Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

A Phenomenological Exploration of the Experiences of Dual-Career Lesbian and Gay Couples

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

A Phenomenological Exploration of the Experiences of Dual-Career Lesbian and Gay Couples

Article excerpt

A central model for career counseling has been the trait and factor approach with its emphasis on matching people and work. Zunker (2006) noted that this approach severely limits factors that can be considered in an individual's career. He emphasized the need for career counseling to integrate personal and career concerns. As a result, contemporary career counselors have incorporated a broader developmental framework.

Similarly, Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2005) encouraged career practitioners in the 21st century to empower clients by in, grating the meaning of their life experiences into appropriate occupational and life choices. Croteau and Hedstrom (1993) suggested that effective career counselors consider the complexities of a client's whole life. This holistic paradigm of career counseling is shared by increasing numbers of counseling professionals (Gelso & Fretz, 2001; Schultheiss, 2000; Shaft, 2006; Zunker, 2006).

As much as the nature of career counseling has changed, so has the concept of family. Stoltz-Loike (1992) indicated that the prevalent pattern of family life has shifted from the single-earner couple to the dual-earner couple. By 1992, there were more than 3 million dual-career couples in the United States, and that figure has steadily increased. This population faces conflict based on changing roles, limited resources, and a desire to maintain high standards for career satisfaction, while striving for quality family relationships (Spiker-Miller & Kees, 1995).

A current trend in career counseling stresses the importance of understanding the needs of minority clients. This view has been extended to include the role of sexual orientation (Herr, Cramer, & Niles, 2004; Sharf, 2006; Zunker, 2006). Lonborg and Phillips (1996) and Pope (1995) recommended that researchers examine dual-career and multiple-role issues for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

Dual-Career Couples

Stoltz-Loike (1992) found that both members of dual-career couples were highly committed to their careers and viewed work as essential to their sense of self. Dual-career couples view employment as part of a career path that progressively involves greater responsibility, power, and financial remuneration.

The number of dual-career couples in the workforce represents approximately 60% to 70% of current employees in major U.S. corporations, and this percentage is expected to rise to 80% within a decade (Johnson, 1990). Therapists who work with couples have reported that nearly one third of those cases involve issues associated with work-family balance (Haddock & Bowling, 2002).

Dual-career couples represent a large segment of the U.S. workforce. Research focusing on work-family conflict assumes that maternal employment is associated with stress, overload, and negative outcomes for families (Haddock & Rattenborg, 2003). Marshall and Barnett (1993) labeled this perspective the scarcity hypothesis, noting that additional responsibilities create tension and overload for dual-career couples because the sum of human time and energy is finite. Counselors who hold this perspective focus their interventions primarily on the interpersonal problems experienced by these couples as they struggle to balance demands between work and family.

A second perspective on dual-career couples is the expansion hypothesis, which suggests that one role, either relationship or work, can serve as a buffer for stress in the other role (Barnett & Marshall, 1992; Barnett, Marshall, & Sayer, 1992; Zimmerman, Haddock, Current, & Ziemba, 2003). Conflicts become opportunities to increase intimacy and strengthen the relationship. Benefits derived from multiple responsibilities are used to counterbalance the costs of managing those roles (Haddock & Rattenborg, 2003).

Work is an important aspect of the multidimensional roles that define human development because it is embedded within all other aspects of a person's life (Jepsen, 1990). …

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