Training in rehabilitation counseling at the University of Arkansas was established in 1974 as an emphasis area in counselor education. In 1977, the college, the university, and the Board of Higher Education approved the Rehabilitation Education and Research program. Since its inception the recruitment and retention of a diverse cadre of students, particularly students with disabilities and students from other underrepresented groups, has been a program emphasis. The original program consisted of three emphasis areas: rehabilitation counseling, rehabilitation program evaluation, and rehabilitation orientation and mobility of the blind. Due to both changing national and state priorities and to faculty changes, the program evaluation and the vision impairment emphasis areas were deleted during 1980. That same year, funding from a Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Innovation and Expansion grant provided supplemental program support to train independent living rehabilitation counselors. Subsequent to receipt of that funding, independent living rehabilitation counseling was developed and approved by the college and university as a new emphasis area.
During 1983, the RSA awarded a long-term grant to train master's level rehabilitation counselors to offer services to individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired. In 1984, deafness rehabilitation counseling was added to the Rehabilitation Education and Research Program. This emphasis area is taught in Little Rock, Arkansas by faculty who hold graduate school status at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and who are associated with the Arkansas Research and Training Center for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (RT-31). In 1984, RSA awarded a long-term training grant to the vocational rehabilitation counseling emphasis area. This grant vitalized this emphasis area and brought the program more in line with RSA priorities by providing funds for the recruitment and retention of qualified students and by stimulating the development of new curriculum materials.
In 2004 the RSA awarded a long-term grant to train master's level rehabilitation counselors to offer intensive job placement services to clients of the state-federal rehabilitation program. That same year the job placement track was added to the Rehabilitation Education and Research Program and five students were enrolled in the job placement track.