By Tara Roberts
Professor Susan Stuntzner injured her spine 28 years ago, and her personal experience shapes her work
and research in rehabilitation counseling.
A central focus of rehabilitation counseling is preparing people who are adapting to disabilities to return
to work and acquire independence.
But Stuntzner, program coordinator for the Rehabilitation Counseling and Human Services Program at
University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene, emphasizes the need to include another area: helping people cope
emotionally, mentally and spiritually with their disabilities.
“There are a lot of unspoken truths or experiences that don’t get to the people who need it,” she says.
Stuntzner published her book “Living with a Disability: Finding Peace Amidst the Storm” in September
2012. The book is being used primarily to train rehabilitation counselors in India, where the profession
is expanding. It is available to anyone as an e-book or through the publisher, Counseling Association of
India, as an electronic file.
Stuntzner wanted to create an accessible resource for counselors, as well as people with disabilities
and their families. The book includes research combined with personal experience to help make the
information meaningful to readers.
Stuntzner says she first became interested in the coping and adaptation process when she was studying
for her master’s degree. She thought it was ironic that society expects people to cope well following a
disability, but doesn’t give them the tools or access to resources to do so.
Much of Stuntzner’s research focuses on the importance of forgiveness, resiliency and adaptation
strategies when coping with disabilities. Studies have shown that forgiveness helps reduce anger,
depression and anxiety and is therefore an important component of coping with traumatic events such
as the sudden acquisition of a disability.
“Forgiveness is something that people with disabilities may find beneficial to practice because they
experience a lot of social injustices, biases, stigma and negative societal attitudes,” Stuntzner says.
Her next book is titled “Reflections from the Past: Life Lessons for Better Living.” It will focus on coping
strategies for people with disabilities, but will be more connected with resiliency and techniques
Stuntzner has found applicable during her own resiliency-building process.