A new study hot off the presses highlights the effectiveness of using the advances in technology to promote clinical excellence in vocational rehabilitation.

Catherine Ipsen and her colleagues conducted an exploratory survey of 1,187 counselors; here’s the abstract:

Telecommunication offers a cost-saving alternative to face-to-face vocational rehabilitation (VR) service delivery, yet little is known about the current use. This article describes findings from an exploratory survey of 1,187 counselors, representing 13 VR agencies across the United States. The online survey explored agency, counselor, and client facilitators and barriers to telecommunication use during the VR process. Staff with training in telecommunication strategies reported significantly higher rates of email telecommunication (p < .01). Counselors with a higher rural caseload mix engaged in significantly less email telecommunication during the VR process, and rural clients as compared with urban clients were characterized as having less personal access to a computer with Internet. Although counselors use and rely on simple telecommunication methods such as phone and email to serve their clients, strategies to address barriers are needed to expand telecommunication use during the VR process.

The goal of the study was to identify potential facilitators of and barriers to effective telecommunication use during the rehabilitation process and can be summarized as follows:

  • Agency and counselor factors: Unfortunately, very few VR counselors (18%) were actually trained in distance counseling method
  • Access to technology: Many counselors also indicated that rural clients received fewer opportunities to communicate with their counselor using both face-to-face and telecommunication methods.
  • Communication skills: The loss of nonverbal communication cues and misinterpreted meanings are described in the literature. In all, 53% of counselors in this study felt that written communication was less effective than verbal communication with clients, due to a lack of nonverbal cues, client literacy issues that make written communication problematic, and difficulties checking on client understanding. In addition, many counselors felt these barriers were particularly problematic for clients with cognitive and mental health impairments.
  • Assistive technology: Counselors also noted that certain telecommunication methods were inappropriate for some types of disabilities because clients lacked the necessary assistive technology
    Confidentiality: A major concern of telecommunication use is that client privacy may be jeopardized
  • Technical difficulties: Technical difficulties are described as a major barrier to telecommunication use

The study sheds light on both the powerful utility of using these emerging tools and to heed the need for education and training for both the delivery and receipt of service.

At Brainworks, we are now able to provide online services to complement our traditional face-to-face services by using cutting-edge technology, through several multimedia channels (e.g., text, graphical, audio, and video). Brainworks’ eRehabilitation services were created to increase affordability and accessibility while at the same time maintaining the high standards and the guidelines we abide by.


Ispen, C., Rigles, B., Arnold, N. & Seekins, T. (2012). The Use of Telecommunication to Deliver Services to Rural and Urban Vocational Rehabilitation Clients. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 55, 144-155.