The Psychology of Working: A New Perspective for Career Development, Counseling, and Public Policy

Article excerpt


David L. Blustein, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc, 2006, 360pp., ISBN 0-8058-5879-2

Questions related to work have always interested me. More than 30 years ago, when I left the security of full-time employment in psychology for a precarious career in the arts the burning question was Could I create the kind of working life that was not an expression of other people's expectations, but a personal journey of exploration?' Then, when I was parenting my three children, I was often asked, And what do you do?' It was a difficult question to answer, when I knew that I was very busy and meaningfully engaged, but not working' in the accepted sense of the word. Both in the arts and as a parent, there were challenges to support myself and my family financially. More recently, as I contemplated the meaning of my life journey to date, I caught a glimpse of a career path in retrospect-one that encompassed all the paid and unpaid work. Interestingly it brought me back to psychology, but with a new and different awareness.

So it was with interest that I approached a book about the psychology of work for reviewing. I quickly discovered it was not the bedside companion I was hoping for. A serious study, this book draws on the literature and history of work and careers in a richly academic way. It is an interesting read, but not an easy one, demanding attention and wakefulness!

In fact, Blustein's book comes with high recommendations as a possible academic text for career development courses. Blustein himself is Professor of Counseling Psychology at Boston College. He is concerned about the way that we define work and career, and wants to broaden our awareness and definitions. He believes it is critical for those intervening in the life of clients, for example, psychologists and psychotherapists, to understand the complex nature of work in the 21st century. His goal is to make the psychology of working much more inclusive and relevant than it has been in the past, and to create a framework and perspective that will have useful practical applications. His book therefore is relevant to organisational psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors, careers specialists, human resources staff, and policymakers in education, mental health, unemployment and training. He takes us on a journey through what he calls a richly complex and often bittersweet landscape'. …