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Research: Creativity and Career Counselling

by Lauri Mills

I am currently a graduate student working on my thesis in the area of creativity in career counselling, specifically the experience of career counselling professionals in using creativity with clients.

Counselling literature has different ways of considering creativity; however, for the purposes of my research, I define creativity as divergent thinking, or “thinking in a broad, flexible, exploratory, tentative, inductive and non-data-based way that is oriented toward the development of possibilities” (Gladding, 2005, p.3).  Within this definition, creativity is not considered to be an inherent trait, but rather a skill that can be learned and fostered (Carson & Becker, 2004).

The need for creativity in counselling is particularly relevant to the field of career counselling. Workers today must adapt to an increasingly unpredictable world of work. Technology, globalization, shifts in corporate structure, and the demographics of the labour force have all led to changes in the concepts of career and career development. The idea that a person will work for one company until retirement has quickly become an extinct notion; instead, an individual can expect to make many career transitions throughout their life (Lee & Johnston, 2001).

According to Savickas (2003), new psychological contracts now exist between employers and employees. Because of the rapid changes of the labour market, organizations no longer feel responsible for the careers of their employees. They expect employees to look after their own career progression, be more flexible and have more adaptive skills(Tang, 2003). The focus has shifted to workers managing their own skill development.

The challenge for career counsellors then is to find new ways to help our clients develop the tools they need to effectively navigate the turbulent work environment. These changes in the work world require a shift in the career counselling paradigm, specifically in terms of what interventions are going to benefit clients. Helping clients understand the relationship between their personal traits and the requirements of the work environment is much more complex and can no longer be the central focus of the career counselling relationship (Tang).

Career counsellors need renovated approaches and interventions in order to remain pertinent to the realities of the modern working world. This is not to say that traditional theory should be ignored, but that it has to be augmented with interventions that promote creative, non-linear thinking.

In order to attain innovation in career counselling, counsellors must be more flexible in their approaches with clients and shift to more dynamic, creative and challenging interventions. Counsellors should regularly use their creative skills in order to help clients access their own creative capacity and innovative spirit. This creativity promotes positive and often corrective emotional experiences for clients, which in turn can lead to divergent thinking, flexibility, imagination and problem solving (Carson & Becker; Gladding; Amundson, 2009).

Creativity seems to be an integral part of the future of career counselling as the need to shift from traditional theory to more innovative approaches and techniques becomes more apparent. However, there is very little research into how career counsellors experience using creativity with clients. As I continue to research this issue, I hope to gain an understanding of how counsellors feel about creativity, the development of their own creative skills, and the training they received in using creativity as a therapeutic intervention. 

Lauri Mills is a graduate student at the University of British Columbia. She is participating in CERIC’s Graduate Student Engagement Program and will present with Barbara Smith at Cannexus 2011 on globalization’s impact on careers and mental health.


Amundson, N.E. (2009).  Active engagement: The being and doing of career counselling (3rd ed.). Richmond, British Columbia, Canada: Ergon Communications.

Carson, D.K., & Becker, K.W. (2004).  When lightning strikes: Reexamining creativity in psychotherapy.  Journal of Counseling & Development, 82, 111-115.

Gladding, S.T. (2005).  Counseling as an art: The creative arts in counseling (3rd ed.).  Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Lee, F.K., & Johnston, J.A. (2001).  Innovations in career counseling.  Journal of Career Development, 27(3), 177-185.

Savickas, M.L. (2003).  Advancing the career counseling profession: Objectives and strategies for the next decade. The Career Development Quarterly, 52, 87-96.

Tang, M. (2003).  Career counseling and the future: Constructing, collaborating, advocating. The Career Development Quarterly, 52, 61-68.

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