Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

A Relational Approach to Career Counseling: Theoretical Integration and Practical Application. (Practice & Theory)

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

A Relational Approach to Career Counseling: Theoretical Integration and Practical Application. (Practice & Theory)

Article excerpt

Embedded in our mainstream culture is the propensity to equate the need for connection and relationship with dependency--something to be avoided in favor of independent thought and judgment (Stiver, 1991). This theme has pervaded much of traditional psychological thought and developmental theory (e.g., Erikson, 1968; Levinson, 1978). The career development literature has been no exception. Indeed, relational experiences at the heart of career progress are frequently devalued and disregarded in favor of more autonomous approaches to exploration and decision making (e.g., Harren, 1979). This perspective is antithetical to that of relational theorists who have asserted that interconnection and relatedness are central to human growth and development and that relatedness serves as a context for the experience of the self (Gilligan, 1982; Jordan, Kaplan, Miller, Stiver, & Surrey, 1991; Josselson, 1992). Moreover, the capacity to create and maintain growth-fostering relationships is crucial for healthy developmental progress (Gilligan, 1982, 2000; Miller & Stiver, 1997). These views have been echoed in a recent movement in psychology and the social sciences toward a relationally based perspective that acknowledges the adaptive function of interpersonal connection (e.g., Bowlby, 1982; Cutrona, 1996; Gilligan, 1982; Jordan et al., 1991; Josselson, 1992; Teyber, 2000). Consistent with this trend is a recent emergence of literature regarding the interconnectedness of career progress and the quality of relationships in one's life (e.g., Blustein, 2001; Blustein et al., 2001; Blustein, Prezioso, & Schultheiss, 1995; Phillips, Christopher-Sisk, & Gravino, 2001; Schultheiss, 2000; Schultheiss, Kress, Manzi, & Glasscock, 2001). What transpires in our relationships may be key to the facilitation or hindrance of our ability to progress effectively through challenging career tasks and our ability to benefit from more traditional career counseling practices. Despite this burgeoning interest in the interface between work and relationships, career counseling practice is limited by the relative absence of a meaningful approach to intervene in the work/relationship space in the career counseling milieu. Innovative models of career counseling are needed to assist us in revealing the web of relational connections in which clients' career and work lives are embedded. One's deepest connections with others can no longer be ignored or extracted from the career development and counseling process. Practitioners must strive to better understand the interconnections between career progress and the relational experiences of clients. Interventions must be transformed into more sensitively based interactions that nurture mutuality and growth in human connection. Thus, the purpose of this work is to build on recent empirical advances regarding work and relationships (e.g., Blustein, 2001; Blustein et al., 2001; Phillips et al., 2001; Schultheiss et al., 2001) by reviewing the current status of career theory in practice and by presenting a theoretical overview of relational theory and its logical extension to the career domain. A relational approach to career counseling is explored and illustrated with a case example.

CAREER THEORY AND RESEARCH

Career theory (e.g., Gati, 1986; Gati, Fassa, & Houminer, 1995; Holland, 1997; Krumboltz & Hamel, 1977) has traditionally been based on the merit of independent thought and judgment. Indeed, beginning with Frank Parsons's (1909) prescription of a "true and reasoned match," career theorists and practitioners have aimed to formulate autonomous approaches to healthy progress and success in the career realm. Implicit in the trait and factor theories that pervade much of career counseling practice is the underlying value of rational thought and logical decision making--resulting in a successful match between an individual's characteristics (i.e., aptitudes, achievements, interests, values, and personality) and the characteristics of occupational environments. …

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