Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Constructing a Life That Works: Part 1, Blending Postmodern Family Therapy and Career Counseling

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Constructing a Life That Works: Part 1, Blending Postmodern Family Therapy and Career Counseling

Article excerpt

Postmodern approaches to career counseling are well suited to addressing the challenges a postindustrial world poses to career development and overall life design. In this, the 1st of 2 articles exploring theory and practice, the authors examine the differences between traditional trait and factor models of career counseling and postmodern approaches using life narratives and social constructionism. As career counselors and marriage and family therapists, the authors' approach to career development integrates the literature on postmodern family therapy with emerging narrative approaches to career counseling. The 2nd article (C. Campbell & M. Ungar, 2004) discusses 7 aspects of the authors' daily practice as postmodern career counselors.

Shagufta, an 18-year-old woman whose family emigrated from Egypt 6 years earlier, sought counseling during her 1st year in a Bachelors of Business Administration program. She wanted to switch to nursing against her father's wishes. A businessman, her father viewed nursing as a "dirty" job that was beneath his daughter. Culturally, it was not permissible for Shagufta to directly challenge her father's decision. She was particularly frustrated because her brothers were able to pursue any career they chose.

Patrick, a 37-year-old engineer, came into counseling to address his dissatisfaction with his work. He reported a growing sense that he had made the wrong career decision as a young adult. When he entered university, his plan had been to pursue medicine, but he had switched in his 2nd year from premedicine into an engineering program. A career genogram indicated that there was only one person, an uncle, in the generation of Patrick's parents who had pursued postsecondary education and that the uncle, a doctor in a rural community, had told Patrick that being a doctor meant, "You don't have a life." On reflection, Patrick realized that this had been an important reason he had not pursued medicine.

Harold, a 68-year-old retiree, came into counseling at the urging of his wife. He had retired 8 months before and had been told by his doctor that he was mildly depressed and should find a way to stay more active. In the first session of counseling, Harold said that he had been working since, he was 14 and had developed few interests outside of his work as a manager at a clothing manufacturer. In fact, he had rarely taken vacation during all the years he worked.

A generation ago, these individuals may not have sought the help of a career counselor, instead articulating the problems they faced as psychosocial in nature. Problems such as theirs would have been attributed to some combination of psychological deficits and a less than adequate social environment. Although psychological distress is likely still present for each, the links between this distress and career and life choices have been poorly understood by professionals outside of the career counseling field. Seldom are counselors in allied professions trained to help clients articulate their experience as a problem of life or work design. In preindustrial and industrial periods of history, people tended to stay in the same occupation for most, if not all, of their lives. The identities they constructed through their experiences as workers fit within the guidelines for what was culturally approved (Peavy, 1993b). Postindustrial societies no longer provide people with such well-defined identities. Postmodern approaches to career counseling, the subject of this article and the one that follows it, specifically address the challenges a postindustrial world poses to career development and overall life design.

In this first article, we examine the differences between traditional trait and factor models of career counseling and postmodern approaches that use life narratives, social constructionism, and other aspects of postmodern theory (all of which is explained in detail). As career counselors and marriage and family therapists, we have merged two related bodies of literature in our work with clients. …

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