is likely to expand even further in future years due to the aging of the population, since hearing loss tends to increase as people age.

speech-language pathologist

A clinician who helps children and adults who have been diagnosed with speech or language impairments.


A health care professional who works with children and adults who have hearing impairments.

Additionally, art, dance, and music therapists rely on creativity- applying both artistic and therapeutic skills to assist patients with mental and physical impairments. Because these art and dance and, to some extent, music therapies involve nonverbal communication, they maybe particularly useful for patients with certain physical, mental, and social issues.

art, dance, and music therapists

Professionals who are highly skilled in using their respective creative medium to enhance the therapeutic process.

A horticultural therapist uses gardening as his or her main therapeutic technique. It has the advantage of being a relaxing, social, and enjoyable activity as well as a means of assessing a patient's capabilities in performing certain types of tasks (Stanfield et al, 2009). There are many more therapeutic specialties, as the following list shows.

horticultural therapist

A therapist who uses gardening as a therapeutic technique.

Rehabilitation Professionals and Therapists

• Aroma therapists

• Art therapists

• Audiologists

• Behavioral therapists

• Biofeedback therapists

• Certified athletic trainers

• Child life specialists

• Dance therapists

• Grief therapists

• Horticultural therapists

• Hypnotherapists

• Kinesiotherapists

• Massage therapists

• Music therapists

• Myotherapists

• Occupational therapists

• Occupational therapy assistants and aides

• Orientation and mobility specialists

• Orthotists

• Physical therapists

• Physical therapy assistants

• Prosthetists

• Recreation therapists

• Respiratory therapists and technicians

• Speech-language pathologists

• Substance abuse counselors

Rehabilitation and therapy is a diverse and rewarding field, with a broad spectrum of settings of care as well as opportunities for career exploration. Therapists may work in hospitals, clinics, or long-term care facilities, or travel to the homes of patients, and there is a type of therapist for almost every type of physical, mental, or emotional disability. As the population in the United States continues to age and live longer than previous generations, these professionals will become all the more critical for supporting those needing care as they either return to full function or learn to modify and adapt their functions after illness or injury.

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