An Overview of the Types of Rehabilitation

For many patients, a stay in the hospital isn’t always the end of their treatment and the recovery process. Many patients need rehabilitation to recover from physical deficits or from surgery. 

Whether you’re a health care professional directly involved in rehabilitation, you regularly care for patients who often need to go through rehab, or you’re new to the medical field, it’s important to be aware of the different types of rehabilitation available and when they’re best used. 

Here’s a guide to the different types of rehabilitation, what each one entails, and the different locations that provide rehab services.

Where Do Patients Go for Rehabilitation?

There are many different forms of rehab and rehab facilities depending on the patient’s demographics and the reason they need rehab. Here are a few of the most common facility types where rehabilitation services are provided:

Hospital Rehab

Hospitals have rehab specialists on staff who work with patients after their surgery or treatment, usually while the patient is still staying at the hospital. These specialists come to a patient’s room and work with them during their first days of recovery. 

Therapists will also determine if and how much additional therapy is required and what a patient’s therapy schedule should be once they’re discharged. Most general hospitals are typically not set up for long-term rehabilitation and will recommend another facility for continued treatment.

Inpatient Rehab

If a patient no longer needs the level of care provided by staying in a hospital, but they still need 24-hour care, they’ll be sent to rehab in an inpatient rehabilitation center. 

Staying in one of these centers typically costs less than a hospital, because the level of medical care is less robust. Therapists at inpatient centers are incredibly experienced and focused on a patient’s improvement and recovery with the goal to eventually return home.

Outpatient Rehab

Once a patient is well enough to leave inpatient care at a rehab facility or hospital, they’ll often still need to undergo some outpatient rehab. 

Typically, this is provided at an outpatient center, though it’s possible for therapists to do treatments in a patient’s home. These treatments can start at several times a week and, as there are improvements, decline to once a week or less frequently.

Ongoing Maintenance

The rehabilitation process is often long and arduous. Therapists will often give patients exercises they can do at home to continue healing and recommend sessions every couple of months to check in on their progress and make necessary changes or updates to their regime.

Types of Rehabilitation

When many people hear the word rehabilitation, they may think of only one type of rehabilitation, like physical therapy. But there are many types of therapies that can be the focus of a patient’s rehabilitation. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a broad category of therapy that involves strengthening and conditioning any physical weaknesses after surgery or treatment. Therapists who specialize in areas of physical therapy work with patients to increase their strength and flexibility in muscles and joints.

Occupational Therapy

This type of therapy focuses on the needs of the patient and how they use the injured body part in their day-to-day life to recover those functions. These therapists focus on both personal and professional tasks. 

For example, if a patient types on the computer for work and has weakened fingers, the occupational therapist will work with the patient to exercise and strengthen the fingers and adapt to any limitations. Occupational therapy is both a combination of rebuilding these deficits and finding workarounds for these life skills.

Speech/Swallowing Therapy

When a patient has a weakness with their mouth or throat that affects their ability to speak or swallow, they work with a speech therapist. The focus of this therapy is on oral deficits and strengthening the weakened muscles to improve a patient’s ability to speak. 

Speech and swallowing therapists also treat speech and language disorders that may come from an impairment due to a birth deficit or childhood development.

Balance Therapy

Balance therapy, also referred to as vestibular rehabilitation therapy, helps treat problems of the inner ear and the sense of balance that is controlled by the inner ear. 

This therapy seeks to improve a patient’s sense of balance as well as reduce their dizziness, vertigo, gaze instability, falls, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and inability to concentrate. 

This is done through a series of exercise-based physical therapies that improve how the patient moves their head, their control over their eye movement, and their sense of steadiness within their body. Through this rehabilitation, patients can overcome their symptoms and reduce their risk of falling.

Respiratory Therapy

A respiratory therapist helps treat patients who have problems with their lungs or breathing. They focus on a wide number of breathing or airway issues like asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis, sleep apnea, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, among others. 

People who have suffered from heart attacks and infants born with respiratory deficiencies are also treated by respiratory therapists. Their treatments both strengthen the lungs and airwaves and include exercise and the education of proper breathing methods.


Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology that is concerned with how the brain and nervous system influence a person’s cognition as well controls certain body movements. 

Neuropsychologists treat those with nervous system disorders, symptoms of which can include memory difficulties, mood disturbances, learning difficulties, and general nervous system dysfunction. 

If a doctor cannot identify the exact cause of one of these symptoms, a neuropsychologist can help to give a diagnosis and treat the symptoms. Common causes for these types of symptoms include a stroke, progressive disorders, dementia, brain injuries, and learning disabilities.

This is not to be confused with psychotherapy, as neuropsychologists are not counselors. Rather, they are trying to determine neurological deficiencies and help return a patient to normal mind and motion functions.

Vision Therapy

Much like physical therapy strengthens and recovers a certain part of a patient’s body, visual therapy helps repair and strengthen a patient’s eyes back to full use. 

Vision therapy helps with strengthening eye muscles, returning the eyes to a normal position, and teaching the eyes to work together as a team again. They also help with changing the way the eye focuses and moves to improve vision.

If you’re a health care professional who is looking to get into rehabilitation work, Clipboard Health offers you the opportunity to find per diem shifts at local facilities. Download our app and start picking up shifts on your schedule today.