Enriching Careers and Lives: Introducing a Positive, Holistic, and Narrative Career Counseling Method That Bridges Theory and Practice

Article excerpt

CareerCycles (CC) career counseling framework and method of practice integrates and builds on aspects of positive psychology. Through its holistic and narrative approach, the CC method seeks to collaboratively identify and understand clients' career and life stories. It focuses on their strengths, desires, preferences, assets, future possibilities, and the influence others have had on their choices.

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The CareerCycles (CC) method of practice that we describe in this article (see Figure 1) uses career narratives as its point of departure. This constructivist model focuses on language, discourse, and theme development (Cohen & Mallon, 2001) with a central task of creating career stories that individuals narrate with the guidance and encouragement of counselors. By creating their own personal career narratives, clients empower themselves to make career transitions, focus on exploring new career possibilities, and, at the same time, clarify their career and life domains. A constructivist approach to careers also encourages clients to construct meaning, knowledge, and experience about their lives and work (Bujold, 2004; Young & Collin, 2004).

We describe a unique and holistic career counseling method of practice that builds on current theoretical approaches such as constructivism (Peavy, 1995) and the narrative or storied approach (Brott, 2001; Cochran, 1997) while focusing on positive psychology (Fredrickson, 2009; Seligman, 2002) and happenstance (Mitchell, Levin, & Krumbohz, 1999). First, the CC method's unique emphasis on positive psychology is based on supporting ways clients can attract, rather than seek, career and life enrichment possibilities. Second, it frames these possibilities as positive statements of what clients desire, rather than focusing on barriers and career obstacles. In using positivism, the CC method examines clients' life spans and moves away from objectivity and job matching toward self-defining stories that reflect the fulfillment of developmental tasks and occupational transitions (Brott, 2001; Savickas, 2006). According to Bloch (2005), stories that clients construct may initially be experienced

   as illogical, having no clear relationships between actions and
   reactions ... that is why many people seem to keep the real stories
   of their careers secret. They keep to themselves the strange links
   between events, links they describe as "just luck" or coincidence.
   In truth, it is the secret career stories that reveal the reality.
   (p. 198)

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The CC method is different from traditional methods in four ways. First, it uses a well-defined, integrated, and tested method of practice, whose details will be described throughout this article. Second, its main processes and, in particular, its emphasis on the context of contemporary careers foster a holistic way of thinking about life-changing careers that is not commonly found in today's counseling practices. Third, the CC method consists of two main experiential processes--Career and Life Clarification and Intentional Exploration--and their interactive practice tools: Career Sketch, Career Statement, and Possibility and Exploration Plan. These self-reflective tools are created as clients move through the CC framework and enable them to gather, organize, and understand their strengths, desires, preferences, and assets. In addition, these tools help clients identify the influences that others have had on their career and life choices. Thus, this difference stems from the clarification and exploration processes that shift away from placing the sole emphasis on job search and the accompanying negative affects related to career obstacles and goal anxiety that accompany it. Instead, the CC method focuses on developing a positive, holistic mind-set that encourages greater self-awareness, receptivity, and observation of both the internal and external environments. …