Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Integrating Perspectives in Career Development Theory and Practice

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Integrating Perspectives in Career Development Theory and Practice

Article excerpt

The author explores the possibility of theory integration in career development and counseling, focusing primarily on bridging the gap between objectivist/positivistic and constructivist approaches. The potentiality of combining concepts from varied theories into a preliminary framework is discussed. This framework proposes 3 possibilities: career as self-realization, growing experiences, and context conceptualization. Because its focus is career development practice, this framework triggers some heuristic thoughts that might be seen by career counselors as applicable to their counseling interventions.

Convergence of theoretical perspectives has been a recurring topic in the career literature for quite some time (Savickas, 1995b; Sharf, 1997; Zunker, 2002). Since Osipow's (1990) call for theory convergence, there has been growing interest in focusing on this issue. In Savickas and Lent's (1994) work, which focused on convergence in theories of career development, scholars and practitioners presented their diverse views on issues of theory convergence in research and practice. To highlight the direction for theoretical integration, Sharf (1997) proposed using several combinations of theories in career counseling practice (e.g., to use Super's, 1990, and Gottfredson's, 1996, theories together and to combine Super's theory with trait and factor and career decision-making theories). Young and Chen (1999) noted in a recent annual review of career development theory and practice that the topic of theory convergence continues to be an area of interest. For example, in systems theory of career development, Patton and McMahon (1999) attempted to incorporate some key constructs from major career theories (e.g., Holland's, 1997, personality typology theory; Brown's, 1996, values-based model; Super's, 1990, life-span and life-space approach; Krumboltz's [Mitchell & Krumboltz, 1996] social learning theory; and Young, Valach, & Collin's, 1996, contextual approach) into a more complex and dynamic conceptual framework, echoing the trend of theory convergence. The most recent attempt in this regard is from Savickas (2001), who proposed a four-level model for comprehending career theories and integrating them into a comprehensive theory of careers. He suggested that many existing constructs of career theories be integrated into the four levels of the model, namely, the self-organization of personality dispositions, self-regulatory concerns, self-definitional narratives, and selective optimization processes.

Prompted by the ongoing discussion of theory convergence, especially by Savickas's (2001) latest proposal for a comprehensive theoretical model, this analytical discussion extends the continuing effort of exploring the possibility of integrating theoretical perspectives, broadly defined, in career development and counseling. My primary focus is on the integration of objectivist/positivistic views and constructivist perspectives. The intent was to develop a framework to stimulate some thoughts and suggestions that might be seen by career counselors as applicable to their counseling practice.

In this article, I (a) present a brief rationale for theoretical integration and (b) propose three possibilities for theoretical integration, namely, career as self-realization, career as a reflection of growing experiences, and career as context conceptualization. I hope that in using insights that the three proposed possibilities of theoretical integration yield, other more openly conceptualized and loosely structured approaches may be formed. Career counselors may find that these approaches are useful in the helping process. Laypersons may also realize that such conceptualizations tend to be heuristic and helpful for understanding their own experiences of life career development.

Rationale for Theoretical Integration

There have been several ways of categorizing career development and counseling theories. …

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