Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Inclusion and Social Development

First Advisor

Gillian MacNaughton

Second Advisor

Dimity Peter

Third Advisor

Olivera Jokic


This manuscript formulates a framework for a critical rehabilitation counseling theory, a theoretical and historical analysis of how the practice of the rehabilitation counseling profession has taken part in the construction of dominant views on disability and rehabilitation, as well as in the kind of labor relations, institutions, and administrative structures that have supported employers and the profession rather than American workers. The starting point for such a critical theory of rehabilitation counseling is to engage with the work of radical political economy, critical legal studies, critical education studies, critical disability studies, and the radical social work movement. The critical analyses that these disciplines provide on the topics of liberalism and law, ideology and curriculum, capitalism and disability, and political economy of the state and helping professions, can help configure an analysis of the interconnectedness of the work of rehabilitation professionals and the work of those marked as disabled. The study argues that to secure its own position in the labor market, the rehabilitation counseling profession has employed for profit the workers who were labeled disabled and thus rejected by the mainstream labor market, and has also constructed an image of a disabled worker as a cheap and quality laborer. The rehabilitation counseling profession presents itself in the American labor market as the purveyor of this desirable labor commodity, which I call disabled labor. This research looks at the history of interdependence of disabled labor and rehabilitation counseling in three segments: institutional exploitation (roughly 1800s to 1940s), community-based utilization (1950s to 1970s), and ecommerce venture (1980s to the present). The manuscript concludes that the rehabilitation counseling profession should choose to critically examine its own ideological commitments to the capitalist state and become critical of oppressive labor policies and practices, in order to thus transform itself into a profession strongly aligned with the interests of all working people.


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