Approaches to Career Counseling

Whatever the precise theoretical framework used, career counseling emphasizes maximum collaborative efforts between the counselor and the client to clarify the current situation of concern (e.g., needs for career planning, choice among possible options, an untenable work environment, work-family issues); clarify the client's personal role within the situation; identify action goals to be pursued in the career counseling process; identify information of relevance to the situation; develop insight about behavioral options available; and engage in problem solving to develop a plan of action. Within this general outline of a career counseling process, there are variations in what goals are emphasized, depending on individual differences and on theoretical orientations. For example, Brown and Brooks (1991) emphasize that many persons lack cognitive clarity, the ability to assess objectively one's own strengths and weaknesses and relate the assessment to environmental situations. In this view, persons who lack cognitive clarity also possess faulty logic systems that may result in what theorists describe as irrational beliefs, negative self-talk, or faulty private rules for decision making.

Beyond helping the client to achieve cognitive clarity or to confront faulty logic and negative cognitions about their career development, career counseling may include other approaches. Perhaps the most venerable is what has historically been called trait and factor, and more recently person-environment fit (Chartrand, 1991). Such an approach helps clients match individual traits to the performance requirements and work culture of particular jobs, occupations, or training. The intent is to increase the congruence between the client's abilities, interests, and values and the technical and psychosocial aspects of the job, occupation, or training option chosen (Holland, 1997). Embedded in such an approach is the goal of helping the client evaluate the probabilities or odds of gaining access to and being successful in different jobs, occupations, or educational opportunities. Such an approach is typically information and assessment driven. It often involves considerable analysis of the client's self-understanding, abilities, and preferences as an evaluative base to which to relate possible career options. Trait and factor (person-environment fit) approaches also are likely to help clients gain insight into the elasticity of their previous work experience with other jobs or occupations for which there is compatibility and fit.

Although there are also client-centered, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, and constructivist approaches to career counseling, the final major approach to be dis cussed is the developmental approach. This approach emphasizes the client's coping with developmental tasks in the past and in the current choice situation. Such an analysis may focus on the client's readiness to cope with emerging roles and skill requirements, relinquishing roles that are no longer appropriate, and acquiring the attitudinal and behavioral elements of career adaptability required in the current life stage: planfulness, exploration, time perspective, assertiveness, flexibility, reality orientation, and so forth.

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