Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

Using the Film October Sky to Teach Career Counseling Theories to Counselors-in-Training

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

Using the Film October Sky to Teach Career Counseling Theories to Counselors-in-Training

Article excerpt

The authors investigated whether the film October Sky could be used as an effective tool for teaching career theories in a master's-level course (N = 20). They were also interested in whether the film would promote engagement with the content. Consistent with the phenomenological research tradition (Moustakis, 1994), the authors examined students' subjective beliefs, feelings, and views of career theories in an atheoretical manner. Results indicate that the film promoted learning and engagement.


Students frequently come to their first career counseling class with the impression that career counseling is less personal, more formulaic, and more directive than other forms of counseling (Betz & Corning, 1993). Because of a natural tendency for students to view a career counseling course as dry and uninteresting, counselor educators find that promoting student engagement with the course content is a daunting challenge (Oberman & Studer, 2009; Osborn, 2008; Pope & Minor, 2000). Counselor educators have traditionally used lectures that emphasize memorization to teach career development and counseling theories (Tang, 2009). However, more recently, researchers have recommended using more creative approaches, including experiential activities, as a means of promoting student engagement with course content (Oberman & Studer, 2009; Osborn, 2008; Pope & Minor, 2000).

Just as the term guidance counselor has given way to the more contemporary term school counselor (Brown & Trusty, 2005; Lambie & Williamson, 2004), directive trait-and-factor approaches are giving way to more humanistic, individualized (Cochran, 1997; Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2012, Savickas, 1995) and less directive, holistic approaches to career counseling (Farmer, 2009; Super, 1993; Zunker, 2011). One of our primary objectives when teaching career counseling course content is to promote awareness of the common characteristics shared by career counseling and personal counseling. For example, Betz and Coming (1993) noted that career counseling and personal counseling share some features, such as an emphasis on a good working relationship and a three-phase process that includes rapport-building, working, and termination phases. Career counselors must potentially deal with numerous client personal concerns (L. S. Hansen, 2002; Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2012; Zunker, 2011), including, for example, coping with joblessness, career burnout, and work-related stress.

In presenting career counseling theories to counselors-in-training (CITs), we believe that it is important to contextualize these theories within a historical context. In addition, we believe that several noteworthy trends in the historical development of the career counseling profession (e.g., placing more emphasis on clients' subjective experiences, increasing the use of a holistic approach to career counseling) might be interpreted as indicating that career counseling practice has become more humanistic. There are many diverse elements to humanism and humanistic counseling practice. The principle that unifies these elements, however, is the idea that humans are irreducible to other phenomena (Davidson, 2000; J. T. Hansen, 2006; Matson, 1971). That is, humans are best understood as whole beings. This organizing principle of irreducibility logically leads to three supporting elements: (a) individualism, (b) a focus on subjective experience, and (c) an emphasis on each person's capacity for being self-directed.

One relevant historical trend predates the formal practice of career counseling. The late 1800s and early part of the 20th century were characterized by an interest in the study of individual differences (e.g., Galton, 1869) and individualized approaches to education to better accommodate the needs of children (Zunker, 2011). Furthermore, during the early 1900s, Frank Parsons's (1909) trait-and-factor approach reflected respect for the individual's interests and abilities (see Brown, 2012; Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2012; Zunker, 2011). …

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