Rehabilitation Psychology in Israel
Rehabilitation psychology is a branch of psychology devoted to helping individuals
dealing with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Rehabilitation psychology focuses
both on the theoretical and clinical application of psychological knowledge for these
populations. Some examples are populations treated are patients with physical, mental
and developmental illness or disabilities, patients experiencing societal challenges, life
crises and experiences of loss and trauma. Information edited by the
.division of Rehabilitation Psychology in Israel (IPA) on April 2013 is attached below.
The history of Rehabilitation Psychology in the US and Israel
After World War II, the need to provide emotional support to soldiers wounded in battle
became apparent. An inpatient psychiatric unit was not an appropriate setting to deal with
the psychological, social or cognitive consequences of their disabilities, and rehabilitation
psychology began taking form as a distinct discipline in the United States. In 1958 The
Division of Rehabilitation Psychology in the APA (Division 22) was established. Since
then, rehabilitation psychology has become more specialized. Among the various
subdivisions are those that deal with the psychology of physical disability, rehabilitation
in special populations such as older adults, rehabilitation of individuals with addictions
and youth at risk (social - environmental rehabilitation). Additionally, treatment of
individuals dealing with chronic illness, often mental illness (psychiatric rehabilitation) is
also addressed by the new discipline.
Rehabilitation psychology expanded in Israel after the Yom Kippur War (1973), due to
the large number of injured soldiers, including many with head injuries. The therapeutic
options available at the time were insufficient to meet their needs, as they required a
unique therapeutic setting, which understood the implications of physical and head
injuries on behavior, emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships. In 1979,
Rehabilitation Psychology was recognized by law as a separate discipline of psychology
in Israel. On December 13, 2010 the law again stated that rehabilitation psychologists,
like all other psychologists with recognized expertise, are permitted to perform
psychotherapy in their area of expertise.
Theoretical Basis for “The Psychology of Chronic Health Conditions.”
Rehabilitation Psychology is based upon the notion that all people deserve respect and
dignity. Individuals with any form of mental or physical disability deserve to live a
fulfilling life despite illness, disability, impairment or life crisis. Rehabilitation
psychologists' work is based on theoretical models and scientific research related to
dealing with illness and disability in various life situations. Both the theoretical models
and the research suggests that many factors influence the way in which an individual
copes with disability, activity limitation or participation restrictions (ICF, 2001). While
some of these factors are related to the nature of impairment, disability, or loss, others are
related to the person’s personality, past experiences and internal or external support
Rehabilitation Psychology Assessment Toolbox
A rehabilitation psychological evaluation includes a broad assessment of traits, skills and
abilities through personality, neurocognitive, aptitude and psycho-didactic testing. This
type of assessment often provides a base for intervention and formulizing the
rehabilitation process as it guides the best way to work with the person in order to
improve quality of life.
The psychotherapeutic approaches are evidence based and supported by research, and
include both short and long-term interventions. The therapy can be individual, couples,
family, or group therapy, based on the therapists' expertise and the specific needs of the
patient. Some examples of therapeutic approaches are cognitive-behavioral therapy,
psychodynamic therapy based on psycho-analytic theory and existential-humanistic
therapy. Likewise, the rehabilitation psychologist may use a number of tools at different
times, in accordance with his certification, such as biofeedback, stress reduction and
hypnosis. In many circumstances, the therapy is integrative, combining different
psychotherapeutic approaches according to the specific situation at hand.
Where do rehabilitation psychologists’ work?
Rehabilitation psychologists work in various settings: Hospitals, mental health centers,
psychological, occupational and professional rehabilitation centers in the community,
assisted living centers, special education facilities, facilities for children and families and
private clinics. Some rehabilitation psychologist work in academic institutes, performing
academic research and teaching courses in colleges and universities. In addition,
rehabilitation psychologists in Israel are actively promoting legislation geared towards
improving the quality of services provided.
Special areas of practice
Rehabilitation psychologists work in a broad range of fields, among them are neuropsychological
therapy and evaluation, psychiatric rehabilitation, pediatric rehabilitation,
rehabilitation in geriatrics, coping with chronic disability and mental health,
developmental disorders and disabilities, criminal rehabilitation and youth at risk.
For further reading, please refer to:
Vakil, E. (1994). Clinical neuropsychology and brain injury rehabilitation in Israel: A
twenty-year perspective. Neuropsychology Review, 4, 271-278.
Vakil, E. & Hoofien, D. (2015). The History of Neuropsychology in Israel. In W. Barr &
L. A. Bielauskas (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Clinical
Neuropsychology. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK.
We wish to thank Ms. Liora Pekker and Perri Segal for the translation and comments.