In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Rehabilitation Psychology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Data Sources for Clients and Practitioners
  • Research Methods and Theory Development
  • Practice Issues
  • Depression and Disability
  • Children With Disabilities
  • Narratives on the Experience of Disability
  • Disability Studies and Rehabilitation Psychology

Psychology Rehabilitation Psychology
Dana S. Dunn
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0048


Rehabilitation psychology is a subfield of psychology dedicated to developing therapeutic interventions aimed at promoting the health and well-being of people with disabilities and chronic health conditions or diseases. Rehabilitation psychologists apply and extend psychological knowledge toward ameliorating psychological, social, mental, psychiatric, environmental, and other challenges that prevent people with disabilities from leading meaningful, independent, and productive lives. Rehabilitation psychologists are therapists, educators, counselors, administrators, consultants, advocates, and researchers who possess a wide variety of training and skills, including knowledge of neuropsychology, that qualify them to work constructively with clients with disabilities or other chronic health conditions, their caregivers, and their families. This article opens with overviews of rehabilitation psychology and representative professional journals and websites. Subsequent sections provide sample references for research methodology and theory development, rehabilitation assessment, neuropsychology, and practice issues in rehabilitation. A section on selected chronic conditions reviews resources concerning brain injury, strokes, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, limb amputations, and depression and its links to disability. A separate section considers issues connected with the treatment of children with disabilities. One of the largest areas of the rehabilitation literature concerns psychosocial issues. The references in this section examine the social psychology of disability, attitudes toward people with disabilities, attributions and adaptation issues, insider and outsider perspectives, social interactions between people with and without disabilities, value changes and the acceptance of disability, and positive psychology and its connections to and implications for rehabilitation psychology. Narratives on disability provide phenomenological accounts of what the experience of disability is actually like (as opposed to what it is presumed to be). The last section of this bibliography offers references on disabilities studies, an interdisciplinary area of inquiry with some promising connections to rehabilitation psychology.

General Overviews

What are the psychological implications of having a disability, whether that condition is congenital or acquired? What issues should psychologists and rehabilitation professionals attend to, whether they are conducting research, rehabilitation therapy, or some other form of practice? Nagler 1993 provides an interdisciplinary overview of disability. Frank and Elliott 2000 and Frank, et al. 2010 provide comprehensive overviews of rehabilitation psychology’s core and emerging subareas. Rohe 1998 provides a concise introduction to psychological issues pertaining to rehabilitative experiences. Although not current, the classic perspectives on physical disability presented in Wright 1983 have psychological relevance to other forms of disability. A general overview of disability from a psychological perspective can be found in Vash and Crewe 2004. Dunn 1994 contains articles from empirical and theoretical perspectives on psychological and social factors linked to disability.

  • Dunn, Dana S., ed. 1994. Special Issue: Psychosocial perspectives on disability. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 9.5.

    A book-length special issue of a journal examining a variety of psychosocial issues linked to issues in disability and rehabilitation. This special issue contains empirically based articles, theoretical pieces, and literature reviews.

  • Frank, Robert G., and Timothy R. Elliot. 2000. Handbook of rehabilitation psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    DOI: 10.1037/10361-000

    The first published comprehensive handbook reviewing the major areas of research and practice in rehabilitation psychology. The book covers common clinical conditions including spinal cord injury, limb amputation, traumatic brain injury, and stroke.

  • Frank, Robert G., Mitchell Rosenthal, and Bruce Caplan, eds. 2010. Handbook of rehabilitation psychology. 2d ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    An updated version of the first handbook covering the major areas of research and practice in rehabilitation psychology. Besides reviewing rehabilitation research on established clinical conditions, it examines emerging areas, such as positive psychology and disability, as well as pediatric issues in rehabilitation.

  • Nagler, Mark, ed. 1993. Perspectives on disability. 2d ed. Palo Alto, CA: Health Market Research.

    A collection of readings with sociological as well psychological relevance. The reprinted articles herein provide insight on what it means to be a person with a disability in light of social attitudes, encounters with non-disabled persons, family membership, sexuality, pursuing education and employment, legal matters, medical issues, and the experience of being perceived as different from others.

  • Rohe, David E. 1998. Psychological aspects of rehabilitation. In Rehabilitation medicine: Principles and practice. 3d ed. Edited by Joel A. DeLisa and Bruce Gans, 189–212. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven.

    A broad but concise overview of psychological aspects of rehabilitation.

  • Vash, Carolyn L., and Nancy M. Crewe. 2004. Psychology of disability. 2d ed. New York: Springer.

    This textbook provides a solid introduction to the psychology of disability, highlighting the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the changing nature of health care, and the role of technology, racial and ethnic diversity, as well as spirituality, among people with disabilities.

  • Wright, Beatrice A. 1983. Physical disability: A psychosocial approach. 2d ed. New York: Harper & Row.

    DOI: 10.1037/10589-000

    A classic overview of key psychosocial factors influencing the experience of physical disability. The book provides a positive and constructive framework for working with people with disabilities, their caregivers, and their families. The text offers clinical as well as research-based insights that inform research and practices.

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