Follow us on:   
Generic filters
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in comments
Filter by Content Type
Resource Listings

Concepts of Guidance: Value of Theory for Practitioners of Guidance


by Vincent Agorini

In their work, practitioners are faced with all types of scenarios and personalities and their counselling approaches need to be based on a sound knowledge for a successful intervention. Theory provides an insight into the variety of client views and examines the ethical legitimacy and practical implication of each view. It also provides the practitioner with the thinking process necessary to enable an understanding of behaviour outside of their own personal experience.

Exploring theories may provide a foundation for assessing client needs, and enable them to identify factors, which will empower clients from within their own perspectives. An advisor who combines both theory and practical experience will be in a strong position to evaluate personal practice and improve and refine it.

Theories form a framework from which good practice is formulated. They give reasons for a course of action, response, behaviour, and attitudes, as well as provide a method of working which is disciplined, coherent and unimpeded by prejudice and false assumption. This methodology is more likely to be satisfactory.

There are three main theories that form the basis of guidance:

Differentialism/Talent Matching Theory

Often described by the metaphor ‘square pegs into square holes’, It assumes that certain characteristics, such as intelligence, aptitude and personality can be identified and measured, and that jobs can be measured in the same way enabling the individual and the job to be matched.

Careers advisors are often regarded in this light as experts who can utilise specialist measuring tools as a basis for recommending jobs. This practice is viewed by today’s standards as oppressive and offensively directive.

Criticisms of this Method

This method does not allow for a continuous process of career development through which individuals take into consideration their changing lives and the kind of lives they wish to lead. It only takes into consideration what the individual can offer work and not what work could offer them. This method does not allow people to make decisions for themselves.

Developmental Theory

The individual progresses through a series of stages of development, learning vocational behaviour. Career choice is seen as a series of mini-decisions. The advisor’s role is to help client progress through the stages of development to become more vocationally mature. The theory assumes people can be taught “careers”. By describing the most effective ways of approaching career planning it suggests that the protocols of career education and guidance should be concerned with promoting career related learning. This method takes into consideration personal change and development.

Criticisms of this Method

The above theory does not deal with the individual that does not want a ‘career’, someone who may only see work as a means to earning money to support non-work activities. Also this theory does not take into consideration the individual who due to circumstances has limited choices regardless of academic ability or ambition. For example, does the need to earn money restrict choice?

Opportunity Structure Theory

The opportunity structure theory assumes that “choice” is largely constrained by social class and education limiting individuals to certain occupations. “Young people’s prospects still depend very much on their family background, their qualifications from their initial education, where they lie, their gender and their ethnicity”…. Ken Roberts (1995). Due to the overwhelming constraints, it was thought that careers education and guidance intervention was largely futile. However, this theory provides to the advisor, an insight into the powerful constraints that many clients experience.

Implication for Practice

The above theory implies that regardless of academic and natural ability choice will be determined by family background, for example traditional occupational areas such as mining, young people were expected to follow in the footsteps of generations of miners. The careers intervention focused not on choice but on placing individuals in occupations typical of the area.

Critique of the Theory

All clients are stereotyped, regardless of ability and individual ambition is not recognised. Many of the jobs that were being entered into had nothing to do with ambition and more to do with the type of secondary school attended and generations of family background. This encouraged bad careers education and guidance interventions.

How can we use Theory?



  • Helping clients by various methods to gain both an insight in to the process of their vocational development and an awareness of the standards of competence required to make sound judgements for themselves about the appropriateness of particular goals or opportunities.



  • Informing clients about opportunities, specific jobs, courses, company or labour market information, and education options. The advisor passes on this information without making any value judgements about the merits of the different options.



  • Responding to a variety of different learning styles, monitoring effectiveness and constantly adapting to the changing needs of clients.
  • Teaching the client how to make decisions and how to collect and analyse career information. Furthermore, instruct the client on how to apply and be selected for a job or a course, and how to cope with transition



  • Helping clients interpret information, options, and alternatives, and develop their own evaluations of these by:
  • Giving a sense of direction to clients making, creating -self awareness.
  • Helping clients to be well –informed and realistic about personal qualities and labour market constraints
  • Helping clients to develop strategies and tactics to implement careers decisions, develop contingency plans and implement those decisions and plans.
  • Enabling clients to be aware of the range of alternatives open to them, help narrow down preferences, and to focus on an option.



  • Working with clients to help them discover, clarify and assess their needs and the various ways of meeting them.



  • Enabling the client to use providing agencies and support services effectively or to meet the demands of particular courses of action by negotiating an action plan that offers a progressive means of gaining knowledge and skills required.

It is the responsibility of every practitioner to be aware of theory to enable greater understanding of how, background, culture, economics, stereotyping, and parental influence can and does impact on how individuals make well informed decisions, and how successful practitioner interventions are. Theories form a framework from which good practice is formulated. They give reasons for a course of action, response, behaviour, and attitudes, as well as provide a method of working which is disciplined, coherent and unimpeded by prejudice and false assumption. This has been a positive development within the sector as a whole which will help provide sound guidance and lead to better diagnostic methods being developed. This will enable clients to make better informed choices.

Vincent Agorini is a member of the Institute of Careers Guidance, UK. A qualified careers advisor and careers education lecturer currently working in Further Education. Vincent has wide-ranging guidance experience which includes working with secondary school and young adults. He has developed careers education programmes in both schools and colleges. Vincent is currently involved in research to determine the impact of guidance on service users. He can be reached through email at


Tiblets Araya

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to toolbar