Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Counseling and Possible Selves: A Case Study

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Counseling and Possible Selves: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Progress in our understanding of the nature and effects of counseling interventions depends on our ability to blend the expertise of the practitioner with that of the scientist in future theory and research (Kratochwill, 1985), An early plea for process-oriented studies and case analyses in the field of career intervention (Osipow, 1982) was followed by several brief narrative cases in The Career Development Quarterly, and a scattering of case studies in related journals (Dorn, 1988; Kirschner, Hoffman, & Hill, 1994; Spokane et al., 1993).

Three of these more extensive case studies (Dorn, 1988; Kirschner et al., 1994; Spokane et al., 1993) have begun to address process issues, yet must be cumulated before firm conclusions can be drawn about the career counseling process. In the first case study, Dorn (1988) used a social influence framework to analyze the session data of a sophomore premed major who entered career counseling as her prospects of entering medical school dimmed in the face of a 2.87 grade point average. Dorn administered the Counselor Rating Form (CRF; Barak & LaCrosse, 1975) and the Career Decision Scale (CDS; Osipow, 1987) to this client following the first, third, and fifth sessions. The CDS revealed a slight inverted U-shaped curve, starting high (undecided) increasing slightly, and then decreasing sharply. This study was a novel effort that used a coherent theoretical model (social influence theory) and set the tone for studies that followed. Nevertheless, it employed no counselor measures and only two client measures.

A subsequent study (Kirschner, 1988) used multiple measures of counselor and client process, as well as traditional outcome measures and a 5-year follow-up, and set the benchmark for future career case studies. A complex and detailed investigation of the career counseling process of a 43-year-old woman client who was dissatisfied with her career as a speech pathologist revealed a structured beginning phase of counseling followed by a second and more relationship-oriented phase. Between the fourth and the fifth sessions, the client increased in hopefulness, self-support, self-understanding, and responsibility. Kirschner and her colleagues described the specific interventions that were perceived as helpful by both the counselor and the client.

Finally, a recently completed study (Spokane et al., 1993) used a multiple case methodology, following that of Hill (1989), to examine the career counseling process of 40 clients who reported both career and personal adjustment concerns. This recent study examined the overlap between career and mental health concerns and studied counseling process for each of the clients. Studies are underway that address a variety of process considerations using this data set.

The current study used a variant of the Spokane et al. (1993) case paradigm and a self-concept framework (Markus & Kunda, 1986; Markus & Nurius, 1986; Oyserman & Markus, 1990; Super, 1963) to examine changes in the "working" or fluid self-concept in a 37-year-old physical therapist who was unhappy with her work situation. This study included measures of personal as well as career adjustment and also incorporated the Possible Selves Questionnaire developed by Markus (1987). In the interest of space conservation, only a brief methodological presentation is made herein. The complete methodological statement is available from the authors.



The participant in this study was a 37-year-old woman who was selected from a pool of volunteers who had indicated interest in a previous research project on career counseling and mental health, but for whom space was not available in an initial study. This case study was conducted at the Lehigh University Counseling Research Clinic. The participant held an associate's degree, was employed as a physical therapy assistant, earned a competitive salary, and was single at the time of the study. …

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