Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

Awakening: Career Opportunities after the Storm

Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

Awakening: Career Opportunities after the Storm

Article excerpt

Immediately following natural disasters, basic needs are provided; however, the long-term needs of individuals are neglected. The narrative approach (Brott, 2001; Cochran, 1997) to career counseling is offered as a method to assist survivors of natural disasters to tell their story and create new meaning related to their career paths.


In 2008, the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (2009) reported an increase in the number of economic losses and deaths attributed to natural disasters compared with the annual numbers from 2000 through 2007. Natural disasters occur all over the world with global implications, and the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters estimated that from 1980 to 2002, natural disasters took place in 73 nations. Many individuals are affected by the short-term and long-term devastation of natural disasters.

Humanitarian agencies, such as the American Red Cross (ARC; 2011), defined a natural disaster as "a calamitous event which suddenly and seriously inhibit the functioning of a community resulting in human, environmental, and economic losses which exceed the communities' resources" (Introduction section). Most of these natural disasters create devastating effects on the lives of individuals (del Moral & Walker, 2007). Kahn (2005) reported that the budgets of humanitarian and emergency response agencies have significantly increased in anticipation of meeting the sizeable needs created by future disasters. Natural disasters affect all aspects of a survivor's life. Because of the prevalence of natural disasters, man-made disasters, and catastrophic events, media outlets such as the television, radio, or the Internet frequently inform the public when a disaster occurs. As we wrote this article, several disasters occurred, including the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (ReliefWeb, 2010), and an earthquake and tsunami in Japan (U.S. Geological Survey, 2011). Regardless of whether the event is a natural disaster or a manmade disaster affecting nature, individuals, families, and entire communities have short-term and long-term changes as a result of these events (Cohan & Cole, 2002; Green, 1991; Kahn, 2005).

Our purpose in this study is twofold: first, to explore the comprehensive and long-term impact of a natural disaster on vocationally displaced adults, and second, to explore the benefits of using the narrative career counseling approach (Brott, 2001; Cochran, 1997; Peavy, 1996) for future life planning for these survivors. The subsequent sections include information related to the population of adult survivors of natural disasters, followed by a review of short-term supports, vocational impact of natural disasters, theoretical approaches influencing the services provided to this population, and, finally, a case study that provides a model of using the narrative counseling approach with an adult natural disaster survivor.


Most of the literature related to the impact and subsequent recovery from natural disasters examines the impact of the disaster on children (Madrid & Grant, 2008; Tuicomepee & Romano, 2008), whereas other researchers focus on the mental health needs of individuals immediately following natural disasters (Cohan & Cole, 2002; Haskett, Scott, Nears, & Grimmett, 2008; Jones, Immel, Moore, & Hadder, 2008; Jordan, 2002; Levy, 2008). Few, however, focus on providing life planning (Peavy, 1996) to adult survivors of natural disasters 3 months to 1 year following the event.

Short- and Long-Term Supports

When humanitarian agencies initially respond to a catastrophic event, immediate services are provided by first responders. First responders are people who live in the area (ARC, 2011), who balance their own needs and responsibilities while providing food, shelter, and clothing to other survivors (Haskett et al. …

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