Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Psychology of Working: A New Framework for Counseling Practice and Public Policy

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Psychology of Working: A New Framework for Counseling Practice and Public Policy

Article excerpt

The authors present the psychology-of-working perspective (D. L. Blustein, 2006; N. Peterson & R. C. González, 2005; M. S. Richardson, 1993) as an alternative to traditional career development theories, which have primarily explored the lives of those with choice and volition in their working lives. The major historical and conceptual features of the psychology of working are reviewed, with a focus on how this framework provides a more inclusive and, ideally, more just vision for the career counseling field. Implications for career counseling and a case presentation are provided to examine how this new perspective can inform counseling practice. A brief overview of public policy implications concludes the article.

The psychology-of-working perspective (Blustein, 2006) was developed in response to a clear need within the field of career counseling to address the lives of those who traditionally have been ignored or forgotten because of their social class or as a result of racism and other forms of social oppression (based on disability status, sexual orientation, immigration status, age, gender, poverty, and/or lack of access to material and social resources and opportunities). Although significant theoretical and research efforts have provided us, as career counselors, with a rich, dynamic, and insightful understanding of career-related processes and experiences (Brown, 2002; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2002; Savickas, 1996), our field lacks a means for an in-depth exploration of the lives of those for whom work serves more as a means of survival than an expression of talents and personality.

The psychology-of-working perspective that we present in this article is intended to function in conjunction with the more traditional career development theories (Holland, 1997; Lent et al., 2002; Super, 1980). In effect, the psychology of working is offered as a meta-perspective designed to expand the vision of counselors and scholars and to offer ideas for further theoretical development. Within this framework, the traditional theories of career choice and development (e.g., Brown, 2002) are still viable when clients present with career choice dilemmas. Our view, however, is that the range of work-related issues in counseling is far more extensive than career choice and implementation issues and that a broader conceptual framework is warranted. For example, the existing career choice and development theories are not generally useful in relation to the majority of people around the globe who do not have access to jobs that readily accommodate their interests, hopes, and values (cf. Richardson, 1993; Smith, 1983).

In this article, we present and expand the key tenets of the psychology of working (Blustein, 2006; Peterson & Gonzalez, 2005; Richardson, 1993), followed by a discussion of practice and policy implications. We believe that the psychology-of-working perspective detailed in this article will inspire practitioners to explore new roles and responsibilities in their efforts to promote career development for the full range of workers and potential workers around the globe.

Overview of the Psychology-of-Working Framework

Most Americans spend one third to one half of their waking hours at work (Wachtel, 2006). Despite this striking reality, there has been relatively little exploration from a psychological perspective of how the context of work shapes human lives {Blustein, 2001a, 2006; Gill, 1999). Human beings tend to view time at work mostly in functional terms-"How much money do I earn? How many hours do I have to work today? Do I actually have a job?" Yet, work has the potential to be so much more than something people simply get done or produce. Work is a central part of real life, a primary factor in the overall well-being of individuals, and a key to understanding human behavior. Across cultures, race, sex, and social class, the role of work in a person's life can vary considerably, ranging from promoting health to leading to distress and strain (Quick & Tetrick, 2003). …

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