Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Relationship between Counselor Verbal Response Modes and the Working Alliance in Career Counseling

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Relationship between Counselor Verbal Response Modes and the Working Alliance in Career Counseling

Article excerpt

The authors examined the use of counselor response modes in career counseling, including the overall proportion of each response mode and the relationship of each response mode to the working alliance. Participants were 19 counselors-in-training and 26 clients in 78 sessions, making this the largest reported study of career counselor response modes. Seventy-nine percent of the counselor responses were information, paraphrase, or close-ended questions. None of the categorized counselor responses was significantly and positively related to the working alliance, although counselor self-disclosure had a significant negative correlation with the alliance. The type of self-disclosure used was largely irrelevant or self-deprecating.

As Swanson (1995) noted in her review of career counseling process research, "We know a great deal about the effectiveness of career interventions in general, we know considerably less about career counseling specifically, and we know almost nothing about career counseling process" (p. 217). Increasingly sophisticated meta-analytic studies (e.g., Oliver & Spokane, 1988; Ryan, 1999; Spokane & Oliver, 1983; Whiston, Sexton, & Lasoff, 1998) have consistently found career counseling to demonstrate strong effect sizes, but little is known about what accounts for these positive outcomes.

In contrast to the specialization of career counseling, psychotherapy process research has been actively pursued since the 1940s. As Hill and Williams (2000) noted in their recent review of the psychotherapy process literature, "The first thing we learned from our literature review is that process research is alive and well with literally hundreds of articles to draw from" (p. 671). This accumulated empirical research forms a foundation to explain specifically what it is about the process of psychotherapy that makes it effective. Recent empirical evidence provided through content analyses of counselorcase notes indicated that there is substantial overlap between the content of career counseling and that of psychotherapy (Anderson & Niles, 1995). Given this overlap, it is possible that the variables that have been found to be the most critical to outcome in psychotherapy might also be important in the conduct of career counseling.

One of the most consistently critical factors in the psychotherapy process literature is the working alliance, which has come to be seen as a necessary component of counseling, regardless of theoretical framework (Gelso & Fretz, 1992; Hartley & Strupp, 1983; Robbins, 1992). In fact, the working alliance has been shown to account for 30% to 50% of the variance in outcome measures across a range of studies (see, for example, Gelso & Carter, 1985; Horvath & Luborsky, 1993).

In addition, the importance and role of the working alliance in career counseling have begun to gain attention and recognition. Meara and Patton (1994) discussed the working alliance as a key element in enhancing the counseling of individuals who have career concerns. In 1995, Heppner and Hendricks investigated the role of the working alliance with an undecided and an indecisive college student, using a single-subject methodology; Heppner and Hendricks found that both clients endorsed the importance of the working alliance in helping them meet their counseling goals. In addition, two studies have used hierarchical linear modeling to explore the role of the working alliance in predicting career counseling outcomes (Heppner, Multon, Gysbers, Ellis, & Zook, 1998; Multon, Heppner, Gysbers, Zook, & Ellis-Kalton, 2001). Although they provide important information about the positive linear progression of the working alliance over time, none of these studies have delineated what occurs within career counseling that leads to the development of a strong working alliance.

Although a number of definitions exist for the working alliance, the one that we used in this investigation is Bordin's (1979), which is the most heuristic, spawning numerous theoretical and empirical works (Kivlighan & Shaughnessy, 1995). …

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