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Vocational Counseling Training and Qualifications: What those Initials Mean for Your Business

Like many professions, vocational rehabilitation counseling involves a sea of initials. Company websites, including Single Handed Consulting’s, often show a stream of letters following every employee’s name.


For those seeking VRC services, it may be difficult to discern not only what they mean but also what they qualify that staff member to do. To better understand the training and qualifications of the team you may be working with, let’s begin with a definition of terms.

Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling Acronyms

  • CDMS: Certified Disability Management Specialist

  • PGAP: Professional Goal Attainment Program

  • CEAS: Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist

  • CRC: Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor

CDMS Eligibility and Training

Qualifying for this certification involves a slew of prerequisites. To even take the national CDMS test, candidates need either a bachelor’s degree in any discipline or an RN state license. To be eligible, they also need to be currently employed in the field of disability management and be able to prove that within the past 36 months they’ve spent a minimum of 2080 hours working in one of four domains related to disability management. Typically, candidates come from backgrounds such as occupational health, human resources or nursing.


The exam focuses on the roles, function, knowledge and skills of disability managers. Once candidates have passed it, they need to recertify every five years to remain current, and the exam is continuously updated with new items that reflect the industry’s evolution.


A CDMS fulfills a variety of roles within an organization. Their responsibilities include analyzing, preventing, and mitigating the human and economic impact of injury, illness, and disability for employers and employees. They may act as case managers for disability cases or run disability management programs for employers and must adhere to an outlined Code of Conduct. Their practice may include:

  • Disability and Work Interruption Case Management

  • Workplace Intervention for Disability Prevention

  • Program Development, Management, and Evaluation

  • Employment Leaves and Benefit Administration

PGAP Eligibility and Training

While the physical results of an injury or illness may be obvious, psychological and social issues can have just as great an impact – and may be harder to spot. The PGAP program is designed to train professionals who deal with injured workers to identify such issues and intervene in them, with the result of getting more people back to work sooner.


To be eligible for a PGAP certification through the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), candidates must be one of the following:

  • A Physical therapist

  • An Occupational therapist

  • A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC)

They also need three or more years of professional experience with worker’s compensation and at least one year in Washington State. Further requirements include completion of suicide prevention screening and referral training that meets Washington State Department of Health standards and access to a professional and/or private space which is ADA accessible. Those who have an active Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy license automatically meet this requirement.


Rather than passing an exam, PGAP candidates complete a workshop focused on the most recent research available on disability-related psychosocial risk factors. For injured workers, these include things like engaging in catastrophic or alarmist thinking about their symptoms; fear of engaging in activities that might make their symptoms worse; believing themselves to be completely disabled; and feeling that they are suffering unjustly. Participants learn PGAP techniques which are designed to target those attitudes and beliefs with the goal of returning the injured person to work.


PGAP interventions have been shown to reduce disability and contribute to successful return-to-work in individuals with back pain, whiplash, fibromyalgia, cancer, depression, and PTSD.


CEAS Certification and Training

As the name suggests, a CEAS specializes in assessing people’s efficiency in their work environment. Before taking a certification exam, candidates must have three years of work experience in human factors and ergonomics. CEAS learn to perform basic ergonomics analyses on tasks in different working environments such as industrial/manufacturing, offices, and healthcare.


CRC Certification and Training

The CRC is credential is designed specifically for rehabilitation counselors. The eligibility requirements are stringent: candidates must qualify in one of multiple categories, most of which require a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counselor Education (RCE) program or Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling (CLRC). The Commission on Rehabilitation developed its credentialing process to enhance the quality of services delivered to individuals with disabilities.


Once certified, CRCs are held to a rigid Code of Professional Ethics for Rehabilitation Counselors. They must also renew their certification every five years through continuing education or re-examination.


Choosing the Right Vocational Rehabilitation Services Company

Understanding these terms puts business owners in a better position to assess who and what they’re getting when they hire a vocational rehabilitation services company.


The next challenge? Learning the numerous acronyms and abbreviations connected with worker’s compensation claims.



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