What Is the Difference Between Rehabilitation and Habilitation?

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Habilitation and rehabilitation both focus on the act of learning skills. The primary difference between the two is that habilitation focuses on learning new skills whereas rehabilitation focuses on regaining skills lost, according to the University of Minnesota’s Human Rights Center.

The lessons learned during habilitation or rehabilitation focus on physical and emotional skills, knowledge and abilities. According to the University of Minnesota’s Human Rights Center, habilitation and rehabilitation are both often linked with health-related issues that have led to a disability. With habilitation, an individual may have been born without the abilities, skills or knowledge and must learn them. With rehabilitation, an individual may have suffered a disease or injuries from an accident that left him or her without the knowledge, skills or abilities and rehabilitation with a professional helps him or her regain these abilities. Although both habilitation and rehabilitation work toward gaining skills through physical, mental and occupational therapy, the approaches may be different and personalized. For example, with rehabilitation, a therapist may work with the individual to recall feelings or knowledge to regain the skill, whereas with habilitation, a professional works to teach the skills for the first time to an individual. The goal of both habilitation and rehabilitation is to enable those with disabilities to maintain maximum independence.