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Cortney Gibson, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

The day to day duties look quite different depending on the day.

Cortney Gibson - Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) - Careers that make a difference - Impact Oregon

If you’d like a career that keeps you on your toes daily, you are passionate about finding creative employment opportunities, and working with people- this is your line of work!

Cortney Gibson

How did you get into the field of Vocational Rehabilitation counseling?

I was raised by a special education teacher and have been around in the intellectual/developmental disabilities field for most of my life. I took care of a young man who experienced autism for 10 years, until I moved to central Oregon and obtained my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I always knew I wanted to be on the rehabilitation side of social work. My associate’s degree is in criminal justice and juvenile corrections so I thought I would get into parole and probation or corrections of some kind. I didn’t learn about Vocational Rehabilitation until I became employed at my local Center for Independent Living. I started as a life skills trainer and moved into a job coach position, then became the job development manager and helped build the job development program for the CIL. I was a contracted vendor with VR and when the position came open for the I/DD VR Counselor specialist, I applied and was hired in 2014.

What are your day-to-day duties in your job?

The day to day duties look quite different depending on the day. A VRC collects, synthesizes, and analyzes medical and psychological information to determine eligibility for VR services. Gathers and evaluates pertinent vocational and other material to provide necessary vocational counseling and guidance to determine the nature and scope of services needed to achieve the stated vocational goal and the employment outcome. Provides direct job placement to consumers including employer incentive services, tax credit vouchers, state certifications, assistive technology, and work site modifications to assist consumers in reaching their employment outcome. Provides ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and 504 site assessment to employers. Screens, interviews, and evaluate referrals to determine potential eligibility for services; determines need and coordinates medical and psychological assessments with physicians, psychiatrists, and medical/psychological consultants. Makes determination regarding physical restorative requirements (hearing aids, physical therapy, etc.) necessary for employment; determines training necessary for employability; coordinates closely with community partners, other agencies and provides career and vocational counseling to clients. Develops and implements rehab plans with each client and tracks progress through successful termination of case. Attends all different partner meetings and workgroups. Provides technical assistance and training around I/DD policy, partnership and collaboration.

What do you think are the qualities that make for a successful VR counselor?

Good communication skills, compassion, interpersonal and listening skills, someone who is patient. A VRC should be flexible and be able to work in teams, willing to collaborate and be creative.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is keeping up with the paperwork. I love working with people and documentation is very important, but there is a lot of it.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding piece of my job is to watch people who experience disability, learn and grow their confidence in the workforce. Some folks have been told they will never work or can’t work due to their disability. Watching the happiness of self-worth and independence that comes with a first paycheck is priceless. Being a part of someone’s journey to become as independent as they are able, brings a smile to my face and warmth in my heart.  Everyone’s “why” to be employed is different and to be a part of making someone’s why is so rewarding!

If someone is considering a career in Vocational Rehabilitation, what are the top three things you would want them to consider?

Being a VRC is awesome! It’s the best career move I have ever made. The work is rewarding and at times, very challenging. No day is ever the same. If you’d like a career that keeps you on your toes daily, passionate about finding creative employment opportunities, and working with people- this is your line of work.