Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Integrating Life-Design Counseling and Psychotherapy: Possibilities and Practices

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Integrating Life-Design Counseling and Psychotherapy: Possibilities and Practices

Article excerpt

The relationship between career counseling and psychotherapy is not a new subject (McIlveen, 2015). The debate on this relationship (Subich, 1993) allows the affirmation of career counseling as a dimension of personal counseling and recognizes the close relationship between psychosocial and career issues (Blustein & Spengler, 1995; McIlveen, 2015). The connection between these two approaches paves the way for the integration of career counseling with psychotherapy. Indeed, the inseparability of mental health and career issues frequently leads psychotherapists to help their clients to deal with work satisfaction, underemployment, or unemployment through psychotherapy. Moreover, when working with specific populations, such as people with intellectual disabilities and people with addiction or mental health problems, psychotherapy calls for integration with career counseling to consolidate and enhance therapeutic gains (Blustein, 1987; Jordan & Kahnweiler, 1995; Leff & Warner, 2006).

Recognizing the links between career counseling and psychotherapy, this article primarily aims to present the Systematic Treatment Selection (STS; Beutler & Clarkin, 1990) perspective as a framework for an effective integration of psychotherapy and career counseling. The perspective of career counseling and psychotherapy integration presented here is grounded in a view of integration that is best described as a process of "informed differentiation" (Vasco, 2001, p. 220), which implies the sequential or complementary use of assessment tools, concepts, and interventions from different theoretical orientations (and worldviews) to capture the complexities and maximize the efficacy of therapeutic interventions (Vasco, 2001). First, I present the STS framework. Then, I describe life design in the form of career construction counseling (Savickas, 2011), underlining its possibilities for integration with psychotherapeutic practices. Finally, I present and discuss a case study to illustrate the complexity of this integrative process.

STS: Fitting Career Counseling to Client Characteristics

The STS framework is a technical eclectic approach designed to tailor treatment to client needs. It allows indicators from identifiable client and environmental characteristics to be used by counselors to guide treatment selection, regardless of their theoretical perspectives (e.g., behavioral, cognitive, or psychodynamic). Individualizing treatment based on the client's needs is regarded as a process that takes into account four classes of temporally related variables: client variables, relationship variables, treatment context, and tailoring strategies and techniques (Beutler & Clarkin, 1990; Beutler, Consoli, & Lane, 2005).

Client Variables

Client variables include the client characteristics brought into treatment and provide indicators for matching the intervention techniques to the client. Research in psychotherapy suggests the relevance of the following client variables: problem severity, problem complexity, coping style, and levels of reactance (Beutler & Consoli, 2003). Problem severity is defined as impairment in the capacity of the client to tackle social, occupational, and interpersonal demands of daily life (Beutler & Consoli, 2003). When career counseling is integrated into psychotherapy, the assessment of problem severity is especially relevant, for example, to favor a client's transition to the labor market. This assessment facilitates the anticipation of barriers and supports career development and, therefore, is fundamental to planning the transition to the labor market.

Problem complexity is characterized by enduring repetitive patterns of behaviors that are intended to solve a problem, but often result in suffering. In a narrative framework, problem complexity is expressed by a redundant self-narrative and, consequently, rigidity in coping or adjusting to new experiences. That is, individuals are prisoners of redundant constructions of their experiences and, therefore, are incapable of using alternative ways of coping and adjusting to novelty (Cardoso, 2012). …

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