Career Counseling: 90 Years Old Yet Still Healthy and Vital

By Whiston, Susan C. | Career Development Quarterly, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Career Counseling: 90 Years Old Yet Still Healthy and Vital


Whiston, Susan C., Career Development Quarterly


Career counseling has a long and illustrious past, dating back to the contributions of Frank Parsons and including notable theories and substantial research related to career development. In the practice of career counseling, however, there is not substantial evidence about what works with which clients under what conditions. In the next 10 years, there will be opportunities to provide career assistance through novel means to reach more individuals; however, some of these opportunities, such as the Internet, can also have adverse effects if not used appropriately. The author also discusses a vision that involves a resurgence of theory, research, and practice related to career counseling.

The 90th anniversary of the National Career Development Association provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the literature and practice of career counseling. Furthermore, the analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT) of career counseling provides a useful framework for this reflection and analysis. In this article, I also articulate a vision or a strategic plan for career counseling. This daunting task became even more difficult when I considered that it is the 90th anniversary and that there are only 10 more years until the field celebrates its 100th anniversary. Analogous to a looming birthday and making unrealistic goals (e.g., lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks), I know my tendency to be idealistic so I attempted to keep at least one foot planted in reality.

Strengths

Before making suggestions about the next decade, I reflected on the strengths related to career counseling. One of career counseling's strengths is its rich history and substantial body of literature. The roots of career counseling can be traced to Frank Parsons (Hartung & Blustein, 2002), and his three-step model still influences many practitioners' approach to career counseling. Often in career counseling, there are elements of assisting the client in knowing himself or herself, gaining knowledge of the world of work, and integrating the information about self and occupations. Although some individuals (even in the counseling field) still believe that career counseling is this simple approach, there have been other significant theoretical contributions related to vocational psychology that have influenced the practice of career counseling. For example, Super, Savickas, and Super (1996) and Holland (1997) developed important theories with extensive research that provide significant insight into individuals' career development and the intersection between personality and career direction. There are also some notable theories, such as social cognitive career theory (Brown & Lent, 1996; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994), that have emerged more recently. In considering the strengths of the field, the preeminent theories and the research that has emanated from these theories are truly assets. It should be noted, however, that these theories are related more to career development or career choice than they are to theories that guide career counseling (Osipow, 1996; Walsh & Savickas, 1996).

In addition, since the first meeting of the National Vocational Guidance Association, career counselors have begun to understand the career counseling process and how to structure the process to assist clients. There are consistent findings that career counseling is moderately to highly effective and that some interventions are more effective than others (Oliver & Spokane, 1988; Whiston, Sexton, & Lasoff, 1998). There is also some evidence that individual and career classes are the most effective methods for delivering career counseling (Whiston, 2002). Furthermore, there is compelling evidence that career interventions that do not involve counseling (e.g., reading occupational information) are not as effective as career interventions that have a counseling component (Whiston, Brecheisen, & Stephens, 2003). In addition, more recent research has provided some insights into the critical components of effective career counseling. …

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