Career Counselor Training and Supervision: Role of the Supervisory Working Alliance

By Parcover, Jason A.; Swanson, Jane L. | Journal of Employment Counseling, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Career Counselor Training and Supervision: Role of the Supervisory Working Alliance


Parcover, Jason A., Swanson, Jane L., Journal of Employment Counseling


The importance of career counseling within our educational and professional systems is clearly recognized, yet little attention has been directed toward explicating the career counseling supervision process. Research on personal-emotional counseling supervision has stressed the critical importance of the supervisory relationship. The purpose of this study was to better understand the nature and effect of the supervisory working alliance in the supervision of career counselors, using case study methodology. Results point to the importance of explicitly addressing the working alliance early in the work, exploration of affect in supervision, and cognizance of the power differential inherent in a training relationship.

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Career counseling has been defined as an ongoing, face-to-face interaction between counselor and client, with career- or work-related issues as the primary focus (Swanson, 1995). This definition highlights the fact that career counseling involves a relationship between counselor and client and that the interaction is psychological in nature. Although career counseling may involve activities such as information giving and interest assessment, it is not limited to these activities. Swanson's (1995) work revealed that career counseling can be conceptualized as an intersection between career interventions involving a diversity of content delivered by a variety of methods, and personal counseling with a focus on the interpersonal process and counselor-client interaction. Thus, the same kind of therapeutic skills that are present in other counseling settings are requisite skills for the career counselor, making the training of career counselors of primary importance.

Whereas the training of novice career counseling practitioners occurs in multiple ways, supervision is a central and necessary component of a career counselor's development (Bernard & Goodyear, 2004; Sumerel & Borders, 1995). Supervision is defined as "an intervention that extends over time, with multiple purposes of enhancing the professional functioning of the supervisee, monitoring the quality of professional services offered to clients seen by the supervisee, and serving as a gatekeeper of those who enter the counseling profession" (Bronson, 2010, p. 262; see also Barnett, Erickson Cornish, Goodyear, & Lichtenberg, 2007; Bernard & Goodyear, 2004; Lombardo, 2008). This process involves the "professional and personal development" of the supervisee, "in which the supervisor challenges, stimulates, and encourages a counselor to reach higher levels of competence" (Barnett et al., 2007; Bradley & Kottler, p. 4, 2001).

Supervision has been defined in broad terms; however, it is important to explore the various contexts in which supervision exists, such as in the supervision of career counselors. Some attention has been paid to the supervision of career counseling on a theoretical level. For example, Prieto (1997) has suggested that the Integrated Developmental Model of clinical supervision (Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987; Stoltenberg, McNeil, & Delworth, 1997) can provide a comprehensive and heuristic conceptualization of the supervision of career counseling. Additionally, O'Brien and Heppner (1996) have illustrated how the social cognitive career theory formulated by Lent, Brown, and Hackett (1994) can be applied to the training of career counselors. O'Brien and Heppner (1996) described an advanced career counseling seminar designed to increase interest and involvement in career counseling and cultivate improved performance among career counselors.

Sumerel and Borders (1995) made an initial attempt to understand the typical methods used in the supervision of career counseling. In a survey of supervisors of career counseling in college career planning centers and counseling centers, they found that supervisors conducted weekly individual supervision sessions that were based on trainees' self-reports of their work. …

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