Career Guidance and Counselling in Canada: Still Changing after All These Years le Counseling et L'orientation Professionnelle Au Canada : Toujours En éVolution Après Toutes Ces Années

By Bezanson, Lynne; Hopkins, Sareena et al. | Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online), July 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Career Guidance and Counselling in Canada: Still Changing after All These Years le Counseling et L'orientation Professionnelle Au Canada : Toujours En éVolution Après Toutes Ces Années


Bezanson, Lynne, Hopkins, Sareena, Neault, Roberta A., Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)


The purpose of this article is to provide a retrospective look at how career counselling has evolved within Canada, examining what has changed within the field and how it has remained true to its social justice roots. Following a summary of historical milestones, evolutions in theory and practice, training, professional associations, certification, research and evaluation, and policy are described. It is important to note that, because this review primarily shares the perspectives and experiences of three career development leaders from English-speaking Canada, there is limited coverage of the very rich and relevant history of career counselling within the province of Quebec and the francophone community.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Career counselling has a long history in Canada. This history was documented in a comprehensive book by the Counselling Foundation of Canada (CFC, 2002) and, more recently, in the first section of the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) textbook, Career Development Practice in Canada (Shepard & Mani, 2014). A few significant milestones are highlighted here.

Career counselling has social justice roots. In the early 1900s, lobbying began for employment offices within the community, specifically by the Salvation Army and the YMCA-YWCA. Their focus was on assisting people to find accommodation, as well as training and work. As early as 1912, Etta St. John Wileman argued for employment bureaus across Canada. She also lobbied extensively for career guidance and counselling in schools. Fier provocative questions still ring true today: "What sustained coordinated effort is made throughout the Dominion to ascertain the abilities and natural bent of the child to fit for occupation after school?" and "What knowledge do parents secure as to conditions of trades and occupations, rates of pay, training necessary to give a child a fair start in the Industrial World?" (as cited in CFC, 2002, p. 15).

Although it can be challenging to imagine Canada prior to the safety net of employment insurance (originally called unemployment insurance [UI]), UI was only first legislated in 1940. During the same decade, the YMCA-YWCA introduced vocational counselling, and these services continue to be offered across Canada today. Parallel supports (in schools and in the community) were particularly important post-World War II, when the federal government also began to fund postsecondary vocational counselling to support war veterans (Neault, Shepard, Hopkins, & Benes, 2012). "Fitting the person to the job" became a crucial economic imperative both during and following World War II. This led to what is now often referred to as the "test and tell" movement in career counselling. It was an era in which many standardized assessment instruments, several of which remain in use today, were developed, normed, and validated.

As early as the 1950s, the field of career counselling became identified as an extension of applied psychology, specifically counselling psychology. Although the roots of career development and career counselling theory and practice are within psychology, it can be argued that this positioning has created significant challenges for the evolving identity of the field as a distinct discipline. Especially since the 1990s, the field of career development has clearly emerged as the bridge between managing the complexities of individual career development and choice and the changing Canadian economy and labour market realities. At the university level, career counselling training has traditionally been housed within postgraduate education and/or psychology departments. Faculties of education offered mas- ter's degrees in guidance with very strong concentrations in psychology and very little, if any, focus on labour market understanding. In counselling psychology programs today, courses focused on the demand side of the labour market remain very sparse. Professor Norm Amundson of the University of British Columbia (UBC) is quoted as saying,

I ran the other way [when being approached about career counselling]. …

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