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Making Sense of Career Counselling Interventions in Canada

By Eleanor Becker


Like the field of counselling psychology at large, career counselling theories and their corresponding applied interventions have undergone shifts and transformations over the past several decades, often in attunement with socioeconomic and political factors (Neault, 2014). It has been suggested that there are a number of trends among recent theories of career counselling that address the climate of the current world of work, including an emphasis on constructivist frameworks, holism, flexibility, and the role of context and taking action (Caverley, Quesette, Shepard, & Mani, 2014). These frameworks have been described as postmodern in the literature, in that they offer the best approach for clients given the current global economic landscape and need for theories that more thoroughly address the myriad facets of people’s lives in relation to career. Identifying these patterns is a first step in the development of a cohesive framework from which to implement career development theory, practice, and research.

Exploration of values, skills, and interests. A discussion or exploration of the client’s values, skills, and interests is present in many postmodern Canadian career counselling interventions. These place an emphasis on skills, values, interests, or all three in some capacity. It is worth noting that there is an apparent trend among these components in the interventions in relying (at least to an extent) on the client’s own perception and self-report.

Consideration of relationships with others. Many interventions acknowledge the role of other people in the client’s life, whether that includes significant others or people who are a part of the client’s occupational domain. For example, career conversations requires the active involvement of the employer, while the pattern identification and wheel exercises both involve a consideration of significant others (Amundson & Poehnell, 2004; Lalande et al., 2009). My Career GPS and the career management paradigm also consider the role of others, either through an exploration of non-work-related aspects of the client’s life or the consideration of allies and being an ally to others (CRWG, 2015; Jarvis, 2003).

Goal setting. The component of goal setting is apparent in several interventions, including the intentional exploration phase of CareerCycles (Zicik & Franklin, 2010), goal development in My Career GPS (CWRG, 2015), addressing barriers to goal setting in career conversations (Butterfield et al., 2009), and facilitation of developing goals in the wheel exercise (Amundson & Poehnell, 2004).

Taking action. The component of taking action — often towards the conclusion of an intervention — also appears to be a common feature of postmodern approaches. This does not refer to the action of engaging in the intervention itself, but rather encouraging the client to take action regarding an aspect of their career decision-making or exploration process. For example, the pattern identification exercise invites the client to apply the patterns they have identified to their own life and, in doing so, become more actively engaged in career exploration (Amundson, 2003).
It is important that career development professionals remain open to theoretical shifts while maintaining a sense of direction and structure in working with clients (Neault, 2014). Postmodern theory, when applied to careers, has the potential to offer a sense of coherence to the field while potentially remaining flexible enough to incorporate the contextual changes that Canadian workers are increasingly experiencing (Caverley et al., 2014).

Eleanor Sarah Becker is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and researcher who is currently completing her second year of doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include employee wellbeing and the intersection of career and Indigenous women’s issues in Canada. Eleanor is an executive committee member of the B.C. Employee Assistance Professionals Association and currently works in private practice, where she is interested in promoting client wellbeing in the realm of both occupational and lifespan career issues.


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